In one of the greatest fights in recent memories, the younger Marquez set what otherwise was the tone of his fight plan for the evening in his third epic trilogy of a match against fellow Mexican Israel Vasquez. He kept Vasquez at bay with his stinging jabs and had the better of their furious exchanges early in the match. He even sent Vasquez, a one time sparring mate of Pacquiao, crashing into the canvass in the fourth round.
But Rafeal, younger brother of Juan Manuel who will defend his super featherweight title against Pacquiao on March 15, failed to sustain his momentum and was staggered in the fourth round after decking his opponent.
The reigning titlist however saw Rafael's strategy early on and kept pressing to negate his fellow Mexican's powerful jabs.
By putting pressure on the challenger, Vasquez was able to uncork flurries of his own and in the late rounds showed he was the stronger fighter. Vasquez rallied in the late rounds and had the gritty challenger on the verge of being knocked out cold in the last round.
By all accounts, their third fight is already touted as candidate for the Fight of the Year.
It also showed a glimpse of what Juan Manuel Marquez might do against Manny Pacquiao on March 15.
The elder Marquez has of late, been displaying uncharacteristic aggressiveness and many believed he will abandon his sweet counter-punching style if only to show he could stand up against the Filipino southpaw.
If Manny does not show Juan Manuel difficult angles, the Mexican champion will beat Pacman to the punch, especially when the two are to engage in furious exchanges in close quarters.
I have always pointed to Pacquiao lawyer and confidante Jeng Gacal that most of Manny's spectacular knockout punches came from the outside where he maximizes his ability to make use of his tremendous leverage.
Yes, unlike his town mate from General Santos and former World Boxing Council super featherweight champion Rolando Navarette, Pacquiao does not have the powerful short punches to knockout opponents from the inside.
I remembered how Navarette sent to wonderland former world title contender Rey Tam of Baguio by uncorking a wicked punch to the body from a distance of six inches.
Manny needs to set his foot very well and let his torso power his punches.
Marquez, on the other hand, needs to lure Manny and hopes to crowd him in order to have a chance at finally putting an end to a string of Mexican boxers who bowed to the Filipino buzz saw.
But that is easier said than done.
Manny is one of the elusive boxers to pin down and land one good solid shot at. Even against the ropes. Morales did it the first time around but he was never able to knock down Pacquiao. True, Manny lost that first fight as he was clearly outboxed but certainly not outpunched. Oscar Larios almost had Manny's number in the third round of their fight at the Araneta Coliseum in July 2006. But that was his only claim to 15 seconds of fame.
So what should Manny expect from Marquez in their rematch on March 15?
Look for Marquez to jab, circle around and unleash four or five combinations of left hooks and right straights once Manny gets lazy on his jabs. Marquez will also try to outpace Manny and hopes Pacman fades in the latter round, taking into account his opponent's notorious struggles with the scales.
And for Marquez to eke out a victory, he will have to knockout Manny. A tall order against a guy who has already faced the best and whose last KO loss was in 1999 when Manny couldn't shed another two pounds more and was so physically dehydrated he could not even shed a tear as he cried after he was stripped of his flyweight title.
Manny's best strategy, on the other hand, would be to double or triple up his jabs and to look for openings for his right hooks, both to the body and upstairs.
He should not abandon his in and out strategy, where he is one of the best in the business, and maintain his tremendous outburst of energy while keeping in mind the value of patience.
He is not lacking in killer instinct. But this must come at the opportune moment.
Having said that, I see a knockout victory in the middle rounds or a unanimous decision for Manny should the fight go to the distance.
(Edwin G. Espejo was formerly editor-in-chief of SunStar General Santos.)