A completely un-scientific poll I conducted tells me that a whole heckuva lot of pundits are picking Juan Manuel Marquez to beat Manny Pacquiao in their fourth tangle Saturday at the MGM in Las Vegas.
I shouldn't find this surprising, considering that Pacquiao lost -- or "lost" -- his last fight (by split decision), against Timothy Bradley in June, and loads of folks thought the Mexican deserved the nod when they scrapped for the third time, in November 2011. On that night, Pacquaio took a majority decision, but also left the ring needing some stitches after Marquez scraped him up.
This time around, Pacquiao, who turns 34 on Dec. 17, has said he will turn back the clock, summon the aggression, fire and nastiness he exhibited at age 25. It goes without saying it is exceedingly difficult to reignite fires that stoked your engines when you were still proving yourself to the world. If Pacquiao pulls off that time-machine move, I will be more than a bit surprised. I expect roughly the same scrapper who faced off with Bradley in June.
ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas weighed in on who he thinks will have their hand raised at the MGM during ESPN's Thursday night special edition of "Friday Night Fights" in Vegas Thursday night.
He touched on the sort of tactics and strategies that will best serve each man in their fourth meeting, and offered that neither needs to reinvent their wheel. "They've done pretty well if you haven't noticed," Atlas said. "I don't think they have to change anything."
The judges, he said, however, do need to change. "They need to be honest. They need to get it right. I think so far in the three fights, they've gotten it wrong twice."
Who then will win?
"I think if the judges get it right, Marquez is gonna get it right, as he has a couple times, I thought, already in these first three fights, and Marquez will finally get his just desserts," he said. Atlas warned that one wrinkle could be Marquez' age; he turned 39 in August, and didn't look Hall of Famish against Sergiy Fedchenko in his last fight, a UD12 win in April. "He could suddenly become old," and "put a wrinkle in my plans."
If Marquez does what he did in the third fight, and the judges do their job properly, Atlas said, he will finally get in the win column against the Filipino, after two losses and a draw.
And if you want to chew on a 'what if' as you await the first bell, ponder what a loss might mean for the Congressman; would he leave the game, and once and for all, squash the mega-match with Floyd Mayweather to bits? Readers, feel free to drop a prediction in the comment box, on who will win, and how.
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