How close were the first two Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fights? Pacquiao holds a 679-678 points lead if you add up both scorecards. (AP)
SI.com's boxing experts predict Saturday's welterweight title fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. Share your prediction in the comments below.
No matter how good Manny Pacquiao has been at welterweight and how bad Juan Manuel Marquez was in his lone fight with Floyd Mayweather, no matter how improved Pacquiao is since the last time the two fought in 2008, no matter how vulnerable Marquez has looked in his last few fights, this one will be close. Marquez has just figured out how to fight Pacquiao. Marquez will go down, maybe more than once, but he will get up, rally and give Manny fits with his elusiveness and counterpunching. Still, I favor Pacquiao. He's determined to close the book on this rivalry and that aggresiveness will pay off in the end. Pacquiao, by 11th-round referee or corner stoppage.
When two fighters have already fought 24 rounds as furiously and closely as Pacquiao and Marquez have, there’s a natural tendency to expect another 12 to be just as spectacular and just as competitive. In this case, the spectacular part should pan out; the competitive part maybe not quite so much. And the 12-round part? Not likely.
Pacquiao is a much more complete fighter than he was even the last time he faced Marquez, and while Marquez’s trainer, Nacho Beristain, insists that refinement will actually help his fighter -- making Manny less unpredictable -- it’s just going to make Pacquiao even more formidable. Marquez has added weight the right way this time (unlike against Mayweather) and won’t be outgunned. Look for him to meet Pacquiao head on and try to get him out of there. Of course, there’s nothing Manny would like better -- and that’s where the spectacular should come in. But Pacquiao’s wonderous speed will allow him to eventually start outlanding Marquez and busting him up. Marquez is as skilled as anyone in the game, but he won’t be looking merely to survive. Pacquiao by eighth- or ninth-round stoppage.
BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM
Pacquiao by fifth-round knockout.