The fourth edition of Manny Pacquiao versus Juan Manuel Marquez promises to be just as good as the first three bouts, but with a slightly different result.
Marquez knows that he fought well enough to win at least one of the first three fights, and with 39 career knockouts, he has enough power and guile to do something about it.
It's safe to say that Pacquiao isn't the same fighter that he once was. He looked worn down at times in his last fight, versus Timothy Bradley, and it led to his controversial loss in the end. That fight will be in his head all night and could provide negative or positive energy on Saturday.
Don't expect an early ending in this one. Pacquiao knows that a loss makes a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. more unlikely than it already is, and Marquez needs the respect that a victory would earn him.
That's going to create a highly competitive atmosphere in which neither fighter backs down.
Let's predict the 12-round scorecard, round by round, and break the fight down by section.
Early Rounds (1-4)
Marquez is going to come out fast and furious in this one, but only because Pacquiao will be so aggressive himself.
Expect Marquez to use his counter-punching to drive Pacman back early on. Pacquiao will come out trying to prove that his loss to Bradley was truly unjustified, and he will throw that energy in Marquez's direction.
But Marquez will be ready.
Not only does Marquez have the experience against Pacquiao's straight-forward style, but he's technically sound and knows how to counter it. Many opponents take time to adjust to Pacquiao's frenetic pace, but Marquez will already be aware of it.
Pacquiao will win Rounds 3 and 4 after dropping the first two, but the tone Marquez is able to set will be the key.
Middle Rounds (5-8)
This is where I expect Marquez to gain an edge—culminating in a seventh-round knockdown. It all comes down to fighting styles for me.
Pacquiao really only has one way of winning, and that rests on his ability to throw punch after punch. Marquez is a better defensive fighter, and he's more sound overall, plus he has a lot more to fight for in this instance.
Pacquiao is going to make a mistake, and Marquez will catch him. After seizing some momentum in the sixth round, Pacman will become too confident and try to catch Marquez, but Marquez will be ready.
Putting Pacquiao on the mat will create a wild final four rounds as Pacquiao seeks to avenge the critical 10-8 score on the judges' cards.
Late Rounds (9-12)
By this time, Pacquiao will be throwing punches with desperation. Out of sheer volume, he's going to land some on Marquez as the latter focuses on protecting himself.
Pacman will make a mini-comeback in Rounds 9 and 10, winning both without scoring a knockdown and keeping the pressure on Marquez as the fight enters the home stretch.
But Marquez isn't going to let this one slip. The first three fights will be replaying in his head as he sits on his stool before Round 11 gets underway, and that will be all the motivation he will need. Also, Pacquiao's endurance seemed a little iffy in his loss to Bradley.
Marquez will fight decisively in the fight's final two rounds, sealing his fate as the victor. After scoring the seventh-round knockdown, he knows that all he has to do is stay on his feet to lock this one up.
It will have taken four tries, but Marquez will score his long-overdue victory.
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