Maybe it was some kind of karmic reckoning for Manny Pacquiao that in June this year he was on the receiving end of the worst decision in a high-profile fight in living memory. The favourable judging he has had in his three fights with Juan Manuel Marquez has become a running joke in boxing; the draw and two wafer thin decisions he has received against Marquez were hugely flattering. The split-decision loss to Timothy Bradley stank so badly the WBO commissioned five veteran judges to rewatch the fight and announce what everyone watching already knew: that Manny Pacquiao was the clear winner. But it's equally clear that Marquez got a bum deal in their fights. Their fourth meeting takes place Saturday night and once again it's going to be tough to separate them.
The build-up to this one has been unusually ill-tempered, with Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach strongly implying the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs by Marquez, an allegation bolstered by the presence in the Marquez camp of controversial strength coach, and self-confessed former steroid user, Angel Hernández. Both fighters have had this accusation thrown at them in their time but until there's a positive test we'll assume this fight is about styles. In all their meetings, whenever Pacquiao over commits with his left hook Marquez punishes him with the straight right. Marquez feints masterfully to draw the attacks and his timing on the counters is impeccable - this is why he gives Manny so much trouble.
Nonetheless, Pacquiao has always made each fight competitive – three knockdowns in the first fight and one in the second are testament to that. Despite the Bradley decision, judges favour Pacquiao's come-forward, all-action style. In competitive fights with lots of close rounds judges like something to hang their hat on. Pacquiao is nearly always the aggressor and is nearly always the more active. Even if he's not always the most effective, history shows those swing rounds going to him.
It's been three years and six fights since Pacquiao scored a knockout and Marquez has never been stopped so I do see this fight once again going the distance, and I fancy Pacquiao to get the decision. It's 2.10 for Pacquiao after 12 rounds and that is worth taking. These two know each other too well for there to be any major surprises.