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Dec 7, 2012
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Boxing trilogies are one of the most dramatic storylines in all of sports. Usually one fighter wins the first fight then loses the second, which necessitates a third fight to decide who the better fighter is, once and for all. Boxing tetralogies, however, are not as usual. A handful of these have happened before, but the stakes have never been as high as it will be for the fourth fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.

The set-up: A draw kickstarted the whole fuss, two razor-thin wins for Pacquiao followed, all of which could have easily been three wins for Marquez. And no matter how deep into boxing hell Marquez had brought him those three times they fought, a fourth encounter was the most plausible scenario (both legacy-wise and money-wise) for Pacquiao.

It also helps that the eight divisions world champion loathes the fact that some people think Marquez is better than him. “I want Marquez to stop saying he won those fights,” said Pacquiao. “The first was a draw and I won the second and the third fights. He should respect the decision of the judges.”

But you can’t tell Marquez that. He had admirable performances in the second and third fights against Pacquiao while the first fight might go down as his greatest showing—he stood up from three knockdowns! He cannot and will not accept the fact that, even at his best, he is not enough to beat Pacquiao.

“I know Pacquiao, and he knows me,” said Marquez. And for a counter-puncher like himself, knowing your opponent is 90-percent of the game. Those 36 rounds they spent together is probably more than enough for Marquez to know Pacquiao like a borther. A brother who wants to take his head off. And he is going to use all of that in their fourth fight.

Keys to the victory
For Marquez, it's essential that he throws more punches. He clearly has landed the better punches in the rivalry, but Pacquiao has thrown more and has landed more. If Marquez closes the gap on punches thrown and landed, while making sure he still lands the best punches, there will be no reason for the judges to score the rounds for Pacquiao. Marquez will still be a counter-puncher but he needs to stay in the pocket longer to unleash more bombs.

Expect Marquez to still rely on his lead right hand and uppercuts from both hands to hurt Pacquiao. Another thing he'll try his best to do is avoid his opponent's legendary left hand. As much as we love Pacquiao, we know enough about boxing to know that there's only one way the Pacman will beat Marquez: Hit him with the left hand.

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For Pacquiao, it’s imperative that he mixes all he has learned in the past few years with Freddie Roach while also summoning the Manny Pacquiao of old. Again, Marquez knows how to fight this version of Pacquiao. So maybe it's about time that Manny throws a curve ball to catch the Mexican unaware—be it a change in his movement or rhythm, or new set of combinations.

Pacquiao needs to be overly aggressive to win. He tried to fight Marquez’s fight the last time and he almost went home with a loss. His devilish left is still the primary weapon but that right jab and right hook will be just as important. Look for a croos-breed of the 2004 Pacquiao (the one who kept coming forward) and the Pacquiao of now (the one who knows how to devastate with both hands).

The likely result
When two fighters who know each other the way these two guys collide, the boxing world needs to drop whatever they are doing and pay attention.

So don’t believe the news that Pacquiao has gotten much slower. Don’t believe the people who say Marquez is too old to keep Pacquiao away. Don’t believe those who think that Pacquiao is only fighting for the money. And don’t believe the Las Vegas boxing odds, which has Pacquiao as a minus 380 (a $380 bet wins $100) favorite and Marquez a plus 270 (a $100 bet wins $270) underdog.

Some people might even tell you that four fights between Pacquiao and Marquez is too damn much. Don’t believe them. Because, sometimes, combining two things just works. Peanut butter and jelly. Doughnuts and coffee. Milk and Oreos. Lugaw and a rainy day. It just works. 

This fight will be close and exciting, just like the first three fights. These two will fight as if their legacies depended on it—it does. They will fight as if the the results of their first three encounters are also up for grabs—it is. And they will leave us breathless yet again—and, possibly, debating over who won yet again.

WORDS: REY DE GUZMAN
IMAGE FROM HBO.COM
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