LAS VEGAS - The moment was short-lived, fleeting. The gesture was simple and largely undemanding. Yet the repercussions of that short moment when he was announced as the winner will forever echo in boxing history. The value of that little gesture of having his hand raised in victory made an almost broken man at the brink of retirement complete again.
It was that one moment Juan Manuel Marquez waited for. For eight excruciatingly long years, Marquez lived and repeatedly relived the moments when he failed to get a win over his nemesis Manny Pacquiao. But now, as the careers of both fighters approach their inevitable ending, Marquez finally got over the hump. He threw off a King-Kong sized monkey off his back with an overhand right. After that one moment, when his punch met Pacquiao’s face, after that short moment after his hand was raised, that one thing he longed for all these years was finally his.
Marquez finally scored a victory over Pacquiao via sixth round KO, Saturday (Sunday, PHL time) in their fourth fight, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas with a punch that will be remembered as one of the best ever thrown and landed.
Pacquiao was piling on rounds until that one moment in the sixth round. He did as he promised. The scorecards told the story. Pacquiao was up three rounds to two going into the sixth round. Before the fight, he told anyone who’d listen that he wanted to be the Manny Pacquiao of eight years ago and during the entire fight he looked like he was wearing his old fiery No Fear pants instead of his blue Nike ones. It seemed like the Manny Pacquiao during the days when his hair was partially blonde, the days when his right hook was as harmless as mild summer rain.
It was a thing of beauty, this Pacquiao of the yesteryears. Beautiful even though he was knocked down with an overhand right in the third round. Beautiful even though the fight was perpetually scary because of Marquez’s pin-point counter-punching.
For one moment in that fateful sixth round, throwback Pacquiao unleashed one of his oldest tricks. He stepped with his lead foot twice while faking a jab, feinting before he finally threw a left. Watch all those knockdowns in the first fight and you’ll see that’s exactly what he did back then. But just as he was ready to throw one of his vaunted left straights, he tragically dropped his defense, again like the Pacquiao of old.
Marquez cocked back his right hand, something he has done a million times against Pacquiao. He ducked his head to his left to avoid whatever Pacquiao might throw at him. Marquez rotated ever so slightly to his right; twisting, giving an extra ounce of gun powder to his already loaded barrel. He unleashed a mind-numbing right hand that connected flush on Pacquiao’s face with concussive force. This was no lucky punch, no lightning in a bottle. Marquez knew that it will always be tough to win a fight in the cards against Pacquiao. He rebuilt his body and sharpened his tools to make sure that the judges won’t be a part of the equation.
The eight division champion was out when the punch connected. He fell face first to the canvass and did not get up. That one moment, done in seconds, changed everything. It was a confusing moment for a lot of people; when the immortal turned mortal, when a demigod fell down to the ground.
For Marquez it was different, he competed well with Pacquiao all this time because he never elevated him to the level the fans did. He always saw Pacquiao as a fighter who can be studied, a fighter who can be beaten.
All this time, El Dinamita’s wish was simple: have his hand raised in victory against Pacquiao. In 2004, his arm was raised by referee Joe Cortez. However, Pacquiao’s hand was raised alongside his. In 2008 and again in 2011, Pacquiao’s hand was raised instead of his when every morsel of his body believed that he should have been the victor. Now, Marquez’s hand was raised alone, while Pacquiao’s hand was down on the canvass. During the last moments of his consciousness, he tried to protect his head from the full force of the fall, while Marquez raised his atop the turnbuckle.??
With his victory, Marquez upped his record to 55 wins against six losses and a draw. Pacquiao on the other hand drops down to 54 wins, five losses and three draws.
“That’s boxing, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” said Pacquiao right after the fight. Pacquiao’s people mourned all over him but the fighter had a smile on his face. He went on to congratulate his nemesis and now his conqueror. “You’re a great fighter Manny,” Marquez replied.
It was an honest moment, evidence of just how the two respect each other. Even if Marquez loathes the fact that he had two losses and a draw in their first three fights, he never hated Pacquiao. He always respected Pacquiao as a fighter and more importantly as a human being.
“I was so overconfident because I thought I had him,” Pacquiao said.
“I never thought I would lose that fight.” Marquez countered.
“If they allow a rematch, yes, why not?” Pacquiao threw out there.
“I don’t want to think about that. I’ll celebrate with my family and my friends first,” Marquez shot back.
“Possible retirement, possible rematch,” said Freddie Roach. Even though Pacquiao does not doubt that he’ll be returning to the ring, Roach has his doubts. “It depends on how he feels. After Pacquiao returns to the gym and I see signs of him declining, I’ll tell him to retire.”
Pacquiao knew that being the Manny Pacquiao of old would be dangerous, but boxing fans all over the world nagged and nagged about how he hasn’t been his usual self in his past fights. Pacquiao developed throughout all those years, yet the people asked him to revert to the swashbuckling punching dynamo of old. He knew it was not in his best interest yet he obliged.
For his sake, fight fans should hope and pray that he never obliges anyone again.
Right after that fight, someone in the media room looked distraught. Joy and sadness battled on his face. “I was supposed to bet $50 on a Pacquiao win via knockout in the sixth round,” he said. The bookie messed up and placed his bet on a sixth round knockout win for Marquez. The 22/1 odds on that bet demanded that his $50 grow to $1,150. Someone who just won that much money out of dumb luck should consider himself blessed.
“Lucky?” he asked. “I’m not lucky. I wanted Pacquiao to win. I don’t care about the money,” he said.
The guy will go home with a wad of cash and he should, by all intents and purposes, be happy. Yet he will go home with his head bowed down and his heart broken, just like the Filipinos who trooped to Las Vegas to watch the fight, just like the entire Philippine nation. That one thing they all wanted, a Manny Pacquiao victory, that little glimmer of hope during the toughest of times, might be something they will never see again. And they will all remember Juan Manuel Marquez as the person who took it away from them.
above photo: Writer Sharline Chiang (photo courtesy of Sharline Chiang)My mother called like she did…
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