Will Marquez's thunderous right hand be enough to keep Pacquiao out of the ring forever?
Closure can be hard to come by in boxing.
Though boxing inherently comes with the instant finality of a knockout punch, many boxers, from Ricky Hatton to Muhammad Ali, continue on in search of redemption or one final victory.
Closure is why Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez fought for the fourth time on Saturday. Controversy littered their first three fights, with an erroneous scorecard hanging over the first, while many feel Marquez was robbed in any or all of the fights. Pacquiao officially led the series 2-0-1 heading into the fourth.
The fight started in the same fashion as the first three. Marquez sought to neutralize Pacquiao's aggression with counter punching while Pacquiao found his range on Marquez's chin. For the first time, Marquez knocked Pacquiao down in the third round. Marquez went down in the fifth.
The fight seemed destined to end like the previous three, the winner almost a secondary element to the scorecards. Despite the three meetings, there was no clear winner between Pacquiao and Marquez. Pacquiao, ever the aggressor, appears to win fights by hitting Marquez with more punches. Marquez often lands with far more impact, efficient in his breakdown of Pacquiao's defense. Pacquiao lands early until Marquez finds his timing. The result is just a matter of the opinions of three people sitting ringside. The conclusion, however, had yet to appear.
It's why many fans were turned off at the prospect of a fourth fight. What more could be seen? While Marquez undoubtedly burned for his name to be called out by Michael Buffer at the end of a fight, and he certainly earned that feeling after so many grueling hours preparing to fight Pacquiao over the years, there was little else to be learned. Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach told HBO's 24/7 that he didn't want to see Marquez in the ring again. With two official wins under his belt, Roach felt ready to close the book.
Whether Roach spoke from the stance of a trainer searching for more challenges or a coach worried Marquez may finally find his timing once and for all, his instincts were correct. In the sixth round, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez gained closure.
It came as it often does, with a viscous right hand. Marquez mirrored Sergio Martinez's “Knockout of the Year” blow from 2010 with an overhand right after Pacquiao missed with a left. There was one second left in the round. Pacquiao was unconscious before the bell rang.
It was a fitting end to a series with no clear winner up to this point. Pacquiao edged the first three quarters. Marquez came through in the fourth.
And yet, it seems inevitable there will be a fifth fight. PED rumors will circle the outcome of this fight after Marquez hired Angel Hernandez as his strength coach just over a year ago. Hernandez testified in court to supplying Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery with illegal substances. Under the last name Heredia at the time, he was granted immunity for his cooperation.
The rumors will be helped by Marquez's frame. He looked huge, certainly appearing larger than any of his previous fights. The fact that he knocked Pacquiao down and then out for the first time at age 39 will fuel speculation, should Pacquiao's camp choose to push for a fifth fight.
There appear to be few other options for Pacquiao, who said he will return to the ring after some time off. The fight with Mayweather is severely diminished, a shame for and on boxing. It seems unlikely Pacquiao will try to fight for more belts as he has said retirement is in his near future. All he really has left is his familiar enemy.
All he has left is the feeling inside, wondering: Is he really better than me?