Back in the dressing room, legendary HBO commentator Larry Merchant got hold of Manny Pacquiao. Interjecting a showbiz mode, he playfully grabbed Merchant's microphone and, instead, interviewed him about what he thought of his impending clash with Juan Manuel Marquez.
Posturing in grey pants with blue waistline and down on the side, smarting a red Motorlite headband, shoes with blue-grey combination, Pacquiao would just look less stronger even with his red Cleto Reyes gloves against Marquez's all black attire with brilliant mint green and vibrant red accents of his covering, much to his fancy, symbolic Azteca shoes. Five striking golden stars down the left side of his pants, forming the lines of red angles of his logo and firing up, in fact, a brand of Freemazonry, Marquez appeared distinguishing and commanding over his foe's rising sun clipped on letter "M"; it was not too close to his, however symbolic of condemnation it showed forth. Meanwhile, Pacquiao seemed nervous, a bit off-tangent but somehow overbearing. Both fighters, their respective entourage and bodyguards entered the ring. Pacquiao then went to his corner and met by famous Hollywood actor Steven Seagal and Pacquiao's cohorts. Pacquiao knelt and prayed and his rituals bolstered no defiance to the night as Marquez and his honchos waited in the corner for everyone to empty the ring for the third man and the Maharlikan. Pacquiao seemed too anxious. The crowd in the ring slowly was disappearing. Both fighters' jaws kept innervating, as if pressing and containing hard with no contentment against their respective wisdom teeth. Resembling of having the beard of a goat, both on his chin and lower lip, Pacquiao still looked a bit benign and nothing short of a lamblike appeal. Marquez seemed clean even with the widespread suspicion of potentially using performance enhancing drugs, if not steroids, but "Mafioso" than ever; his mustache well-trimmed and formed. Their rivalry was to much to behold. And there in the midst, Michael Buffer, an American professional ring announcer known for pioneering a distinct, oratorical style of announcing; In a high intensity inflection, he would just verbalize both fighters' professional records and names in thin air, raising public's awareness, punctuating out his trademarked catchphrase: "Let's get ready to rumble!" Both, then, stood in the middle guarded by their respective team and Referee Kenny Bayless. No one knew about how malignant the night would be until pugilists touched their gloves and bid for the start - just when the bell rang.
In round one and two, both fighters were quickly sizing up into a tense back-and-forth rythm over vetting tactics of their respective attacks. Pacquiao was dominating. In round three, Marquez threw a left hook and it's blocked. Pacquiao led the fight, but a little more measured. A right and a left for Pacquiao landed. Marquez landed a good left to the body. And another. Huge overhand right floored Pacquiao, landing on his back - a clean knockdown with one minute and 42 seconds left. Pacquiao recovered and still pushing forward. Both were swinging in the middle. In round four, Pacquiao led the fight as the aggressor, but so far nothing major took place. Both fighters seemed reluctant but traded leathers. And Pacquiao kept his pace and pushed in but ate counter shots and, in turn, delivered as well a good work inside. Both, again, traded shots in the middle. Pacquiao got the better of Marquez in that round. In round five, Pacquiao scored the first shot of the round as he delivered a good left. Then, a left hand dropped Marquez - a knockdown in fact as Marquez's left glove mounted his balance with one minute and eight seconds left. Marquez gained composure. Pacquiao ate another shot from the right and another left; he was still pushing forward. Both two were eating each other's punches. In round six, Pacquiao's flurry landed hard and Marquez responded with a left of his own. Pacquiao landed repeatedly with punch combinations at different angles, resulting a broken nose on Marquez. Blood flowing from inside his nasal bridge sprinkled on his own Chilango face, Marquez's end seemed nearly half his breath. Pacquiao really put the pressure on Marquez, trying to put him against the ropes. Big left partially wobbled Marquez. Pacquiao was sensing to close out Marquez with one second left. Never slowed down. For Pacquiao, the required intensity and his high level of anxiousness to knock out his nemesis were one. Marquez, believing he could deliver a big blow in a second, comfortably backing up and feinting for an ambush. And Pacquiao missed his last strike, a fatal lapse which had Marquez perfectly countered with a tectonic right to the jaw, dropping the Maharlikan icon to the canvas face-first and his head slipping through under the ropes and outside of the ring, flat-out with his left arm at 30 degrees laterally but forearm medially twisted and inwardly bent and the right obliquely clipping to his chest. Except his accessory muscles on neck area accommodating his labored breathing, the fallen hero seemed not moving. The crowd became restless and malignant, most not wanting to sit down, except those by ringside. Referee Bayless, the third man in the ring, got close, kneeling next to seemingly almost lifeless Pacquiao and, upon quick assesment, raised his right hand - waving before the judges and the wild crowd, as if calling for heaven to open up to rescue. Perhaps it was the coldest yet the biggest upset in the history of boxing: Marquez knocked Pacquiao out, hitting the canvas in front of former US Presidential Candidate Willard Mitt Romney and his first lady, Ann Lois Romney, face-first at 2:59 minutes in round six of their fourth encounter before over 16,000 attendees at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The board of judges composing of Adalaide Byrd (Nevada), Steve Weisfeld (New Jersey) and John Keane (England) unanimously scored the bout 47-46 in favor of Pacquiao before the knockout. Ringside punch stats showed Pacquiao landing 94 of 256 punches to 52 of 246 for Marquez.
Should this be the end of Pacquiao-Marquez rivalry? So few would vouch. It's rather malignant. From Merchant's interview status post fight, Marquez said: "I threw a perfect punch. I knew Manny could knock me out at any time.We always worked on that punch. We knew he was going to come out aggressive so we had a fight plan that was more technical. We were able to capitalize on it."
Catching up the reality of the glory he now lost, Pacquiao said: "If they give us a chance, we’ll fight again. I was just starting to feel confident and then I got careless. I thought I was getting him in the last couple of rounds but I got hit by a strong punch. I never expected that punch.” Freddie Roach, his trainer, said: "I thought Manny was fighting a good fight. We ran into one. No excuses. Marquez won the fight."
From post fight press conference via video acquired by "Pacquiao Under Crossfire", Roach said he never thought they were going too far from their game plan with Pacquiao potentially engaging a toe-to-toe fight. "That was our strategy. It was working very well. I thought we were in control of the fight. I thought we almost had him out. Get a little careless, and walked into a two-inch punch." But, one thing was kind of predictable with Pacquiao was that he has tendency to throw wild punches once the heat gets too intense. Marquez had perfected that angle and halting punch. And Roach said: "He never saw it coming. If you watch the replay, it's about a two-inch. Manny got caught swinging a little bit wild. We got caught. It was a great knockout." Asked if Manny is getting older and not taking punches as well, or is it all about Marquez punching harder: Roach replied: "I think he's punching harder. His body's very well-developed. The first knockdown was a big overhand right that caught Manny. It didn't hurt him real bad, but it was a pretty good shot. He's very strong, very physical in there. A lot more than he was before. I think his punching was improved, yes." Following the first knockdown when Pacquiao was hit by Marquez's right hand, Roach felt he was not really concerned about Pacquiao being affected too much nor did he have some level of concern, saying, "He (Pacquiao) wasn't really affected by that one too much. He was fully recovered by the time he got back to the corner. His wits were there. Going out for the fourth round, he had no problems whatsoever." Asked about what to advise to Pacquiao, he said: "That's a tough question, what to advise Manny right now. Let this settle down a little bit, absorb it. The possible retirement, possible rematch; I'm not sure which way we're going to go right now. It depends on how he feels and what he wants to do. If we do fight again, and we get back in the gym, I see good signs, we'll go on, I see bad signs, we won't." Asked about thoughts on Pacquiao's potential retirement, he said: "I said we'll see, because there's a lot to swallow. I said if he's back in the gym and I see signs of him declining, I'll tell him to retire. If I don't see that, I won't tell him to retire. I'd love to get a rematch. But is that the best move right away? Should we try him out in a softer fight first? There's a lot of different things we have to think about. It's very complicated and it's not going to be overnight."
"Is this the end for Manny Pacquiao?"
"I don't think so. I don't think this is the end for Manny Pacquiao, no. I was just talking to him before he went to the hospital. He's fine. He knows he walked into a punch. He made a mistake, and he got careless, and that happens in boxing. It's not the first time we've been knocked out, and it's not the first time we've come back from a loss. It will be a lot of hard work, but I'm sure if everything goes well, he'll be fine."
Contrary to statements by some boxing aficionados, Roach saw no signs of decline nor any form of degradation in Pacquiao's performance, saying, "No, I thought he was fighting a great fight. I thought he was fighting a very smart fight against a very strong opponent. I don't believe in luck, but he walked into one. That happens." About Marquez's counter right, he believed: "That's his best punch against Manny Pacquiao. He did suck him into it a few times in the fight. He definitely did that time. It was a good set-up. It was by design. It wasn't a lucky punch. He set us up well. I was a little surprised he could pull that off, seeing how hurt he was, but he did."
Marquez's trainer Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain, a member of the Boxing Hall of Fame since 2006, said what his pupil did over Pacquiao was the result of the hardwork and technical training they adopted during the entire four months before the fight. "We practice a lot on resistance and explosive type of training," claimed the 2010 inductee to the International Boxing Hall of Fame who is considered one of the greatest trainers in the history of boxing.
Meanwhile, pre-fight rumors had it that of Marquez suspected of potential drug use to enhance his performance. And Roach said: "I'm not going to accuse anyone. He won the fight. He looked -- you know. I don't know anything about drugs, so I don't know."
Asked about how he took Pacquiao's devastating loss to Marquez, Roach confessed: "Sucks. I mean, I hate to lose. We've been on a little bit of a bad run lately. A tough run. But ... I hate to lose. If we do get a rematch or another fight and I get Manny back in the gym and he's 100% focused and does like he did for this fight, we'll go on."
"Were you expecting Marquez's body attack?"
"I think we expected pretty much what he brought. I didn't think he'd be as heavy-handed as he was, but his right hand hurt Manny a lot more this time than it did in past fights."
"Was Manny too aggressive?"
"Things started going our way, and he got a little bit aggressive. He wasn't using his feints and pulling him in at the right time. He just walked right into one. It was a concern. If I'd gotten him back to the corner, I was going to tell him to get back to boxing and sharpshooting the guy. I thought the fight was about over. I didn't think it was going to last that much longer on our side."
Marquez improved to 55-6-1 with 40 knockouts, while Pacquiao fell to 54-5-2.
Retiring, as of this writing, is not an option. Maharlikan icon has not settled nor conceived a delight in addressing the audience out of the coldest night. His vision to rise again may have just brought some arguments. And he has not suffered from modesty, however hurting it must have been, but sees a better narrative just after his fall reverberates in the boxing world and beyond. Consider this: Pacquiao has just become a symbolic potency of the soul of inspiration. To many, Pacquiao may have been dispossessed, disempowered and victimized by the forces of circumstances that intimidate and bear his test beyond his control. And to a few, his two minutes of unconsciousness on that 20' x 20' canvas before the sold-out venue jampacked mostly of Mexicans, may have just given him a form of cultural adrenaline that gives every Maharlikan and others the courage to fight back, to reclaim and to refine what one believes to be a true affirmation, recognition and indeed restoration in the cultural sun of aspiration.
Status post fight, it’s unclear as to whether Marguez remained unsettled. Pacquiao wanted a rematch. Marquez closed his victorious night looking forward to spend with his family. But one thing was left unspoken: None of these two great men had reserved the right to pull back the feisty signature authority of their respective fighting spirits in the future. Just before Pacquiao vs. Marquez IV and over the past 8 ½ years, they traded punches in 36 rounds. Their first bout in 2004 scored a draw: Marquez caught cold as he was knocked down three times by Pacquiao. In the same event, Pacquiao was dominant in most rounds. But the final score only proved to be a controversial decision that outraged both camps. In their rematch billed “Unfinished Business” in 2008, Marquez landed the most punches throughout the fight at a higher percentage, but the decisive factor proved to be a third-round knockdown, wherein Marquez was floored by Pacquiao’s left hook. Then, Pacquiao won the WBC Super Featherweight and The Ring Super Featherweight titles, making him the first Filipino and Asian to become a four-division world champion - a fighter-in-fact who won world titles in four different weight divisions. In the same event’s post fight conference in Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Pacquiao ruled out a third clash with Marquez, saying, "I don't think so. This business is over.“ Pacquiao did not want a rematch because he aimed to move up to the lightweight division to challenge David Díaz, the reigning WBC Lightweight title holder at that time. In 2011, Marquez lost to Pacquiao via majority decision by garnering 114–114, 115–113 & 116–112 from scorecards of three judges. Thousands were disappointed of the announcement. Most writers believed Marquez was robbed of a decision by judges. However, ringside punch stats showed Pacquiao landing more strikes, 176 to 138, and landing more power punches, 117 to 100.
Not to be outdone, Pacquiao may have a lot to learn from Lenox Lewis and many other fighters who got knocked out cold - unconscious - sometime in their boxing careers. For Lewis, it was one of a par with Pacquiao’s dilemma. In April 22, 2001, though sluggish on his advances, Lewis seemed to be winning the fight over Hashim Rahman until one flush to his chin took him down to the canvas in round 5. Rahman won by knockout, taking up the heavyweight titles from the World Boxing Council, International Boxing Organization and International Boxing Federation. Seven months later, Lewis bounced back in a rematch and knocked out Rahman in round 5, taking back the three titles he lost. Since then, Lewis won consecutively by knockout from his last two fights against Mike Tyson in round 8 and Vitali Klitschko in round 6, respectively in 2002 and 2003. And this time, Pacquiao seized the experience of Lewis as his own idealist, to fight back Marquez. His first knockout loss to Rustico Torrecampo in 1996 was nothing less a reminiscing, resounding yet refreshing wake up call subconciously emboldening his recent loss, notwithstanding his technical knockout loss to Medgoen Singsurat in 1999, both of which in round 3.
For now, it seems all right. Pacquiao keeps telling himself the most positive way, bordering to self-deception. What is sure is that he just enters the enchanted world of revenge. Meanwhile, what he needs: collective thoughts of self-reenforcement. Still, he paints a portrait of a steely fighter who pursues the enemy without flinching, despite his near-death loss. The truth is more complex, and in many ways, less nearly reassuring. One thing sure, he is not a robotic machine. The choices he rather faces are brutally difficult. The shocking episode is not a stone giant, at least to him. He is sure to tell the public he is not struggling over in his mind to come back to the ring of madness. The people around him embattle and his mother Dionisia disagrees. They invoke safety for Pacquiao on one hand and better living of what Pacquiao seeks for on the other. His discomfort with being jammed into his own wishes may have just broaden his perspective. Nothing is veering off. He could be brusque and tactless with his intimations, though he would just as easily break into boyish giggles when something amused him. But the pressure has not abated, however. He believes that he needs to make an unequivocal statement - not to brush back his people, boxing fans and sycophants calling to avenge his loss.
Pacquiao has now the reality of the moment and would rather not dwell in the abstract. Yes, he needs to fight Marquez, to improve his world once more. His chances remain 50-50. But, not to go after Marquez the fifth time might just be the most devastating threat to his psyche he would ever perceive, at least for now. That's the warrior in him: the true royal blood of the Maharlikan.
But for Ruel Rendal, this writer's Facebook friend and a Pacquiao fan: "Pacquio has already won his greatest battle. He had fought a good fight. He defeated the enemy: SELF with the cravings of worldly fame. He will be forever victorious with the Lord Almighty."
Whatever the boxing world would say, Pacquiao's loss to Marquez may just be too good for Top Rank Promotion and might just be perfect for Pacquiao's brighter tomorrow - all for his spiritual transformation and a victorious comeback in the ring of madness.
After a year of hiatus, this November 23 at the Cotai Arena of Venetian Resort in Macao, China, Pacquiao will face Mexican-American Brandon Rios, a potentially more dangerous fighter than Marquez. Will Pacquiao be able to regain his self after that devastating defeat in the hands of Marquez? Will he be able to withstand Rios?
Pacquiao said: “We’ll rise again!"
Would you believe him?
To be continued ...