Previewing a fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez doesn't take a massive amount of analysis. They've fought three times already and the three fights have established a pretty clear pattern.
Pacquiao will be the primary attacker while Marquez will look to counter with hard power shots. Both have the technical savvy to box, both have the power to bang and both have the chin to take what the other gives. That's why, as pointed out at the start of the week, after 36 rounds the cumulative official score between the two men only gives Pacquiao a seven point edge 1024 to 1017.
In their 2011 third meeting Marquez appeared to have figured out Pacquiao better than at any other time previously. Manny is an attacker and Marquez took a simple strategy of movement to the left to nullify that attack. Something discussed by Carlos Acevedo over at The Cruelest Sport:
Marquez,54-6-1 (39), has to open up more and land precision shots in sequence, instead of in single counters. While Marquez waits, like a sniper in his nest, for the perfect opportunity to strike, Pacquiao is working hard enough to catch the often watery eyes of the judges at ringside. As he showed in their last fight—one which he appeared to edge out–Marquez merely has to step to his left to nullify Pacquiao, whose onrushes grew increasingly ragged from round to round.
The deciding factor in Marquez's ability to pull off the win may very well be if he is able to open up more. Judges are human and humans do tend to view a close contest more favorably toward the attacker. While Marquez has been effective in all three bouts (the second and third especially), he has fallen victim to an inability to convince at least two judges of that effectiveness.
Pacquiao and Marquez will fight their fight tonight on HBO pay-per-view. It's almost unfathomable that either man has changed his style so much as to significantly alter the way the fight looks.
The only real variables are if Marquez has suddenly aged and slowed as he's 39 years old, if Marquez can pick up his workrate enough to offset Pacquiao's attacking style and if Pacquiao can connect with the kind of power shots that can keep Marquez hesitant and possibly even stop him.
Were this Hollywood, Marquez would finally get the win that has eluded him over arguably the world's biggest superstar. But this isn't a movie, and that's why I just can't shake the feeling that this fight ends the same way as the third. Marquez will do good work but the judges will give the controversial, split nod to Pacquiao for being the guy coming forward.
But Marquez fans can take solace in the high number of Juan Manuel victory predictions, like this one from Scott Christ in the Bad Left Hook staff predictions:
Here we go again. Here we are again. It's here again. You, again?! This, again. Pacquiao and Marquez, Marquez and Pacquiao. Manny and Juan Manuel. "Pac-Man" and "Dinamita." Jim Lampley screaming at ringside. Larry Merchant, also in attendance. Bob Arum saying stuff. We've been here before. We know the terrain. And so do the fighters.
Surprises are unlikely. Maybe Marquez has "gotten old," but I'd bet he hasn't. Maybe Manny has slowed down so much that Marquez can clearly, clearly win this time, but I'd bet he hasn't. It's going to be a back-and-forth fight and come down to the exact thing we hate to hear: Judging is subjective, and this fight could have gone either way. It's going to happen again. I wouldn't even rule out a draw, but I don't dare choose one. This will look a lot like last year, but if I had to go out on a limb, I'd say we might see Marquez a bit more flat-footed than usual early, looking to land power shots. If or when that doesn't really work, he'll go back to fighting as he always does. It's going to be extremely competitive, and the wait for Michael Buffer to read the score cards will be agony. You might be upset again. I'm gonna pick it: Marquez by split decision.
You can follow all of our Pacquiao vs. Marquez 4 fight week coverage right here, or you can follow the tremendous SB Nation boxing blog Bad Left Hook for their in depth coverage.