Boxing: Pacquiao proposes rematch as Marquez camp labels points verdict 'a robbery'
Huge controversy surrounded the result of the trilogy fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez when the Filipino was awarded a majority victory on the judges’ cards.
Just as they did the last meeting in 2008, the Marquez camp labeled the verdict “a robbery” while Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum, and trainer Freddie Roach concurred that a re-match should be offered to the Mexican. Pacquiao had insisted he wanted this fight "to be conclusive", but it clearly was not.
The fight split the judges, ringside observers and crowds of furious fans in the sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena as the fighting congressman from The Philippines won for the second time against Marquez. Their first meeting was drawn.
Empty water bottles and plastic beer bottles rained down on the press ranks from disgusted Marquez fans when the 114-114, 115-113, 116-112 scores were read out, the last two in favour of Pacquiao.
Pacquiao’s ringside interview with host broadcasters Home Box Office could not be heard above the din of catcalls and booing.
Your correspondent scored it a draw, with Pacquiao having needed to win the last three rounds on my card to do so. By then, the assault of Marquez, the brave Mexican warrior, was waning as his body tired.
Pacquiao came into his own, but only when it became a rough and tumble fight did the Filipino enjoy any kind of ascendancy.
In what transpired to be a very close fight, Pacquiao seemed stuck between two stools by trying to outbox the boxer, instead of employing the all-action style which has brought him so much success. Marquez boxed skillfully and cleverly, dominating the middle rounds of the WBO welterweight title contest, his counters nullifying Pacquiao's attempts to draw him into a fight.
Pacquiao, 32, six years younger than Marquez, rallied in the late rounds, but this will rate as one of the fighting politician’s poorer performances. When he took the fight to Marquez, in the late rounds, he looked far more impressive.
The contest was set fare after former world heavyweight champion Mike Tyson rang the bell in memory of the passing of one of the greats, heavyweight champion Smokin’ Joe Frazier.
Amir Khan’s linear rival Timothy Bradley had stopped Joel Casamayor in the chief supporting fight, with Khan commentating for television from the press rows, and after three national anthems, and a spectacular build-up of lights and razzmatazz, the contest was on.
The monitors showed a long prayer from Pacquiao in the dressing room, alone. He came out to strains of ‘The Eye of the Tiger’, smiling, bouncing on his toes. After touching gloves, the two men got down to business.
After a cagey start, Marquez found his feet, enjoying early ascendancy. In the middle rounds, Marquez caught Pacquiao regularly with crisp counters, and enjoyed success with his straight right hand.
Over the generality of the fight, Marquez was the man in charge, but round by round, as the fight wore on, Pacquiao clawed his way back. By the end of the ninth round, Marquez was ahead, but clearly tiring.
Pacquiao went hunting in the final quarter, and enjoyed sporadic success, but this was far from vintage Pacquiao.
The verdict was received distainfully by the Marquez camp. Nacho Beristain, Marquez’s venerated trainer, called it “a robbery”.
He was disgusted by the verdict. Marquez later said in the post-fight media conference that he "might as well retire".
Marquez said sardonically: “I might as well retire. I could knock him down and they would pick him up and give him the decision. My style is difficult for his style. I feel very frustrated."
Beristain added: “It’s a joke for boxing when we get these kind of decisions. We won with clearer punches, we won again, this is the second robbery of the two fights. And this was the worst.”
Pacquiao, who appeared late for the news conference after having had 28 stitches in a one and a half inch gash on his right eyelid, said: “It was clear to me that I won the fight. I don’t blame the way the Marquez fans feel. But I blocked a lot of his punches, and he head-butted me a lot."
"But I would give Marquez a re-match,” he said. Promoter Bob Arum agreed that a re-match in May 2012 would be discussed, while Pacquiao’s trainer agreed that a fourth fight between the pair could not be discounted. The punch statistics revealed that Paquiao landed with 176 punches, Marquez 138. Pacquiao landed with 117 power punches, the Mexican 100.
Roach said: “Of course Marquez deserves a re-match. He fought bravely and is a great counter-puncher. He and Nacho are a great team. We were not celebrating in the ring because we thought it was a very close fight. I thought Manny needed to win those last two rounds to win the fight, and perhaps he fought too cautiously at the start. Manny hit him with some good shots, but nothing great.”
Roach also revealed Pacquiao had suffered from cramps in his lower legs during the fight, and that the team would seek medical advice.
Pacquiao, the only boxer to earn world titles in eight weight divisions, will earn $25m (€18.5m) for this fight, with a further $10m expected from an anticipated 1.5 million pay-per-view television sales. Marquez earned $5m.
Yet there may be a silver lining. If Floyd Mayweather Jnr, an exquisite counter-puncher himself, was watching, he will have been encouraged by the spectacle. Based on this performance, he would have to be seen as the clear favourite in a showdown the boxing world has been desperate to see for over two years.