We are just a few hours away from the 4th battle in one of boxing's great modern rivalries, as Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez prepare to meet once again. Pacquiao vs. Marquez IV airs live tonight on HBO PPV. The main card starts at 9:00 p.m. ET / 6:00 p.m. PT, with the main event likely to start near midnight.
Manny Pacquiao is the kind of fighter who draws in a more casual fan base than just your boxing die hards, and so, for the benefit of those who may not follow the sport quite as closely, here's what you should look for in tonight's fight in our Bloody Elbow Pacquiao vs. Marquez preview.
1. The vindication of Juan Manuel Marquez
Many, including the camp of Marquez, feel that the Mexican fighter should be 3-0 against Pacquiao. And yet, when you look at the score cards, he is winless, with a draw in 2004, split decision loss in 2008, and majority decision loss in 2011. Personally, I had Marquez winning both the 2nd and 3rd fights, but I'm not a judge, and that's what matters most to Marquez. He is already convinced that he's the better fighter than the more popular, more acclaimed Pacquiao, but he needs the official win to finally prove it. He probably gets his final chance tonight.
2. The vindication of Manny Pacquiao
At the same time, Pacquiao feels he is right to be up in the series, and is tired of the criticisms. He's knocked Marquez down 4 times, while never tasting the canvas himself in their feud. He's also coming off a completely ridiculous decision loss to Timothy Bradley. More than ever before when they have met, Pacquiao needs a win, and a big, dominating win, both to get himself back on track, and to silence the Marquez supporters once and for all.
3. The possibility of a KO
Through 36 rounds of action, these two have been incredibly close. The very first round of the series was nearly a Pacquiao TKO win, but since then, neither man has come close to stopping his rival. So chances are strong we'll see another decision tonight. However, Marquez's camp has been openly critical of the previous fights' scoring, and feels they can't get a win from the judges. Meanwhile, Pacquiao, in that quest for vindication, has told Freddie Roach that he needs to KO Marquez this time. Easier said than done for both men, but it will be interesting to see if one can pull it off.
4. Pacquiao's speed vs. Marquez's counters
On a technical side, this has been the dynamic all series. Pacquiao is the more aggressive, more heavy handed, faster fighter, while Marquez is the more technical counter puncher. The two styles almost perfectly nullify each other, with any advantage coming in the smallest of moments. Expect to see more of this clash tonight.
5. What next for Pacquiao
Make no mistake, Marquez is for real, but Pacquiao is the primary star here. And win or lose, the big questions after this fight will largely focus on what comes next in the legendary career of Manny Pacquiao. The boxer/politician has been increasingly distracted from boxing in recent years, and we're moving into the territory where everyone wonders what fight will be his last. A loss here will certainly intensify that talk. A Pacquiao win will all but guarantee that the Pacquiao vs. Mayweather talk heats up once again. If I had to guess, I'd say a Pacquiao win here will mean Pacquiao vs. Bradley II next year.
6. The size of Juan Manuel Marquez
One ugly point, but a point that must be addressed. The fights between these two have moved up in weight over the years, from Featherweight (126 pounds) to Super Featherweight (130) to a 144 pound catch weight, and now tonight to Welterweight (147). Now, with both fighters competing at this higher weight, there are questions surrounding just how they got there. In particular, Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach has accused Marquez of using illegal substances to make the weight, saying "If [his body] is natural, I will kiss his ass." This largely stems from Marquez hiring Angel Hernandez, who is known to have provided PED's in the past, to work in his camp. For his part, Marquez has threatened to sue Roach in response. It's an ugly situation, but one that could turn uglier.
7. Who will win?
Finally, the big question - who will win tonight? Will Pacquiao get his 3rd straight win, or will Marquez finally take it? Analysts are pretty split here. Our colleagues at Bad Left Hook have it 4-3 in favor or Marquez and that pretty accurately sums up the general view, though I would say Pacquiao seems to have a slight edge in the number of people who see him winning.
As for me, I find this one very tough to call. Because predicting this fight is not about predicting who will be the better man tonight, it's about predicting who the judges will think is the better man. One common line of logic is that if it's close (and it will be), the judges can't possibly screw Marquez again. Makes sense, except that I would say if it's close, they can't possibly screw Pacquiao again after the Bradley debacle. Ultimately, I just think Manny Pacquiao has a more exciting, higher volume, dynamic style that is favorable to judges. And so, in the end, I expect another close fight, but the same outcome we have seen, followed by the same controversy. Manny Pacquiao by razor close decision.
Join us here tonight at Bloody Elbow for live discussion of Pacquiao vs. Marquez IV.