When Manny Pacquiao (54-4-2) steps into the ring for a fourth time with Juan Manuel Marquez (54-6-1) Dec. 8 in Las Vegas, both fighters will be in familiar territory.
These men know each other extremely well. In the first three fights, Pacquiao has recorded a 2-0-1 record.
All three fights went the full 12-round distance and none of the decisions have been unanimous.
In the first fight, Pacquiao knocked down Marquez three times in the first round and appeared to be well on his way to registering a knockout or a stoppage. However, Marquez responded to that adversity by shaking off the knockdowns and taking the fight to Pacquiao the rest of the way.
He impressed one judge enough to get his vote and a second judge called it even. The other judge ruled in favor of Pacquiao, accounting for the draw.
In Pacquiao's two victories, he earned a split decision in one and a majority decision (one judge ruled the bout even) in the other.
Since Pacquiao has had the advantage on the judges' scorecards in a majority of the bouts, it seems that there may be a feeling in the back of the judges' minds to give the edge to Marquez if they have another close bout in their fourth meeting.
No self-respecting fight judge would ever admit to wanting to "even things out" in the fourth bout in the series, but it's seems a very human thing to do.
Pacquiao says he is not worried about the referee or the judges in the fight because it's not something he can control.
"I don’t have any say in the judges," Pacquiao said in a conference call (via EastSideBoxing.com). "I don’t pick the judges. I am an athlete and train hard to fight well in the ring. Selecting the referee and the judges is the job of the Nevada State Athletic Commission."
Pacquiao told reporters that he is training at a hard pace because he wants to fight "faster" against Marquez than he did in his last two fights.
Trainer Freddie Roach says that studying the tapes of the first three fights reveals that Pacquiao had the the advantage when the rounds were fought at a fast pace, while Marquez did better when the action was more deliberate.
"The thing is Marquez fought the fight at a slow pace the last time," Roach said to reporters. "We plan to fight the fight at a much faster pace this time like we did in the first fight in the early rounds—that’s where we had the most success."
If Pacquiao and Roach are accurate in their assessments, Pacquiao is going to use a lot of hand speed out of the gate and try for the early knockout.
Pacquiao and Roach know that the first three fights have been quite close and that a good argument can be made that Marquez was deserving of at least one of those decisions.
Pacquiao could be at a disadvantage if the fight comes down to a decision once again. Both Pacquiao and Roach know it, and that's why the fourth fight may not look like the other three.