Every fighter craves a defining moment in their career. A moment that shows their skills, determination, and courage and is remembered long after time has passed. Before last night, Juan Manuel Marquez’ (55-6-1 40KO) defining moment was coming off the canvas three times to earn a draw against his arch-rival, Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2 38KO), in their first fight.
Like any great champion however, Marquez wouldn’t settle for anything less than victory.
Their fourth encounter wasn’t met with great enthusiasm from the boxing community, as after seeing three close, controversial fights, many fans had become jaded towards the matchup. Yet, the fight proved to be exciting and one of the best fights of the year. Both men know each other so well that they threw caution to the wind and immediately engaged.
The first two rounds were close as both men landed good power punches. However, Pacquiaos shots were more noticeable and the fast pace seemed to benefit the Filipino fighter.
In the third round, Marquez proved that he could hurt Pacquiao when he landed a looping right hook on the chin of Pacquiao. Pacquiao was clearly dazed but he managed to survive the round. During the fourth round, Marquez kept calm and applied his counterpunching style on Pacquiao. Pacquiao seemed to recover from the third round knockdown and landed some excellent combinations to the head and body. It was another even round that could have gone either way.
It was Marquez’ turn to taste the canvas as Pacquiao became more aggressive and landed a straight left on the Mexian fighter that forced him to touch the canvas. Pacquiao also seriously bloodied the nose of Marquez and seemed to take control of the fight as Marquez was fighting to survive for the rest of the round.
Even though Marquez recovered and what landing some good punches in the sixth round, it looked as though Pacquiao was systematically breaking Marquez down.
Then Marquez saw his opportunity.
Pacquiao came charging in with his hands carelessly low and Marquez countered with what can only be described as a perfect counter right hand shot. The forward momentum of Pacquiaos face and Marquez’ fist put Pacquiao to sleep for several minutes as Marquez celebrated the victory he’d oh so desperately desired since their first encounter.
Marquez seems to have barely missed a beat in terms of his fighting ability, even as he nears the age of 40. In a career that already has tremendous accomplishments, this dramatic and historic victory will probably be his most cherished.
The knockout punch is in strong contention for Knockout of the Year and the fight itself will be talked about for the 2012 Fight of the Year. As great as those rewards are, Marquez is basking in the glory of the actual fight itself. After eight frustrating years and three fights where he felt he deserved to win each fight, he finally acquired victory the best way he could.
It is unclear what lies in the future for each fighter but retirement doesn’t seem to be the answer for Marquez or Pacquiao. Marquez is still one of the most skilled fighters in the sport today and Pacquiao, in spite of this crushing defeat, still has optimism for his career.
Both fighters proved before this fight that they were modern legends, but the general consensus was that Pacquiao was extra special. Marquez proved he is at least on the same level of greatness as Pacquiao and is truly one of the very greatest to come out of Mexico.
On the undercard, lightweight (135 Ibs.) titleholder Miguel Vazquez (33-3 13KO) baffled contender Mercito Gesta (26-1-1 14KO) with his awkward lateral movement and quick pot-shots to an easy unanimous decision victory. The judges scored the bout 117-111, 119-109, and 118-110.
The inexperience of Gesta was shown when he didn’t increase the intensity, even as he was being outfoxed by the veteran Vazquez.
Vazquez landed quick jabs and straight rights almost at will and seemed to confuse Gesta with his difficult movement. This was a good victory for Vazquez as he didn’t look impressive in his last fight, barely outpointing fringe contender Marvin Quintero.
Gesta will most likely step down in competition for at least one fight before attempting to take on the big players in the lightweight division.