UFC 251 will take place on Sunday 12th July at UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
Boxing brings out its big guns this Sunday with Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez III. The 144lb. catch weight will be for the WBO Welterweight Championship, and marks Pacquiao’s return to HBO pay-per-view.
The fight will also be for the unofficial title of boxing’s pound-for-pound best, alongside perennial contender Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The two have previously fought twice in close, thrilling contests. In the first fight, Pacquiao knocked Marquez down three times in the first round before the latter fought back valiantly to salvage a draw.
The second fight was equally close, but a single knockdown secured a split decision in favour of Pacquiao. Now, eight years and 18lbs. after they first touched gloves, both are out to prove who is ultimately superior.
So who has the advantage and where?
This has been and always will be Pacquiao’s main weapon. The Filipino’s speed allows him to land punches in high volumes, which proves devastating when coupled with his vaunted punching power. Pacquiao was faster at both featherweight and junior-lightweight, and doesn’t look to have lost much of his speed with the increased bodyweight. Marquez has never been known for his speed and looked much slower during his last excursion at welterweight against Mayweather.
After 24 rounds of fighting, Pacquiao leads Marquez 4-0 in knockdowns. Though Marquez actually has one more knockout win than Pacquiao with 39, it is ultimately Pacquiao who holds the power advantage. Though Pacquiao’s one-punch power has declined slightly through his climb up the weight classes, the damage he has inflicted on bigger men like Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito indicate that it’s still a weapon to be feared.
The Mexican Marquez arguably possesses more boxing acumen than anyone Pacquiao has faced. Much of Marquez’s style is based around a solid jab, decent defence and accurate counter-punching. In their previous fights, he was able to offset Pacquiao’s power and speed advantage with tactical boxing and lateral movement.
Although Pacquiao’s boxing skill has improved drastically over the years under tutelage of Freddie Roach, Marquez is still the better pure boxer. One could also argue that Marquez has Pacquiao’s southpaw style figured out.
In his last trip to welterweight, Marquez looked noticeably slower and pudgier than his usual form. This is understandable, given that his previous fight had been two weight divisions south. Marquez looks to be more scientific in his current weight gain approach by hiring a strength and conditioning coach.
Pacquiao, who has strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza in his corner, has steadily moved up in weight since his last fight with Marquez. Though only fight night will tell if Marquez’s move in weight has been successful, Pacquiao still has significantly more experience fighting at this weight.
Though this analysis has Pacquiao winning 3-1, there are some other factors to consider. At 32, Pacquiao is Marquez’s junior by six years. This may be Marquez’s final big-time fight. However, experts have often argued that Marquez simply has Pacquiao’s number. Indeed, Pacquiao was not willing to engage the Mexican again immediately after their second fight in 2008.
The winner of this fight will be a likely candidate to face Mayweather in his next fight.
Prediction: Pacquiao by unanimous decision.