Size a concern for Marquez, not Pacquiao
LAS VEGAS – Manny Pacquiao was forced to address the issue of size in each of his last seven fights. Beginning in 2008, he moved up in weight, going from super featherweight to super welterweight in three years.
The narrative for every Pacquiao fight in that span was how he’d deal with the bigger, presumably stronger guy.
After the carnage he’s delivered to some of the world’s top fighters, though, it’s time, at last, to end the questions about size.
The tables have finally turned. Pacquiao is an overwhelming favorite to defeat Juan Manuel Marquez when they meet on pay-per-view Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for the World Boxing Organization welterweight title, and it’s Marquez who must address questions regarding size.
Pacquiao, who has calves the size of an extra large grapefruit, is unquestionably a welterweight – a very fast, strong, durable, hard-hitting welterweight. Anyone who doubts that needs only to speak to men such as Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito, whose faces resembled the Elephant Man after 12 rounds with the Filipino superstar.
Marquez, who has been knocked down four times in two fights by a featherweight and super featherweight version of Pacquiao, has hired a controversial strength and conditioning coach to help him bulk up for the welterweight fight.
[ Related: Legendary trainers Roach, Beristain collide ]
Marquez did a fairly poor impersonation of a welterweight when he fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2009. He was knocked down in the second round, appeared two steps behind and without any snap on his punches, and lost a one-sided decision while absorbing a brutal beating in the process.
His Hall of Fame trainer, Nacho Beristain, said he is a different fighter.
“Against Mayweather, he wasn’t as flexible as he usually is because the techniques he used to [add weight],” Beristain said.
Among those techniques Marquez employed was drinking his own urine and flinging large rocks. Neither did much for him other than give him horrendous breath.
“Ridiculous,” Beristain said.
This time around, he’s hired Angel Guillermo “Memo” Heredia Hernandez, a controversial figure who avoided jail time in the BALCO trials because he testified for the government. Hernandez admitted that he supplied track stars, including Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, with performance-enhancing drugs.
Marquez angrily dismissed suggestions that PEDs are a reason for his much bigger chest and shoulders. “Test me whenever you want, blood or [urine],” he said. “I’m a clean athlete and I always have been.”
Hernandez said he’s given Marquez only legal supplements, including creatine, and isn’t fearful about Marquez failing his drug test. He said he’s been aboveboard in everything he’s done and blamed BALCO founder Victor Conte for running a smear campaign against him.
“People can have whatever opinion they want, but I don’t have to hide from anything or anyone,” Hernandez said. “I have always been open with the press. I don’t have anything to be afraid of because I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Whatever he’s done, he’s helped Marquez add bulk. But bulk at the expense of speed against Pacquiao could be a significant problem. Despite a pair of razor-thin fights, Jay Rood, the vice president of race and sports at MGM Resorts Inc., opened Pacquiao as a whopping minus-800 favorite. It has been bet up to Pacquiao as a minus-1000 favorite, meaning a $10 wager on Pacquiao to win would return a net profit of $1.
Marquez and Pacquiao fought to a draw in 2004, with one judge favoring Marquez, the other favoring Pacquiao and the third calling it even. In the 2008 rematch, two judges had it for Pacquiao and one for Marquez, giving Pacquiao the split decision victory.
“They were both extremely close fights,” Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said. “We think we won both of them, but I understand a lot of people think [Marquez] won them both, and that’s not unreasonable. They were great fights, very close fights. I get that.”
And yet, Rood was willing to make Pacquiao an overwhelming favorite despite promoter Bob Arum insisting “Marquez is in the only guy in the world who has the style to handle Pacquiao.”
Rood said the size of the fighters played a big role in making Pacquiao such a large favorite.
“The additional weight is a check mark on the side for Pacquiao,” Rood said. “The way their careers have gone over the last couple of years since they last fought, that favors Pacquiao. He’s moved up in weight with no issues. The last time Marquez tried it, he was beaten pretty soundly by Mayweather.”
Marquez is as good-natured a guy as there is in boxing, which is a good thing considering how often he’s had to answer questions about his size, or lack thereof, and Pacquiao’s power. But when he was bluntly asked how he could possibly deal with Pacquiao’s power since he was knocked down four times in two fights by a much smaller and less powerful Pacquiao, he simply beamed.
He was bigger, he said, against Mayweather, but not as quick as he was used to being. He sacrificed speed in that bout, he said, in order to add size.
This time, he’s added size and, he insists, added speed.
“He’s changed a lot, but I’ve changed a lot, too,” Marquez said. “Everybody is talking about how much better he is, and they should, because he has done a good job. But you know that I haven’t just been sitting around doing nothing. I’ve worked hard, too. I’m a lot better; stronger, faster. You’ll see.”
Pacquiao insists he won’t take Marquez for granted. He’s spent 72 grueling minutes inside the ring with Marquez and he is as aware as anyone around how difficult Marquez can be.
But Pacquiao also has his own motivation. He’s extraordinarily competitive, and a silent rage has burned inside of him as he’s heard Marquez and many in the media claim that Marquez deserved the decision in their two previous bouts.
Pacquiao sparring partner David Rodela felt the wrath of Pacquiao’s amped up intensity over the past two months. He knows just how much the bout means to Pacquiao.
“Manny wants to make a statement,” he said. “He wants to get rid of this guy, put him behind him once and for all. It nags him to hear everyone saying he lost those fights and I think you’re going to see the best Manny Pacquiao you’ve ever seen because of that.”
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