Top 5 Reasons the Pacquiao-Marquez Rivalry Is Among the All-Time Greats

December 7, 2012

On Saturday night Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez will meet for the welterweight title. The meeting will be their fourth fight. Their first fight took place 8 ½ years ago.

Where does the Manny Pacquiao– Juan Manuel Marquez rivalry truly rank in the last 50 years of boxing?

Here is a quick list of the top boxing rivalries in the last 50 years.

10. Roy Jones Jr. – Antonio Tarver. Tarver (trilogy). Tarver won the second and third fights.
9. Muhammad Ali – Ken Norton. Ali won the second and third fights.
8. Arturo Gatti – Mickey Ward (trilogy). Gatti won the second and third fights.
7. Sugar Ray Leonard – Roberto Duran (trilogy). Leonard won the second and third fights.
6. Manny Pacquiao – Eric Morales (trilogy). Pacquiao won the second and third fights
5. Rafael Marquez – Israel Vazquez (four fights). Marquez won the first and fourth fights.
4. Marco Antonio Barrera – Eric Morales (trilogy). Barrera won the second and third fights.
3. Riddick Bowe – Evander Holyfield (trilogy). Bowe won the first and third fights.
2. Manny Pacquiao – Juan Manuel Marquez. (fourth fight Saturday night). Pacquiao won the second and third fights. The first fight was scored a draw.
1. Muhammad Ali – Joe Frazier (trilogy). Ali won the second and third fights.

Okay, okay, Ali-Frazier is clearly #1 and anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool. But what about since then?

Yes, it may be heresy to some, but Pacquiao – Marquez is the greatest rivalry in boxing since the Ali-Frazier trilogy concluded in 1975 over 37 years ago. If you only consider non-heavyweight fights, you might have to go back over 60 years to the days of Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake Lamotta, Gene Fulmer, Carmen Basillio, Tony Zale, and Rocky Graziano.
Here are the top 5 reasons why this rivalry is so unique.

Reason #5: Multiple Fights

When do we get two truly top rivals that fight three times, let alone four?

It is actually quite rare to see trilogies between top fighters. For one thing, the public simply isn’t interested in watching two fighters fight three times very often. Yet Pacquiao-Marquez III was a hugely popular fight and the fourth installment will likely sell even better.

First let’s realize that a rivalry should only exist between people who actually compete against each other. To consider how loosely the term “rivalry” can be used, some people even claim Pacquiao-Mayweather is a “rivalry” even though the two have never fought. That would not qualify in this discussion.

Consider the great non-heavyweight rivalries of the 1980’s. Marvin Hagler fought Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns, and Sugar Ray Leonard just once each. Hearns and Duran fought only once. Leonard and Hearns fought two epic fights but never did a third. The only trilogy among this prominent group was between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran – and most people wish the third fight had never been fought because of the age and decline of both fighters, particularly Duran.

Of the most prominent fighters of the last 25 years, the following have never fought anyone three times: Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Bernard Hopkins, and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
In the post-Ali era there have certainly been dozens of great matchups between top fighters that can fairly be labeled a “rivalry.” But very few of those even made it to a rematch and fewer still went three fights.

Reason #4: National Pride

Of all of the great rivalries of the past 50 years, only Pacquiao’s battles with Eric Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez have had this element, and this fight is the biggest. Both Filipino and Mexican fans intensely identity with each of the fighters.

Pacquiao was already a national icon in the Philippines by the time he first fought Marquez in 2004 and his star has only grown since. Pacquiao is not just a boxer, but an actor, singer, and congressman in his home country. His role as a national symbol is undisputed and his fights literally impact Filipino political life.

Marquez’s road to iconic status in Mexico was more circuitous. Early in his career, Marquez was overshadowed by his fellow countrymen Marco Antonio Barrera and Eric Morales. But in large part due to his uniquely consistent success against Pacquiao, Marquez has now received the justly deserved adoration of his home country. Mexican fans have placed their hopes on Marquez avenging Manny Pacquiao’s astonishing string of success against Mexican fighters.

Reason #3: Competitiveness

When multiple fights take place between rivals, invariably at least one time there is a decisive decision victory or even a dominant knockout victory. This doesn’t necessarily take away from the rivalry, but it does help clarify who seems to have gotten the better of that rivalry on that night.

For example, Leonard dominated Duran in a lackluster third fight. Gatti was clearly better than Ward in their still-exciting second and third fights. Pacquiao brutally put away an outclassed Morales in their third fight.
But every fight between Marquez and Pacquiao was a close one. Going into the fourth it is still more unclear than ever who will win. It is extremely rare in a high-quality rivalry like this to have so many fights that were both thrilling and inconclusive.

Reason #2: Historical Significance

Manny Pacquiao is properly considered by most to be among the all-time great fighters in boxing history. His accomplishments, in an unprecedented eight weight divisions, are acknowledged by all boxing fans. Pacquiao is likely the greatest fighter of the last ten years, and at least one of the two best fighters of his era.
In truth, the only meaningful blemishes of Pacquiao’s career are his performances against Marquez who, unlike Eric Morales, Pacquiao has never been able to figure out. If Pacquiao can be the first fighter to ever knockout Marquez there will be truly nothing on his resume that is incomplete.

Marquez also is already a clear Hall of Fame fighter and a champion in multiple weight divisions. Yet more than anything else, his impressive performances while earning a draw and two “losses” to Pacquiao have defined his career. If Marquez were to win or lose in a clear and decisive fashion, his entire career would likely be viewed through an entirely different lens. Marquez could be viewed as an all-time great himself, or just a very nasty thorn in the side of the great Pacquiao that finally got pulled.

Thus, both fighters place in history is substantially impacted by the oucome of this fight.

Reason#1: Skill Level

Not all of the acknowledged great trilogies of the last three decades include fighters who were all-time greats.
For example, Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward fought three wars, with both fighters suffering knockdowns along the way. However, exciting as they were, neither fighter is genuinely considered an elite talent like Pacquiao or Marquez.

Additionally, many other great rivalries seemed to take place when the skills of one or both fighters had substantially dropped by the time they fight for the last time. Ali, even in winning the third fight with Ken Norton by controversial decision, was severely declining. Roy Jones Jr. was already past his prime when he fought Antonio Tarver in all three fights. Roberto Duran was a shell of himself in the third fight with Sugar Ray Leonard as was Eric Morales in his third fight with Pacquiao.

Even the three great fights between Rafael Marquez and Israel Vasquez were followed by a fourth fight that Vasquez never should have fought.

But this isn’t really about finding fault with other great rivalries as it is about acknowledging the high level maintained by Pacquiao and Marquez throughout the years. Despite the aging of both fighters there is no reason to believe that either one will reveal themselves as “over-the-hill” on Saturday night. Thus, we can expect two polished and extremely relevant legends of the game to add another chapter to this rivalry that will be remembered for years.

Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for 

1 comment:

  1. Marquez will finally get justice tomorrow night!


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