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On Marquez-Pacquiao IV: Man-love, piss-drinking & counter-punching [Dec. 6th, 2012|02:35 pm]
Business as usual. How things change, & how others stay the same. A draw & two bitterly contested losses, & Juan Manuel Marquez is back in the ring with Manny Pacquiao once again Saturday night.

It's a bit of an odd one, writing this. Eight & a half years have passed between the initial meeting between Manny Pacquiao & Juan Manuel Marquez, eight years in which we've all passed a lot of water (& some of us, like Marquez, have drunk a lot of our own water. I can't let a chance to not slip in a reference to the time when Marquez began drinking his own piss in preparation for a fight. I mean, come on...).

I love Juan Manuel Marquez for many reasons. His unstinting courage, his will to win, his no-bullshit attitude to getting hurt in the ring, his technical prowess, his textbook skills, his well-groomed facial hair. But mostly it's because... Well. See. Boxing is about nullifying the advantages of a stronger, faster, harder-hitting opponent. You do this using leverage, & timing, & technique. You apply these things--body-things, brain-things--in real-time, on the fly, using your entire body to shift a degree here, an inch there. It is about angles, & momentum, & force. It is as valid a display of the kinaesthetic intelligence as ballet dancing, say, or synchronised swimming. & Juan Manuel Marquez is the epitome of this nearly lost art. Not a superb athlete who happens to box. A fucking boxer who happens to be a superb athlete. There is a very telling difference in that.

A year ago I was worrying that Dinamita had had his chips, that age had wearied him to the extent that Manny Pacquiao would finally score a definitive win (surely the only reason the Mexican got the fight; in a worrying parallel, they've only given him this one to spite Timothy Bradley & try to kick-start The Pac-man's image after his wearisome struggle versus the enormo-domed Septic) over the Mexican counter-puncher. My worries on the occasion of their third meeting were for nought; JMM had slowed, true, but not as much, it turned out, as Pac-Man, & this led to another grinding contest of nip & tuck; at the end I had seven clear rounds for JMM, five for Pacquiao; the judges obviously didn't agree with me, the crowd booed & JMM stormed out the ring, sombrero somewhat cock-eyed upon his head.

Now, here we are again. & I'm going to get it out the way: I don't think Marquez is gonna win. I just can't see any way he can improve on the result of last time; a closely disputed decision loss for JMM seems the safe bet. But I can tell you why I love him, & rake over the coals of the fights they've had, & then I'm just gonna shut the fuck up & post a lot of pictures & probably slip some running gags in to kind of break up the flow a little. Business as usual, see?

The third meeting between the two was, I thought, also business as usual. Much like before the first two contests, everyone & their dog seemed to believe that Manny would literally rip Marquez a new one. This feeling was buoyed up before their last battle, as Manny had spent his last couple years ripping the welterweight division a new one. Yet again though, despite his moments of amazing success versus Marquez in all their fights, he was once again presented with a puzzle that he seemed incapable of truly solving, instead relying on frantic work-rate & his buzzsaw warrior spirit to make the best of it.

Versus Marquez last time out he looked, well, tame, having to will himself into fire he obviously didn't enjoy taking, swiping & missing & falling into the ropes, shying away from body-shots, cringing as counters smashed his head back on his shoulders. Even in dominant wins over Antonio Margarito & Shane Mosley, Manny had a "Fuck do I need this?"-type expression at the rare times when his bigger opponents discomfited him, as if the whole thing of punching people & getting punched back in return had become a bit of a chore (much like writing these posts have become to me. Arf). You could see on his face in the JMM rubber-match that not only had those nebulous doubts returned, they had solidified, & the head-down trudge back to his corner at the end of the twelve rounds seemed to seal the picture of despair.

(An aside, I am a shit poker player, but fuck me I'd like to play poker against Pac-Man. He probably bounces up & down in his seat like the Energiser Bunny when he's got anything better than a pair & casts his eyelashes down to the table & cries when he's got a shit hand, shaking his Justin Bieber-esque mop & ever-lengthening goatee in dismay like a distraught horsey.)

Most of the reasons for this are obvious. Pac-Man's great strengths were always speed & power, allied to a chin made of steel & an engine that not only revved up like a Ferrari but had the durability & staying power of a Mercedes turbo-diesel. These are all things which slip with age & the wear & tear associated with being punched fucking hard in the head for a living, & Pac-Man's my age & has had near enough sixty fights, so at least that's not weird, is it, that the little bastard's finally slowing down.

JMM of course, at the advice of his trainer, seemed to let his foot off the gas in the last three rounds. This cost him on the judge's scorecards, because though--contrary to popular opinion--he didn't exactly give those rounds away, he didn't stamp his authority over them, thus giving the blind or the biased an opportunity to give them all (& the fight) to Pacquiao. Marquez didn't have a lot in the tank at the end, but he was at least holding his own with Pac-Man & nowhere near being over-run, so maybe another thudding combination or two would've tipped the balance in his favour. I actually don't quite agree on this point, for what it's worth. I don't think anything short of Marquez coming forward & outworking Pac-Man would've convinced those judges to score those rounds correctly, ahem, I mean, for Marquez, which obviously isn't his style at all & has been completely the opposite approach he's taken for all of the thirty-six rounds the two have shared a ring together.

After the first two, absolutely epic fights between them, the last fight they had was... Well, weird. It was cagey, yet nervy. Not many punches were thrown, but it was never boring. It was punctuated by some severe, top-drawer exchanges, but it was never what you'd call thrilling. Manny looked weird, his goatee swollen to strange proportion & seemingly threatening to take over his entire face until he looks like a South-East Asian Cousin It, his bouffant hairdo ever bigger & more improbably layered, even as age & punishment has craggied his features. In boxing terms, too, he appeared out of sorts, off-key. Whenever he tried the one-two of old, it sailed harmlessly over his rival's head, & he had to resort to a sort of swiping right hook to level up exchanges; the less said about all those left uppercuts thrown from four feet away he started winging in the late rounds, the better (though it should be noted that they were exactly the punches that wrecked Miguel Cotto, which I think tells you more about the relative ability levels of Marquez & Cotto than anything else). His trademark herky-jerky rushing made a bit of a comeback, but it looked rote, forced, like when you're no longer in love with the person you're fucking & you get it on anyway & fumble miserably through the routine of things you know they used to like but really could just do with a smoke & maybe a walk under some streetlights & you've got to get up early in the morning & their cries no longer thrill you the way they used to do, but you don't wanna stop, I mean, you're still getting laid, right, & that's something, but all of a sudden you're going through the motions to do something that once came so naturally & spontaneously that it made breathing seem like an awkward chore.

He's not in love with the game, any more, is what I'm trying to get at here. Not in love, but too comfortable or too in denial to leave. It happens to all of us.

JMM too looked weird, in that his hairline appears to have stopped receding in a straight line across his forehead & his new muscular physique on his squat featherweight frame made him look like the aspect ratio had gone wrong on my PC. He fought weird too, if you ask me. He looked--insanely for a man fighting the best-known power puncher of his age, the destroyer of Morales, Barrera, Hatton, Cotto & a long list of others, a bloke who'd already decked him four times)--the puncher in the ring, to my eyes, possibly because he braced himself so well on the canvas he could've tilted the Earth on its axis before letting go.

Actually, not to break up the flow but that's a fucking good point that's just occurred to me, in that he probably couldn't throw any more punches that night, because he was setting himself to throw each one with so much force he simply didn't have the feet positioning required to throw any more. Strategically, his employment as well as his delivery of the body-shots (which have always troubled Pac-Man in both their previous outings together) were literally fucking amazing, in that they stopped Manny working from range & nullified his attempts at leaping-in & when he slammed the jab into Manny's face the favourite rocked back on his heels like a commuter who has stood up too early on the bus & really wishes he was in range of one of those hanging-strap things to steady himself. It appeared he had even learned a new defensive move (ducking & pivoting on his lead foot then bobbing out to the side, to avoid the short left cross Pac-Man likes to drop in at the end of exchanges), nullifying the shot which had decked him in their previous meetings.

All of this, though, is not important. Not even Pac-Man's limp performance versus Bradley is important.

What is important is that, based on the evidence of their previous meetings, there is nothing JMM can possibly do to persuade judges to give him close rounds versus Pacquiao. Every squeaker of a round they've had, some fucker finds a way to give it to Pacquiao. Someone even gave the last round of the second fight to Pac-Man, when Marquez smashed his head back with right hands & made him miss every left cross his rival threw (& it was four years ago, remember, so back then Manny was the fucking terrifying windmill of devastation that people still think he is). I thought it telling that in the first two fights, Manny was hitting so hard & so often that it was impossible not to give him the benefit of close rounds, as combined with his frenetic work-rate landing the bigger punches tends to nullify arguments to the contrary. But in the last match I considered Marquez's blows to be of superior quality & force, & they still found judges who preferred the (normally) unclean scuffling of Pac-Man's combinations to the thudding eye-catching bombs coming back.

Basically, I think that even if Marquez fights the perfect fight (again), he's going to drop another tight decision, exacerbated by the feeling that the judges fucked Pacquiao in his last outing, which was in itself a muddled reaction to the somewhat off-base scoring of the Marquez-Pacquiao rubber match. Mixed in with that is the suspicion that if the wheels do fall off for Marquez, it'll be now, within shouting distance of his fortieth birthday.

So. I think I've rambled enough. Pac-Man by disputed squeaker, once more, ad infinitum, & I get to stay up all night frantically masturbating over double-uppercut-straight-right combos & technically perfect left hooks to the liver & being left with that strangely ambiguous feeling where I'm overjoyed at seeing an artist perform to a level that exceeds the expectations of the hoi polloi, tempered by the gnawing sadness that this is probably the last time & he's not going to get the win, anyway.

So. Business as usual, then, like I said.

But... You know.

This is the man himself sparring in preparation. Yes, I have spilled man-goo over this footage, but then again I'd rather watch this motherfucker shadow-box than a range of other comparatively worthless activities in my life, such as sleeping or eating.

That right hand counter's a motherfucking shotgun, still. If he lands a few dozen of those I'll be a happy boy, scorecards be damned.

Let's just watch these two fight, once a year please, until they're eighty & have to be strapped into a combination of those sort of big walking tank things from Japanese Animé & a Zimmer frame...

The more things change...

The more they stay the same...

Particularly when you have a full-time team of attendants fussing with your facial hair around the clock...