LAS VEGAS -- Late Saturday night, long after Manny Pacquiao, Bob Arum and the rest of Pacquiao's shellshocked entourage had left the MGM Grand, a beleaguered Freddie Roach held court with a handful of reporters. Like the rest of Team Pacquiao, Roach was baffled by how Juan Manuel Marquez, a 9 1/2 to 1 underdog the night of the fight, was able to make Pacquiao look so mortal. The difference was, Roach wanted to talk about it.
"I can't believe I was so f*****g wrong," Roach said. "I thought we were going to walk right through him. I thought he was going to come in with all that muscle, try to bang with Manny and he would get him out of there. But I honestly thought we needed to win those last two rounds to win the fight."
Turns out, he did. Judge Robert Hoyle,
I say 'in the minds of the judges' (the third, Glenn Trowbridge, scored it an absurd 116-112 for Pacquiao) because in the opinion of many ringside observers, he did. I scored the fight 116-112 for Marquez. I thought Marquez carried most of the early rounds, I thought that Marquez landed the cleaner, crisper, more impactful punches, and I thought Marquez dictated the tempo throughout the fight. And I wasn't alone. I was immersed in phalanx of respected boxing journalists. Tim Smith of the
Roach doesn't have a problem with that thinking. He saw what we did. He saw it early, too.
"First round," Roach said, a frustrated scowl on his face. "Manny started moving into right hands, just like we worked on not doing. He fell right back into the old way he fought this guy. I was afraid of that. The writing was on the wall and I said to myself, 'this is going to be a long night.' The way he moves, he dictates Manny to move into that right hand. And he did it all night long. His footwork is excellent. That was his biggest advantage in the fight."
I asked Roach if Pacquiao and Marquez fought three times, would the results be any different.
"No," Roach said. "That's why I really don't want to fight him next. But you know, it wouldn't be right if we didn't give him a rematch. It would be bulls**t if we didn't."
Of all the potential storylines that were bandied about by reporters before the fight, the idea that the only two viable opponents (sorry, Tim Bradley) Pacquiao could potentially face -- Marquez and Floyd Mayweather -- have a style he simply has few answers for was never discussed. What Marquez proved is that if you are a brilliant counterpuncher, if you have excellent footwork and if you come into the ring without the slightest trace of fear of Pacquiao, you can beat him. Think about it: Pacquiao and Marquez have fought 36 rounds now and, with the exception of one or two, every one of them has been close. History will officially record that Pacquiao won two of those three fights but many will say that Marquez deserved to win all three of them.
But this is about Pacquiao, and where exactly he goes from here. Arum says he would like to make a rematch. There are not many reasons not to. The atmosphere in Las Vegas for fight week was electric. Thousands of Filipino's and Mexicans swarmed to the city. Their passion was palpable. The arena was completely sold out and the gate ($11.7 million) was just a shade under the $12 million Pacquiao pulled in against Oscar De La Hoya. Although any projections on pay per view buys are several days away, Arum says the tracking numbers suggested 1.5 million buys are not out of reach. A fourth fight (and a fifth, and a sixth) would be a competitive cash cow.
Which makes it all the more noteworthy that Roach doesn't seem to want any part of it. And though we didn't discuss the possibility of a fight with Mayweather, I would imagine that Roach is a lot more concerned today about Pacquiao's chances against Mayweather than he was last week. When I asked Roach who his ideal next opponent would be, he said something I thought I'd never hear.
"Maybe a tuneup fight," Roach said.
Now, that's unlikely on so many levels. The public isn't going to pay for Pacquiao to work out his issues against Steve Molitor or Joel Casamayor. So unless Pacquiao wants to go back on HBO, that's out of the question. That would be a tough sell on Arum, too, who is looking at a finite window to make money off Pacquiao before he makes politics his full time job.
That's what makes another fight with Marquez more probable. Though I don't buy into the, 'Well Floyd crushed Marquez so he would crush Manny' argument (Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman debunked that long ago) that has polluted Twitter and that I think Marquez, who is an aggressive counterpuncher -- whereas Floyd likes to stick the right hand and run -- is just built to fight Pacquiao, the melancholy mood that permeated the press room on Saturday makes me think no one from Pacquiao's team is going to be calling anyone from Mayweather's camp anytime soon. You just don't go into a Mayweather fight with an obvious flaw in your style that Mayweather could easily exploit.
Marquez makes the most sense. Roach acknowledged that he will have to go back to the drawing board. All the work Roach and Pacquiao had put in since the last Marquez fight clearly didn't have much of an effect in this one. But there are few better brains in boxing than Roach's and he has a pupil willing to learn. Get back in the lab, learn a few more tricks and perhaps next time you can put some punctuation on this historic rivalry. Then, move on to Mayweather.
Who thought last week anyone would be concluding that?