LAS VEGAS -- In the first known example of pugilistic prognostication by a cephalopod, a giant Pacific octopus at Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef aquarium picked Juan Manuel Marquez to successfully defend his lightweight belts against Juan Diaz on Saturday.
In fact, if the octopus is right (and when has one ever not been?), it could be an early night.
The idea behind assembling a clutch of media members at Shark Reef on Thursday morning was inspired by the exploits of Paul, a common octopus in Germany who successfully predicted the results of every one of that country's matches, and the final between Holland and Spain, in the recent soccer World Cup.
The predictive abilities of the Shark Reef octopus -- "We don't give our animals names," explained aquarium director Adrienne Rowland, prompting a certain ESPN blogger to dub it GPO, for giant Pacific octopus -- were demonstrated in the same way as Paul's. Two clear hinged boxes were lowered on a platform into GPO's tank; each contained exactly the same amount of shrimp, and each contained a card displaying the name of one of the fighters. If the octopus went for the Marquez box first, it was decreed, the Mexican champion would win on Saturday; if GPO went for Diaz, the challenger would reverse his defeat to Marquez last year.
It wasn't even close. Barely had the platform been lowered into the water than the octopus, changing color to deep red in excited anticipation, lunged for the Marquez box, enveloping it completely. A brief, tentative exploratory tentacle inched toward the Diaz box, only to retreat again. As we watched, the octopus wrapped itself around its quarry, figured out how to open the lid, slid a couple of tentacles inside and then, tipping the box toward him while never loosening its enveloping grip, sent the shrimp into oblivion.
So there you have it: Marquez wins on Saturday, and by the looks of things, probably by emphatic knockout.
Take it to the bank. An octopus is never wrong.