Last night saw the third installment of Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez, this time at welterweight as the arch-rivals fought over Pacquiao's WBO crown.
From the first bell, it was clear that Marquez had learned much from his previous 24 rounds with Pacquiao, as the 38 year old Mexican
expertly maintained just enough distance to give himself time to deal with the inevitable lunging left hands of Pacquiao.
It was as if Marquez had prior notice of just when and where southpaw Pacquiao's punches would travel as "Dinamita" expertly made "Pacman" miss repeatedly.
While that exceptional defense of Marquez nullified the lion's share of Pacquiao's efforts, it was the lightning quick counters of Juan Manuel that provided the difference in many of the rounds as punches came at exactly the right time with amazing accuracy.
However, Marquez was very cautious and selective in his approach, which lead to his being outworked by Pacquiao, who did get in left hands at times but was more effective with a counter right hook, particularly when Marquez would throw the left to the body.
It was a difficult bout to score with no one stepping forward to concretely take control, resulting in many rounds that could have gone either way.
The first frame saw Marquez lay out his approach, making Pacquiao miss and go off balance, taking advantage of the situation with nice combinations to head and body.
Pacquiao increased his pressure in the second, causing Marquez to go more defensive. Neither fighter had much success, despite Pacquiao's sometimes wild efforts.
The third saw a more measured effort from Pacquiao but very little was landed by either boxer until Pacquiao had some success at the end.
Pacquiao was managed to get a bit closer to Marquez in the fourth and as a result Marquez became more active, going to the body at times with Pacquiao playing counter puncher this time but also getting wild again. Marquez had some success right before the bell.
In the early part of the fifth, Pacquiao slowed way down, allowing Marquez to step it up and land some shots. Pacquiao responded with more activity but mostly missed with Marquez again getting in a few night right hands in the latter part of the frame.
The sixth sees Pacquiao more successful but Marquez's defense keeps the champ from taking over.
A fight finally breaks out in the seventh with both fighters landing excellent right hands in the best two-way traffic so far in the bout but the eighth sees a return to sporadic action with many missed punches.
Things heated up again in the ninth stanza as Marquez turns offensive and eye catching shots result from both fighters. The warfare continues into the tenth, with lightning quick exchanges happening in a fast and furious manner until Pacquiao is cut above right eye from an accidental clash of heads.
The eleventh sees start to hold his ground at ring center, ensuring good two-way action going into the twelfth, which surprisingly doesn't get to a hectic pace until the closing moments with no one emerging the dominant fighter.
When the scores were read, Pacquiao was awarded a majority decision at 114-114, 115-113 and a surprising 116-112.
Pacquiao retains the WBO welter crown for the third time, improving to 54-3-2 (38), while Marquez drops to 53-6-1 (39).
Despite the official loss, Marquez was perhaps the winner in the eyes of many observers and should enjoy a career boost from this performance.
The long awaited clash with Floyd Mayweather Jr will likely not be the next fight for Pacquiao as the Filipino southpaw will have to post a good performance over a credible challenger first in order to regain some of the luster removed by this third bout with Marquez.
The undercard featured WBO light welter titlist Timothy Bradley, 28-0 (12), controlling every round against 40 year old ex-former WBA super feather and WBC lightweight champ Joel Casamayor, 38-6-1 (22), before stopping the Cuban in the eighth.
Juan Carlos Burgos, 28-1 (19), put the first defeat on the record of Luis Cruz, 19-1 (15), via 12 round majority decision for the NABO super feather while Breidis Prescott, 24-4 (19), was on his way to doing the same to light welter prospect Mike Alvarado, 32-0 (23), before Alvarado stopped the Colombian in the tenth and final round for the IBF Latino belt.