Monday March 17th, 2008

The highly anticipated rematch between Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao was supposed to answer one very specific question: who is the most dominant featherweight in boxing?

Now that it's over ... we still don't know.

Pacquiao escaped with a narrow split decision Saturday night, taking advantage of a third-round knockdown to edge Marquez and capture the WBC super featherweight titles.

But was Pacquiao the better fighter? Well ...

Certainly Pacquiao, who improved to 46-3-2, deserves credit. He once again showcased uncanny power for a 130-pounder (though by virtue of adding 16 pounds since Friday's weigh-in Pacquiao checked in at 145 pounds), flattening Marquez (48-4-1) in the third round with a short left hand.

Still, Marquez showed the same warrior-like mentality he showed in the first fight between the two, surviving the third and rebounding to win the majority of the remaining rounds.

So what did we learn from Marquez-Pacquiao II? Let's take a look:

1. Nothing If you were looking for definitive answers Saturday night, all you came away with were more questions. Few fighters could have withstood the sporadic onslaughts from Pacquiao, who connected on several left hands that would have KO'd any other featherweight in the division. Marquez also did not shy away from brawling with Pacquiao, connecting on a number of hard power shots of his own. At the same time, Pacquiao showed a more tactical side, using his right hand more than in the first fight and occasionally boxing with the technically superior Marquez. While both fighters efforted to fight their own fights they were clearly willing and able to alter their styles in the flow of the fight.

2. There needs to be a third fight

Will there be? That's the multi-million dollar question. After the fight, Pacquiao expressed a desire to move up to 135-pounds, while Marquez remains content to continue fighting at 130. Since little was decided in Part II, a third installment is required. And if Marquez wins the third fight, a fourth, deciding fight should be made.

3.Paquiao should be in no rush to moveup

David Diaz? Nate Campbell? Jose Alfaro? Those are three of the recognized champions in the lightweight division, and each one carries about the same box office appeal as Gigli. Not one of those fighters would be able to carry a lucrative pay-per-view and even a decisive victory wouldn't guarantee Pacquiao anything beyond a relatively meaningless title. If Pacquiao were willing to move up to junior welterweight, where he could get potentially lucrative fights with Ricky Hatton, Paul Malignaggi or even Floyd Mayweather, then he should consider leaving super featherweight. But with lightweight carrying the same cache as cruiserweight, he should be in no hurry to move up.

4. Practically speaking, the loss doesn't mean much to Marquez

Yes, Marquez was hoping a victory over Pacquiao would help him escape from the shadows of legendary Mexican champions Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales -- and it would have. But if Pacquiao does make the jump to lightweight, Marquez immediately regains his spot as the top super featherweight. Undefeated Edwin Valero and Mzonke Fana currently hold titles, but they are not in the class of Marquez, who has re-established himself over the last two years. With Pacquiao gone, Marquez, 34, stands a strong chance at unifying the division.

5. Judging should be a job for the media

I probably won't get much support for this one, but the corruption that has plagued boxing begins with the judging. Marquez-Pacquiao II isn't a good example (two judges scored the fight 115-112 for Marquez and Pacquiao, respectively, while the third gave Pacquiao a 114-113 edge), but the boxing landscape is littered with questionable decisions. I say put the judging in the hands of reputable boxing news organizations like ESPN, The New York Daily News and, yes, Sports Illustrated. Showtime already does press row scoring that, in general, is far more accurate than the judges. Might as well make it the real thing.

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