LAS VEGAS, Nevada, November 10 – Manny Pacquiao’s two epic slugfests with Juan Manuel Marquez forced “PacMan” to become a better fighter even as an inability to win haunted Marquez and pushed the Mexican to improve himself.
When the rivals fight for the third time on Saturday, weeks of inspired training and tough words might just produce the greatest bout in the trilogy.
“This will be the best of the three fights with the way these guys are getting ready,” Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said. “Manny has come a long way since those fights. Manny has fought some perfect fights.
“I don’t think this fight will go the distance.”
Filipino icon Pacquiao, 53-3 with two drawn and 38 knockouts, will defend his World Boxing Organization welterweight crown against Marquez, 53-5 with one drawn and 39 knockouts.
Pacquiao knocked down Marquez three times in the first round of their first fight in 2004 but Marquez rose and rallied to earn a draw, keeping his featherweight world title in the process.
In 2008, Pacquiao knocked Marquez to the canvas in the third round and took a 12-round split decision, each fighter ahead 115-112 in the eyes of one judge with the third scoring Pacquiao a 114-113 winner.
Marquez feels he won both fights and was robbed of rightful triumphs, comments that Pacquiao says have motivated him to train harder to show once and for all he is the superior fighter.
“He’s upset about me saying I won the first two fights. I’m just as upset I didn’t get the decisions I deserved,” Marquez said. “I’m just as motivated as he is. We’re going to cure any doubts about who won those first two fights.
“The third fight will show who is the best.”
Marquez, 38, wore a T-shirt in the Philippines declaring he beat Pacquiao twice, what Roach calls a slap in the face that has produced the greatest training camp yet by the 32-year-old Asian southpaw.
“This fight is real important to me,” Pacquiao said. “I have to end all the issues, all the doubts in people’s minds about me beating him.
“I do not blame Marquez or his fans. Yes, the fights were close. This fight will not be close.”
Ignacio Beristain, Marquez’s Hall of Fame trainer, sees major changes in both fighters since they last climbed into the ring against each other.
“Pacquiao has become a more technical fighter, better than he was, a more complete fighter,” Beristain said. “His punches are now technically better. He’s not as wild as he used to be. He has learned a lot of new techniques and he’s doing them better, especially the right hook.
“Juan Manuel has matured as a fighter, gotten to a higher level. I think you will see a great fight. I think Juan Manuel will fight like he’s 24.”
Pacquiao says he is better as well.
“I’ve improved my techniques, I’m more experienced and I’ve developed my right hand,” Pacquiao said. “I’ve improved my power since the last fight.”
Marquez had pushed for an immediate rematch in 2008 but Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter, said no. Now the day has come and the payoff is bigger than it would have been then at $30 million for Pacquiao and $5 million for Marquez.
“I don’t think the people were going to watch again right away,” Pacquiao said. “Boxing is also a business. You have to make money.”
Marquez has made peace with that delay.
“I asked myself why not an immediate rematch,” Marquez said. “But the fight is here and I’m 100 percent ready.”