It was an eight year, forty-two round journey. A rivalry that spanned from 120 pounds to 147 pounds and saw both men emerge as two of the best fighters in the history of boxing. But finally Juan Manuel Marquez got his win over Manny Pacquiao.
The fight saw as much drama as could ever be hoped for in a major prizefight. The two men, as familiar as possible with each other in this sport, came out moving fast and throwing plenty of power shots, looking to establish a rhythm that best supported the style they wanted to fight. Pacquiao's speed, subtle head movement and strong left hand seemed to have the fight tilting his way through the first two rounds.
Then round three happened...
Marquez whipped a looping overhand right that dropped Pacquiao to the floor. Manny was able to get up and survive the round despite Marquez trying to get the stoppage then and there.
Pacquiao even managed to recover in round four and win the round. And then he got fully back in control in round five when Manny landed a right hand that forced Marquez to drop just low enough for his glove to touch the floor, a knockdown. Pacquiao fired away for the rest of the round, Marquez on rubber legs, looking ready to go with referee Kenny Bayless looking as though he was contemplating stopping the fight.
But Marquez survived the knockdown and the onslaught, much as happened in the first round of their first fight, all the way back in 2004. In that first fight Marquez fought his way back the long way, winning the majority of the rounds down the stretch to earn a draw on the judges scorecards and a win in the eyes of many of the fans.
Similarly, in their second meeting in 2008 Marquez had to climb back up after being knocked down and fight his way back to the scorecards where, again, he wasn't given the victory he felt he had earned. He'd come out on the short end again in 2011 when the judges gave Manny the majority decision win...and again, Marquez thought he'd earned the victory.
Tonight would not be the same. Tonight, Marquez took matters into his own right hand.
Things still appeared to be going Pacquiao's way through round six, he was landing his left hand, Marquez was suffering from what appeared to be a broken nose and he wasn't finding the openings he had earlier. But with just seconds left in the round, Marquez landed a shocking right hand and Pacquiao fell face-first to the canvas. He would not move as the referee counted to ten and the fight was over.
This fight was the reason "Fight of the Year" awards exist, signifying everything that is right and beautiful with the sport of boxing.
And, after a back and forth war in a back and forth series, Marquez finally got the win in a match-up that dominated his life and career.
In The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, the number 42 is "the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything". With the greatest moment in a great career coming 42 rounds into the rivalry that will forever define his legacy, I doubt Marquez would disagree.