LAS VEGAS – The potential $200 million fight was saved by a very slim judges' call.
Manny Pacquiao defeated Juan Manuel Marquez in yet another excruciatingly close fight, winning a majority decision Saturday before a sellout crowd of 16,368 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena to keep hopes alive for a 2012 match between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Judge Robert Hoyle had it a draw, 114-114, as did Yahoo! Sports. But judge Dave Moretti favored Pacquiao 115-113 and Glenn Trowbridge had Pacquiao winning 116-112. Thus, Pacquiao retained his World Boxing Organization welterweight title and kept alive a mega-bout against Mayweather.
Upon hearing the decision, Marquez and his team stormed out of the ring.
Mayweather, who routed Marquez by winning every round of a 2009 fight, is the only fighter in the world other than the Filipino congressman with a legitimate claim to boxing's mythical pound-for-pound top spot.
And after Saturday's performance, Mayweather may move up regardless.
Pacquiao has had difficulty in three fights with Marquez's counter-punching style and Saturday was no different. Marquez, who bulked up to 142 pounds, was able to consistently land a straight right hand and keep Pacquiao off-balance.
Pacquiao, who had been on a 14-fight winning streak going into the match, was only able to get his offense untracked in spurts. And unlike the first two bouts, in which he had four knockdowns, Pacquiao was unable to get Marquez onto the floor.
Pacquiao made a late run to close the gap after Marquez appeared to pull ahead in the middle of the fight. Neither man, though, was able to do much in the final round with the fight on the line.
The crowd was angry at the decision and several Marquez fans threw drinks toward the ring, splattering the ringside media section.
According to CompuBox, Pacquiao landed 176 of 578 punches. Marquez connected on 138 of 436 punches, preferring, as in his first two fights, to counter punch. Pacquiao had a 117-100 edge in power shots.
Their two previous bouts were furious battles, and both could have gone either way. Their 2004 match was a split draw, with one judge favoring Pacquiao, another Marquez and the third, Burt Clements, having it a draw.
But Pacquiao could have won that bout had Clements scored the first round, in which Pacquiao scored three knockdowns, 10-6. Clements scored it 10-7, later explaining he was unaware he was allowed to call a round 10-6. Had he scored it 10-6, as did the other two, Pacquiao would have pulled out a split decision.
Pacquiao scored a razor-thin split decision in their 2008 bout, in which Pacquiao lifted the World Boxing Council super featherweight belt from Marquez.
Pacquiao desperately wanted the third fight as a way to prove he was the better man. He was irked by the fact that Marquez wore a T-shirt to several public events that said, "Marquez Beat Pacquiao Twice." Pacquiao called it disrespectful.
In the feature undercard bout, WBO super lightweight champion Timothy Bradley, who signed with Top Rank in October in a bid to get a fight with Pacquiao, retained his belt by stopping 40-year-old ex-champion Joel Casamayor at 2:59 of the eighth.
It was a one-sided fight that Bradley dominated. Casamayor used dirty tactics, head butting often and had a point deducted, but he couldn't land many punches. Bradley, fighting for the first time since Jan. 29, wasn't as sharp as normal, but he put a beating on the veteran Cuban.
[Slideshow: Check out photos from Pacquiao-Marquez III]
He dropped him once apiece in the fifth and sixth rounds and was in complete control.
"I was a little rusty and I was rushing my punches," Bradley said. "At the end of the third round, my corner told me to just relax and start putting my punches together. I was rushing my punches too much in the beginning. I wasn't tired. I could go 100 rounds. I can't wait to fight again."
Mike Alvarado was hopelessly behind on the scorecards entering the 10th and final round of his super lightweight bout with Breidis Prescott. He wasn't concerned, though, because he knows he always closes strong.
He did that by landing 27 of 38 power shots in the 10th, knocking Prescott down with a wicked left uppercut. Seconds later, referee Jay Nady stopped it at 1:53 to give Alvarado the surprising win.
Prescott led on all three cards at the time of the stoppage. He was up 87-84 twice and 86-85 and would have won the fight had he finished on his feet.
"My best rounds are always the late rounds," Alvarado said. "He started leaning forward and I started using the uppercut. The uppercut really hurt him the first time and I finished him off with the uppercut."
Prescott, who once knocked out super lightweight champion Amir Khan in the first round, was trying to use his jab, but he faded and had no sting on it as the fight wore on. That allowed Alvarado to get inside on him and land the big shots.
Prescott had cut Alvarado and closed his eyes, but it wasn't enough. "My plan was to box him," Prescott said. "My trainer kept saying 'Don't get into a slugfest. You can't beat him trading punches,' but I got caught at the end."
In the pay-per-view opener, Juan Carlos Burgos won a majority decision over Luis Cruz in an entertaining super featherweight match.
Prior to the start of the main event, Top Rank honored the late former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier, who died on Monday, with a tolling of the bell to 10 and a video montage with narration by HBO's Jim Lampley.
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- Manny Pacquiao
- Juan Manuel Marquez