Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 12/6/12
These days, with the demise in popularity of boxing and the surge in mixed martial arts, it’s fair to say only two boxers are now must-see attractions: Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. Those two continue to avoid each other in the ring to determine the best current pound-for-pound fighter. So instead, Pacquiao fights Juan Manuel Marquez for a fourth and presumably final time on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Bovada expects it to be the most-wagered boxing match of 2012 and Pacquiao is the -280 favorite with Marquez at +220. This has moved from an open of -300/+230. The over/under rounds total is set at 10.5. Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 knockouts) enters off a rare loss, falling in an extremely controversial split decision for the WBO welterweight title (147 pounds) against Timothy Bradley in June. Almost no one believed Bradley won that fight. It ended Pacquiao’s 12-fight winning streak, dating to a 2006 loss against Oscar Larios when Pacquiao was just a super featherweight (129 pounds). Pacquiao, the only eight-division champion in boxing history, decided to pass on a rematch with Bradley because the Marquez fight offered a much bigger purse thanks to several hundred thousand more expected pay-per-view buys. Pacquiao actually first targeted a second fight with Miguel Cotto, but Cotto decided to fight junior middleweight champ Austin Trout last week and lost. Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KOs) is a four-division champion. He currently holds a junior welterweight title and moves up to welterweight for this non-title bout. Marquez hasn’t had good success in his career fighting above the 140-pound junior welterweight limit. He has done so twice, getting dominated by Mayweather Jr. in 2009 and then losing a majority decision to Pacquiao in November 2011. Marquez was last in the ring in April, handing Serhiy Fedchenko his first loss in an easy unanimous decision for the interim WBO light welterweight title. All three Pacquiao-Marquez fights have gone the distance and at worst the two most recent could have gone Marquez’s way. Their first fight was in May 2004 when both were featherweight champions. Pacquiao knocked down Marquez three times in the first round and bloodied him, but Marquez got better as the fight went on. One judge scored the fight 115-110 for Pacquiao and another 115-110 for Marquez. The third had it at 113-113, although he later admitted a scoring mistake that would have given the win to Pacquiao. Marquez landed 158 total punches to Pacquiao’s 148 and had 122 power punches to Pacquiao’s 100. They met again in March 2008 for the junior lightweight title. Marquez was again knocked down, this time in the third round, but landed 15 more total punches than Pacquiao and 16 more power punches. One judge scored it 115-112 for Pacquiao and one 114-113. The third had it 115-112 for Marquez for a split decision. Finally, last November neither fighter was knocked down. Marquez was told in his corner after the 10th round he was winning the fight and wasn’t as aggressive for the final two rounds. It apparently cost him as Pacquiao won those rounds and took the majority decision. One judge scored it 116-112 for Pacquiao and the other 115-113. The third had it 114-114. This time Pacquiao landed almost 40 more total punches and 17 more power punches. Pacquiao not only threw more overall punches (578-436), but also attempted more punches in every round. Of the 36 rounds these two veterans have fought, only three rounds in all had one fighter land 10 or more punches than his opponent. The 33-year-old Pacquiao, a southpaw, has six years on Marquez, but the Mexican has an ever-so slight height advantage. Their reach is the same.

This article first appeared on NESN.com and was syndicated with permission.

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