PACQUIAO WATCH: Which punch to watch?

Lest we forget to tell everybody, March 15 (March 16 Sunday morning in Manila) is D-Day for the much anticipated rematch between two ring gladiators from both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez will again be defending his World Boxing Council championship belt, although this time it is some four pounds heavier than the one he held when he last fought Filipino crowd pleaser Manny Pacquiao to a controversial draw.

Conventional wisdom will say the defending champion should be the favorite, but
Marquez will climb the ring a decidedly underdog.

The odds are on the side of Pacquiao who has been on the tear and has captured the imagination of boxing fans after he bamboozled South Africa's Lehlo Ledwaba en route to a six-round spectacular knockout win to crown himself International Boxing Federation super bantamweight champion.

That breakthrough performance opened the doors for more spectacular conquests, the biggest of which is the 11-round technical knockout victory against Marco Antonio Barrera, then regarded as the best boxer in the featherweight division.

His march to stardom was only marred by a draw against Marquez and a unanimous but close defeat against Erik Morales. Pacquiao has redeemed himself from that defeat by knocking out Morales in their two rematches.

Sunday's championship bout between Pacquiao and Marquez is dubbed as a conclusion to their unfinished business four ago.

The two have gone back to their winning ways since their controversial standoff, with Marquez also suffering a controversial defeat in the hands Indonesian Chris John to lose his IBF featherweight crown.

Style-wise, Pacquiao and Marquez are a perfect match for a blockbuster fight.

Pacquiao is a relentless wrecking machine with speed, power, stamina and aggressiveness that are now seldom seen in professional boxing. He loves to dumbfound opponents with his lighting quick speed and thunderous left straights and has now added more arsenals of punches from his equally powerful right hand.

Marquez, on the other hand, is a shrewd ring technician and a sweet counterpunching ring gladiator with excellent boxing IQ. He will patiently wait for his opponent to commit before unleashing his strong counters that is punctuated by left hooks to the body.

Stamina, speed, power and patience will define the outcome of this bout.

Who wins will depend on which Pacquiao or which Marquez will show up atop the ring.

Both fighters knew they could inflict damage against each other. It is a matter of who gets careless and who blinks first.

But I would like to believe that he who throws the punch the other is not familiar with will gain the upperhand in the early going of the fight.

If Manny gets to land his powerful right hooks to the body of Marquez in the opening rounds, it will make the fight interesting as Marquez will obviously be looking for those left straights from the Filipino ring idol.

The left straight is the bread and butter of Manny and if he gets to square both his feet before unleashing them, it would be lights out for Marquez. But look for the left crosses of Manny in close quarters while backing off from the counters of Marquez. It was the same punch that knocked down Morales in the second round of their third fight. Manny was backing off from the ropes when he uncorked that powerful left cross as Morales tried to lunge in for the kill.

Marquez on the other hand will try to rattle his challenger with left crosses off the jab of Manny. He will hope to land hooks and crosses from both hands to the body of Pacquiao to slow the Filipino down and will occasionally let go of uppercuts in close quarters. I believe that the only Marquez punch that could knock down Manny is an uppercut.

So what will take for Manny to knock out Marquez cold? Forget about the other punches, it would still be his left straight thrown with the full force of his hip and calves.

Remember and watch for that punch. It would be quick and devastating. (Edwin G. Espejo was former editor in chief of SunStar General Santos)