A dark page in PH boxing history

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Conrad M. Cariño

Conrad M. Cariño

Many fight fans were shocked after our very own Manny Pacquiao got knocked out cold by archrival Juan Marquez in their fourth fight staged on the fateful night of December 8, 2012, or three years and a few days ago.

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Although I had a gut feel from the time the fourth fight between Pacquiao and Marquez was announced that the Filipino could be beaten by the Mexican, the manner Pacquiao was defeated—by a knockout—was still unthinkable at the time.

I mean, Pacquiao lay on the canvas face first and was unconscious after taking a wicked right from Marquez. The worst I was expecting was the referee would stop the fight after Pacquiao would absorb consecutive knockdowns or a barrage of punches from the Mexican. But to end up unconscious on the canvas was completely unthinkable. What went wrong?

After the fight ended, a lot of thoughts raced in my mind, among them were Marquez won by a “lucky punch.” But without doubt, December 8, 2013 was another dark page in Philippine boxing history.

At the time, I wasn’t writing sports columns yet but I had concerns on the chances of the Filipino winning against the Mexican in a fourth fight. Firstly, in their third fight held on November 12, 2011, Marquez looked like he has become more proficient in landing his right cross on Pacquiao. And unlike their first two fights, there was not a time Pacquiao had Marquez in very serious trouble and the Filipino failed to deposit the Mexican on the canvas.

Also, weeks before their fourth fight, there were videos showing the Mexican training like a mad man. During the weigh in for his fourth fight with Pacquiao, the Mexican looked like he was trained by Fred “Dr. Squat” Hatfield, who was responsible for the physical training program that gave Evander Holyfield the necessary power and bulk to fight in the heavyweight division.

When fight night came, a roundhouse right floored Pacquiao in the third round, which turned out to be a bad omen because it proved Marquez had power to drop the Filipino. That type of power was conspicuously absent during their first three fights.

But you have to give Pacquiao credit for turning the tide from the fourth round after knocking down Marquez and getting the Mexican’s face bloodied.

And many thought, including me, that Pacquiao would finally stop Marquez and prove he was the better fighter. Then the unexpected happened – Pacqiuao was knocked out in the last seconds of the sixth round.

Was a “lucky punch” responsible for Pacquiao’s defeat that night?

A close and careful look at the last seconds of the sixth round clearly showed Pacquiao made himself vulnerable for the vaunted right hand of Marquez, because he stalked Marquez with his hands at chest level. That proved very fatal! Reels of him stalking Marquez at that juncture of the fight with his hands at chest level still sends chills down to my spine!

To make matters worse, the Filipino threw a jab that further exposed him to a counter. And the Mexican sidestepped the jab effectively.

Pacquiao also lunged forward as he launched his right jab, which brought his head closer to the Mexican. He was apparently preparing to unload his left cross on Marquez but the Mexican was clearly one step ahead of him.

If there is one lesson that can be learned from Marquez-Pacquiao 4, it is this – trying to prove who is better can have fatal results. Entering their third fight, Pacquiao was clearly ahead of the score sheet against Marquez, with the Filipino having four knockdowns and two wins in their first three contests. So why bother for a fourth fight against Marquez?

Muhammad Ali’s legacy was never denigrated just because he did not seek a fourth fight against Ken Norton, who broke his jaw in their first fight and was even believed to have won two of their three fights. Also, Rocky Marciano refused to get into the ring against Archie Moore for the second time after he beat the former lightheavyweight champion in his last fight.

It was a good thing clamors for a fifth fight against Marquez never gained momentum.

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