GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/10 November) — Skills wise, the gap between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez has narrowed down seven years after they first clashed in a feverish 12-round brawl that ended up in a controversial draw.
Back then, the smaller Pacquiao was the bigger puncher but Marquez was the better boxer.
Their contrasting styles were then perfectly made for each other even in their second match that Pacquiao snatched via a close split decision victory.
Pacquiao was the quintessential aggressive fighter, Marquez always the sly fox waiting in ambush.
On Sunday, Pacquiao climbs the ring the bigger man yet no longer the wild and unpolished one-armed bandit relentlessly chasing his victims across the ring. He has morphed into a more complete boxer having rediscovered and harnessed his right hand.
Marquez has also reinvented himself. From a passive powerful counter puncher, he has injected some aggressiveness in his style. He also is bulking up for his Sunday date with Pacquiao.
When these two protagonists in one of boxing’s famous trilogies clash over the weekend and remain true to their newfound tweaked forms, it will be a slam bang affair.
It can end quickly however.
Marquez knows he can no longer keep up with the frenetic pace of Pacquiao who has not slowed down a bit since bursting into the American scene via a sixth round knockout of Lehlo Ledwaba.
He knows if the fight goes the distance, it is likely Pacquiao will again emerge victorious.
Marquez needs to be more aggressive and look to unsettle Pacquiao with powerful jabs. These mean Marquez will have to dictate the tempo of their fight – a very tall order against a dynamo like Pacquiao. The Mexican will have to look for an early knockout. Unfortunately, nobody has done it against Pacquiao in the last 12 years.
Marquez can no longer rely on his tested strategy of luring Pacquiao into a trap.
The Filipino now knows better.
Pacquiao, on the other hand, needs only to be able to connect with authority any of his powerful punches – the fearsome left straight and the explosive right hook he has perfected over the last three years.
Remember how he dropped Ricky Hatton and Miguel Angel Cotto with those right hooks? They will be prefect off Marquez’ lazy jabs.
Pacquiao will continually feint his attacks to keep Marquez off balance and on the defensive. No other fighter has the ability to reduce and send his opponent into their defensive shells than the Filipino lefty.
The secret lies in Pacquiao’s blinding speed and unorthodox punches. Punches that are thrown the unconventional way. His left straight can start as an uppercut. His right cross can come from the waist. He has developed short punches that have gone largely unnoticed. He may throw punches at awkward angles but these are the ones that catch the receivers by surprise. They are not only stinging and biting. They carry so much weight they take away the will to fight from his opponents.
These are what make Pacquiao a fan-friendly boxer. They knew Pacquiao will explode but they are waiting when and how it happens. Because with Manny, each victory is always different from the last. (Edwin G. Espejo writes for www.asiancorrespondent.com)