LAS VEGAS -- One by one Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez made appearances in front of the press this week, looking as indifferent to answering questions as the reporters were to asking them. What else was there to say? After three go-rounds with each other since 2004, they have covered almost every topic. What more was there to ask? Marquez's newly sculpted body and connection to notorious steroid distributer Memo Heredia has generated some storylines but because of a lack of top-level drug testing the buzz has faded, quickly.
Indeed, Pacquiao and Marquez are an open, oft-read book, having shared the ring together for 36 bloody rounds, having split the spotlight during the build-up for those fights for so long. Like Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward, like Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta, Pacquiao and Marquez have spent the better part of this century with their lives and careers intertwined.
And they want it to be over.
What if this fight replicates the first three, a reporter asked both fighters last week. Would they be open to a fifth or sixth? It was a fair question. When Pacquiao and Marquez meet Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena (9 p.m. ET, HBO PPV), they will fight in front of a full house and an enormous television audience. They will make millions -- Pacquiao is guaranteed $8.6 million for the fight, Marquez $3 million, though both will make substantially more once the pay-per-view dollars and foreign revenue is counted -- and in all likelihood be part of a memorable matchup.
So, how about it?
"No," Pacquiao said. "After this, we are done."
Said Marquez, "This is the fight. Then it is over."
The dynamic between Pacquiao, 33, and Marquez, 39, is unusual. There is no animosity, as there was between Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, who fought three times in a six-year span and, promoter Bob Arum says, "still can't stand each other." Nor is there a kinship like the one between Gatti and Ward, who became close friends outside the ring, with Gatti finishing his career with Ward in his corner.
There is only... indifference.
"We are friends outside the ring, but inside the ring we have a job to do," Pacquiao said. "All my opponents, I have always treated them as my friend, my brother. We are just doing our job in the ring. I never hate my opponent outside of the ring. It is just my job to fight, and there is nothing personal. I guess we are kind of friends because I look at all of my opponents as a friend."
Added Marquez, "I think we respect each other as professionals. We are professional boxers. We both do our jobs but after what has happened in the first three fights, I don't think we can have a personal relationship."
Both agree they would like to close the book on this rivalry. Every bout has been closely contested. The first, in 2004, was a draw. In the second, in 2008, Pacquiao won a close decision. Last year, Pacquiao took another close decision in a fight most ringside reporters scored for Marquez.
It's why a frequently heard refrain this week has been the need for a clear, decisive win. Marquez says he is finally comfortable at 147 pounds and that he has maintained his speed with his newfound bulk. Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, says Pacquiao has been knocking down sparring partners -- three in total -- something he rarely saw in previous camps, and both Pacquiao and Roach have publicly challenged Marquez to fight toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring.
"For this fight, you need to show something, not, 'yeah, I will fight,' and then your style is the same," Pacquiao said. "That's his style, but he needs to prove something. I want him to fight toe-to-toe with me so that we can finish early. Twelve rounds is long; why aren't we looking to make boxing short, right? Either me or him."
Indeed, the hope, both say, is that it ends here, finally. Pacquiao holds a 2-0-1 edge in the series but both see this as a winner-take-all affair. With a clear-cut win, the victor will walk away content with the knowledge that he was the better fighter.
At least until they fight again.