After three fights as critically acclaimed and hotly contested as the first three between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez were, the idea of a fourth bout almost needs no introduction or marketing strategy as fans of this rivalry have certainly received their money's worth and know what to expect.
But if there is one thing lacking in this series between two future Hall of Fame fighters, it has been any form of closure after three of the most debated decisions in the history of the sport. The two fighters are so evenly matched and have performed on such an even plane that despite Marquez's owning a record of 0-2-1 against Pacquiao, there are some who believe the 39-year-old Marquez easily could have been awarded victories in all three bouts.
The series between Pacquiao and Marquez will long be remembered for far more than simply controversial decisions on the scorecards, especially considering the first three bouts -- all title fights -- were contested at three different weight classes over a seven-year period throughout different chapters of their respective careers.
ESPN.com recently enlisted HBO to gather the fighters' thoughts ahead of fight No. 4, set for Dec. 8 (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In this segment, Pacquiao and Marquez discuss their controversial third meeting.
Juan Manuel Marquez
There is something special about fighting the same opponent four times. It tells me that the first three fights have been good and competitive enough to merit one more fight, and when it is against an elite opponent such as Manny Pacquiao, then it's even more special and more meaningful.
Over the last eight years, Pacquiao and I have fought three times and all the fights have gone the distance. And while people say Pacquiao has knocked me down four times over those 36 rounds, they should say three were in the first round of our first fight, and that he has only scored one knockdown in the next 35 rounds, and none in the last 20 rounds while winning at least 26 of the 36 rounds we have fought over those three fights.
So the question for this fourth fight is: "Do I need to knockout Pacquiao to get the win?"
Well, I will certainly try. I also know that while knocking out a fighter like Pacquiao won't be easy, it's not impossible either.
I know that I have to be intelligent, fast and strong to beat him. But as we have seen in the first three fights, it is not just up to me to win the fights. It is up to three judges who score the fights. There is no doubt in my mind that I won all three previous fights with my skills and smarts in the ring, but the judges have denied me that victory.
There is not much I can do about the judges. I don't pick them and I sure don't know them. I know most have never trained for three months for a fight, and most have never gotten in a ring for 12 rounds with the best fighter in the world, and most have no idea what sacrifices we must make to get in the ring and put on the best fight that we can.
I feel that most people believe that I won our last fight very clearly, but the judges did not see it that way. And by the way, I am not only talking about the judges in my fights. Look at what happened to Pacquiao against Timothy Bradley. I was ringside for that fight and I felt that Pacquiao won it, but the judges took it away from him and that also is not right.
I just want the judges to score the fight in the ring and not what they think is happening in the ring. I don't care about the three previous fights and how they were scored anymore. All I ask is for a fair judgment, and if I lose, I lose. But if I win, I want my hand raised that night in the ring.
Pacquiao continues to be the best in the world and to finally get a win over him will make me very happy. But don't judge my career by these four fights. Take a look at all my 61 fights and then decide where I belong in the history of boxing.
If you would have told me in 2004 that I would be fighting Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012 -- and for the fourth time -- well, I would not have believed it.
But here we are and for a good reason: Our previous three fights have been great -- great for us and great for our fans.
Unlike my three fights against Erik Morales, which were fought closer together and at the same weight, Juan Manuel and I have battled each other at three different weight classes and always at important points in our careers. There is a certain feeling of destiny in our rivalry. It was meant to be that we fight each other four times.
All of my fights with Marquez are important. He is a legend. Perhaps the best fighter Mexico has ever produced next to Julio Cesar Chavez. But Marquez does not define my career. My career is defined by many significant victories. World titles in eight different weight divisions and knockouts of Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Ricky Hatton mean as much to my career as my victories over Marquez.
Champions are competitors first and foremost. They want to win. They need to win. I have put everything into this training camp. I know I haven't fought perfect fights against Marquez in the past and my incentive in this one is to fight the fight I should fight this time. If I do that I will not only win again but put away all doubts in the minds of the fans and Marquez on who is the better fighter. I want everyone to know the old Manny Pacquiao is still alive in the ring. Speed and aggression will be my main weapons and if the knockout presents itself to me, I will go for it as many times as it takes.
What does this fourth fight with Marquez mean to me? It means the chance to author the final chapter of a marvelous story and to look forward to writing a new chapter in my ring life.