Filipino southpaw Manny Pacquiao needs a statement victory over Juan Manuel Marquez in the fourth installment of their epic rivalry Saturday to prove once and for all who is the better fighter.
Pacquiao, 33, will face the 39-year-old Marquez for the fourth time in eight years in a 12-round non-title welterweight fight at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino.
Trainer Freddie Roach said he has seen a meaner, harder-punching Pacquiao in their sparring sessions at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood.
“I think he has the fire underneath him that he used to have,” Roach said. “He has four knockdowns in training camp… He wasn’t so compassionate in sparring this time.”
Pacquiao, who is also eager to redeem himself after suffering a defeat in his most recent fight to Tim Bradley, is tired of Marquez blaming his failure to win in their series on biased judging.
Marquez claims he won all three fights — although two were scored in favour of Pacquiao and one ended in a draw.
“I think this is the last fight with him,” Pacquiao says. “He always claims he won the fights. So he needs to prove something.
“You cannot say, ‘Yes, I won the fight’ when you are always backing off. It is contradictory. If you are claiming you won the fight then you have to press the action.”
Pacquiao and Marquez, of Mexico, have fought a total of 36 rounds with their most recent fight being 13 months ago.
They met for the first time in 2004 for the featherweight title. Marquez survived three early knockdowns to scrape out a draw.
Fast forward four years and they would meet again at 130 pounds. Pacquiao was awarded a split decision by the narrowest of margins as one judge gave the victory to Marquez, the second favoured Pacquiao and the third gave it to Pacquiao by just one point.
In November 2011, Pacquiao won on a majority decision that was roundly booed when it was announced. An incensed Marquez stormed out of the ring thinking he had won the fight.
“There is not much I can do about the judges,” Marquez says. “I don’t pick them, and I sure don’t know them.
“There is no doubt in my mind that I won all three previous fights.”
Marquez feels he will finally break through with a victory this time — and he admits it’s important to him.
“Pacquiao continues to be the best in the world and to finally get a win over him would make me very happy,” he says.
Pacquiao says he was the aggressor in all the fights, landing more punches, so those close decisions rightly went to him.
Pacquiao sees this fight as a chance to provide definitive proof as to who is the better fighter. He also wants to avoid suffering back-to-back losses for the first time in his 17-year career.
Bradley won the World Boxing Organization welterweight title in June by beating Pacquiao in a controversial split decision.
“Pac Man” could have gone for a rematch against Bradley but in the end his camp figured another Marquez fight would sell more tickets.
Besides, Pacquiao knows that much of his ring legacy will come from his contests with Marquez.
“When you say ‘Muhammad Ali’, you think ‘Joe Frazier’. And I think when you say ‘Manny Pacquiao’, you think ‘Juan Manuel Marquez,'” he said.
Much has been made of Marquez’s bulkier physique for this fight. Marquez’s strength and conditioning coach is Angel Heredia Hernandez, who was involved in the steroid scandal that eventually resulted in disgraced American athlete Marion Jones going to prison.
Roach questioned whether Marquez was using performance-enhancing drugs.
“Freddie Roach is saying I’ve been taking steroids. He’s way off base,” Marquez told the Los Angeles Times. “I say ‘let’s do the test right now’.”
Download the free fanatix app now for iPhone: Sport news, social features and more!
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr: