- Eric Raskin, Boxing
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Partially in tribute to Manny "PacMan" Pacquiao's nickname, partially in tribute to his humbling abdominal definition and partially in tribute to the cold ones fight fans around the globe were clinking together on Saturday night as they were treated to yet another high-stakes showdown that lived up to the hype, here goes a six-Pac of questions, observations and angles inspired by Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez II:
1. Let Manny be Manny
You don't try to turn Magic Johnson into a talk-show host, you don't try to turn Joey Tribbiani into the central character and, apparently, you don't try to turn Pacquiao into a technical boxer. Or at least, you don't do it to the point where it prevents him from following his natural destructive instincts.
Without a doubt, trainer Freddie Roach has added necessary dimensions to PacMan's game. His right hook is much improved since he first fought Marquez four years ago and although we haven't seen much body-punching from him in his last few fights, his Roach-taught right to the ribs was the key weapon in his knockout of Erik Morales in their second bout.
But against someone capable of boxing as masterfully as Marquez, Pacquiao shouldn't be trying to win a chess match.
In Saturday's rematch, Pacquiao's best rounds and moments were the ones in which he busted out some of the old kamikaze attack, darting in with scorching one-twos, able to move Marquez back.
Yes, because of the Mexican's exceptional counterpunching skill, Pacquiao ate some leather in return, and yes, that counterpunching is the reason Pac-Man couldn't just open fire from bell-to-bell for all 12 rounds.
But the third-round knockdown scored by Pacquiao -- the difference on the scorecards -- came when he finally unleashed some aggression after two relatively passive opening rounds.
The pattern thereafter was fairly consistent: When Pacquiao boxes, he narrowly loses rounds; when he attacks, he narrowly wins rounds.
Pacquiao is at his best as the flame-thrower we all fell in love with. The fighter who out-boxed Marco Antonio Barrera last October deserves credit for how well-rounded he's become, but the fighter who scorched Barrera in November '03 would have beaten that '07 version of Pacquiao.
Seeing both sides of Pacquiao during Saturday's rematch with Marquez made that all the more apparent.
2. Leader of the Pac?
It was reasonable to assume going in that a win by Pacquiao on Saturday would make him the undisputed champion of the extraordinary Pacquiao-Marquez-Barrera-Morales quadrangle. His record, after all, is now 5-1-1 against that crew, as compared to 1-1-1 for Marquez, 2-4 for Barrera and 2-4 for Morales.
There are two hitches, however, to declaring the Filipino the most fearsome of the foursome.
The obvious one is that not everyone thought he beat Marquez at Mandalay Bay. I scored it 114-113 for Marquez, the exact same score carded by ESPN.com's Darius Ortiz and Dan Rafael.
The other hitch is that Pacquiao's success against the Mexican triumvirate is owed not just to talent, but also to timing.
He's five years younger than Marquez, four years younger than Barrera and two years younger than Morales. Prime against prime, would he sport a 5-1-1 record against these guys? Or did he benefit from his prime not being their primes?
You could certainly argue that to be the case against Barrera and Morales, who'd already taken a lot out of each other by the time PacMan got to them.
Remember, even though Sandy Saddler beat an aging Willie Pep three times out of four, it's Pep who's generally regarded as the greatest featherweight ever.
Still, it's hard to argue with the numbers when assessing Pacquiao. He's the only one of the quartet who has a winning record against the other three, and it's a record with five times as many wins as losses.
Just as Sugar Ray Leonard gets top billing when talking about the '80s welterweights and Muhammad Ali gets top billing among the '70s heavies, Pacquiao, regardless of his youth advantage, has earned the right to see his name listed first.
3. Arrival of a rivalry
Maybe mashing Pacquiao, Barrera, Marquez and Morales all together into one group isn't the way to go. Maybe what the Pacquiao-Marquez rematch did was shine a spotlight on how perfectly their styles are made for each other, just like arch-enemies Barrera and Morales, and maybe history will ultimately split this foursome into two twosomes.
In fact, it's becoming increasingly clear that the current decade in boxing is going to be remembered best for the plethora of sensational one-on-one rivalries it produced.
We can add Pacquiao-Marquez to a list that includes Barrera-Morales, Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez, Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward and Evander Holyfield-John Ruiz.
OK, scratch that last one. (In fact, permanently erase all memories of it from my brain if at all possible.)
But four legendary trilogies between perfectly matched foes in a decade qualifies as an abundance, and with one more Pacquiao-Marquez fight that's even half as good as their first two, that's what we'll have.
Nothing against the Pacquiao-Morales trilogy, which was also outstanding, but Marquez is the rival alongside whom PacMan is destined to go down in history.
4. The Diaz directive
Clearly, a third Pacquiao-Marquez fight makes the most sense for the fans. But there's this unwritten rule among boxing promoters that says, "when you have a superstar and there's a weak alphabet titlist in the division above, you must move your superstar up in weight and fight him."
A faded Erik Morales cherry-picked David Diaz for a final title try last August (and arguably did enough to win), and ever since Diaz escaped with that narrow decision, we've been hearing about how Pacquiao's going to move up to lightweight and fight him first.
There's just one problem: It's a mismatch with little fan appeal.
You know that tired cliché boxing writers use to describe great defensive fighters, saying that you couldn't hit them in the rear with a handful of salt?
Well, in Diaz's case, you couldn't miss him with a single grain of salt dropped from an airplane thousands of feet overhead.
Diaz is tough and gutsy, but so was Tex Cobb.
Against Ramon Montano on the Pacquiao-Marquez II undercard, Diaz passed his audition for the future role of PacMan's heavy bag with flying colors. And yes, that's meant to be both a compliment and an insult.
Not that Diaz is a bad fighter. He just shouldn't be paired against the No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.
When asked immediately after defeating Marquez whether he would indeed by moving up in weight, Pacquiao told HBO's Larry Merchant, "I don't know yet." He then added in a very non-committal manner, "We have a plan to fight at 135 pounds," suggesting that he isn't 100 percent sold on the plan.
Remember, this is a guy who turned pro at 106 pounds and won his first title at 112. Pacquiao's body doesn't seem to be forcing him to leave 130 pounds.
Still, all indications are that we'll see Pacquiao vs. Diaz on June 28. That's what promoter Top Rank wants to do, Mandalay Bay already has the date set aside and it's certainly an easier fight for Pacquiao than meeting Marquez again.
And that's fine; Pacquiao is entitled to a "gimme," and with his large and devoted fan base, he won't produce a financial failure against anyone. Beating Diaz won't make Pacquiao the real champ at 135, but as marking-time mismatches go, it's not the worst that we've seen.
Let's just hope it's followed fairly closely by a third fight with Marquez, a fight where so much more than a trivial alphabet belt is at stake.
5. The preener's preamble
Following an appearance on "The Howard Stern Show" several years ago, Michael Buffer cut some hilarious sound bites, including the oft-replayed, "Let's get ready to get ready!"
Amazingly, what was once a joke that he seemed to be in on has now become part of his actual routine.
Prior to the Pacquiao-Marquez rematch, Buffer unveiled the new build-up to his "Let's get ready to rumble" catchphrase, telling viewers to brace themselves for "the most famous phrase in boxing history."
It's one thing for a ring announcer to think he's the main attraction. It's another thing for him to jump up and down screaming, "Hey, look at me! I'm the main attraction!"
So, how long do you think it'll be before he copyrights his pre-catchphrase catchphrase?
Will he sue anyone who suggests "Down goes Frazier!" or "He can run, but he can't hide" might actually be the most famous phrase in boxing history?
And if "ready to rumble" is No. 1 all-time, where does that leave Kenny Bayless' "What I say, you must obey"?
6. The Marquezes make their marks
Juan Manuel and Rafael Marquez have a lot in common.
Their parents, for starters.
They both lost heartbreaking decisions against their greatest rivals by a single point this March.
And in so doing, I think they both locked up entrance to the Hall of Fame.
Typically, defeat isn't the way to bolster your claims to greatness. But defeats like these -- Rafael showing so much heart in just barely losing another classic to Vazquez, Juan Manuel arguably doing enough to beat Pacquiao in a tense thriller -- were moral victories strong enough to clinch their Canastota candidacies.
Maybe both Marquezes had already done enough to qualify prior to 2008. But now it's virtually impossible to deny either one.
Five years after their careers end, there won't be any split decisions going against them. These decisions ought to be unanimous in their favor.
Eric Raskin is a contributing editor for and former managing editor of The Ring magazine.
2hMike Fish and David Purdum