Published On: Mon, Dec 10th, 2012

Jabs and Hooks – 10th December Edition

Hard Copy – Jabs and Hooks 10th December Edition

Continuing our new look at combat sports – Jabs and Hooks – Hard Copy will be previewing every weekend’s big combat sports events both nationally and internationally before they happen, and deal with the fallout that remains once the dust has settled the following Monday.

This weekend’s action:

-          Juan Manuel Marquez knocks out Manny Pacquiao in the sixth round

-          Mikkel Kessler stops Brian Magee in three rounds

-          Benson Henderson retains the UFC Lightweight Championship

-          Rory MacDonald defeats BJ Penn by unanimous decision

-          Alexander Gustafsson defeats Shogun Rua by unanimous decision

 

The UFC returned for an action packed fight card but it was the boxing that gave us the shot heard around the world as Juan Manuel Marquez sensationally knocked Manny Pacquiao out cold in their fourth fight; a modern day classic. Let’s get started:

 

Pacquiao vs. Marquez – Rivalry, Revenge, Skills, Heart and History

Where to begin with Saturday’s fourth encounter between living legends Manny ‘Pacman’ Pacquiao and Juan Manuel ‘Dynamita’ Marquez? As the bell sounded for the first round of this fight, their thirty-seventh together in total, it became clear that both were fighting with a heightened sense of urgency. This fight was about finality, conclusiveness – an end to an eight year long feud over who actually is the better man. The truth of the matter is that they are quite possibly the most evenly matched fighters to have walked into the squared circle. Most predicted another close decision.

The sport of boxing can sometimes still shock even the most jaded and cynical of fans.

One punch. That was all it took to end the fight. A vicious right hand in the sixth round that Pacquiao almost jumped right into. Marquez baited him in and timed it to perfection, and Manny was out cold before he landed face first on to the canvas.

He lay there motionless and the referee waved the fight off immediately.  As Marquez celebrated with joy and climbed the ring turnbuckle, the doctors hastily made their way to turn him over and his wife Jinkee tearfully tried to navigate through the crowded ring to find her stricken husband.

The sight of the man considered by many to be the best boxer on the planet lying face down on the canvas may be the picture chosen by the popular media to tell the story, but the fight was anything as clear cut as that, both fighters being hurt and knocking each other down in a war for the ages.

Round one started as they had started the previous fights, but with subtle differences. As they sized each other up and tried to land the telling blows while not over-committing, it became clear that Marquez was more ready for Pacquiao’s shots than at any time before. As Pacman landed his first solid left hand Marquez flinched but instantly replied with his own body attack. Pacquiao, unlike the previous fight, showed a renewed commitment to head-movement that seemed to befuddle the Mexican in a way reminiscent of their first contest. Landing the more telling blows, Pacquiao took the first two rounds and established an early advantage on the score cards.

The third round provided us with the first shock of the night, where, in a moment of explosive boxing genius, Marquez faked Pacquiao out with a body shot and went upstairs instead, dropping his opponent hard on to his back. Pacquiao rose from the canvas with a look of shock, disdain and anger as the crowd erupted. Marquez had been down in their fights, but barring a single moment in their second fight where he momentarily staggered Pacquiao, the Philipino had never been on the canvas. Here, he went down harder than he ever has and seemed intent on getting back at Marquez immediately. The round closed with both swinging wildly at each other and Marquez drawing level on the cards.

At this point my mouth was wide open in shock and excitement as the pre-bout consensus that this would be another closely contested decision was blown out of the water. Pacquiao would be on the hunt to get his own back and Marquez, the counter puncher, would be waiting. I was sure now that both men could win by knockout and that this fight was now on a knife-edge sharper than at any other time in their previous forty rounds.

The fourth round saw a fully recovered Pacquiao intent on establishing his punching prowess once again, landing eye catching shots and drawing Marquez into wilder exchanges towards the end. He won the round on all the cards, and the momentum had swung back to Manny as they entered the fifth.

Approaching the midpoint of the fight, Pacman looked to turn the screw even further, initiating another exchange and staggering Marquez with a right hook, with Dynamita’s glove touching the mat and therefore giving Pacquiao a knockdown in return. Pulling away on the cards, Pacquiao hurt Marquez badly towards the end of the round, stiffening the Mexican’s legs and sending him back towards the ropes in retreat.  But there are few tougher warriors out there than Marquez, and he retaliated with his own punches instead of covering up or clinching, resulting in the craziest exchanges of the fight.

Anything could have happened here; at this moment one landed punch could have changed the fight for Marquez or ended the fight in Pacquiao’s favour. On another night, maybe this would have been Manny’s moment. Juan held on until the end of the round and then the fateful sixth began.

In the opening, Pacquiao was in clearly in the ascendancy, blood streaming out of Marquez’s nose, his eyes swelling up – a sign of a break. Manny felt the urgency, eager to knock his man out and connected with hard left and right hands that sent the Vaseline, sweat and blood flying from his opponent’s face. The ten second drum hit, Marquez backed on to the ropes, clearly hurting. Pacquiao bounced in looking for the finish. The seconds wound down towards zero. Manny jumped in…

In boxing, a split second can change lives and careers forever. It can write history and create events that live on in the minds of the people for a lifetime. In the dwindling moments of round six, one of those moments occurred.

Marquez threw his right hand – the perfect counter shot – and connected squarely with the advancing Pacquiao. Manny felt the entire force of the punch head-on and he had nowhere to go but into a state of unconsciousness.

Manny Pacquiao - Juan Manuel Marquez 4 - SB Nation

gif. courtesy of SB Nation

With that, the fight was over. In an instant, Marquez had found his piece of history and a victory over the man with whom he had shared such a storied rivalry. Pacquiao faced questions over his career and whether it would be wise for someone with a life outside of boxing (a congressman in his native Philippines) and having made as much money as he, to come back and fight again.

In a press release after the fight, Pacquiao was categorical:

“First and foremost I would like to thank God for keeping Juan Manuel Marquez and me safe during our fight on Saturday night. I want to congratulate Juan Manuel.  I have no excuses. It was a good fight and he deserved the victory.  I think boxing fans who watched us were winners too.

To all my fans, I would like to thank you for your prayers and assure you that I am fine.  I am looking forward to a nice rest and then I will be back to fight.

On behalf of Jinkee and our family we would like to wish everyone a joyous Christmas and a happy and healthy new year.”

Whether or not this rivalry will extend to a fifth fight remains to be seen. Marquez, now 1-2-1 with his great rival is now 39 years old, and even with the rejuvenating powers of a new strength and conditioning programme that has resulted in him fighting with more muscle mass than ever before, he lives on borrowed time in boxing terms. With this iconic victory to his name, the temptation of finally being the ‘A’ side to a massive payday fight will probably prove too much to refuse come the New Year.

Perhaps, Marquez, who fought in the shadows for so long, deserves a few more big cheques before hanging them up. As far as accolades are concerned, he has accomplished everything that any boxer could hope to achieve in the sport.

Pacquiao will look to return, but any hope of the fabled Floyd Mayweather bout is all but ruined for now. If the last few years are anything to go by, it won’t affect his drawing power much, but one wonders if there will be quite as much excitement for his performances unless he secures a victory as dramatic as this loss in his next bout. The real question is the same as one that has been asked in the past but before now been swept aside by victory – should a Manny Pacquiao who isn’t 100% focussed on boxing still fight at the top level?

His trainer Freddie Roach perhaps will have the last word (from Yahoo Sports):

“Possible retirement, possible rematch; I’m not sure which way we’re going to go right now. It really depends upon how he feels and what he wants to do. We’ll get back in the gym and if I see signs of decline, I’ll tell him to retire. If I don’t, I’ll tell him to go on.”

 

Mikkel Kessler Destroys Brian Magee – Froch Next?

The Danish superstar Mikkel Kessler secured another version of the World Super-Middleweight Title after destroying Brian Magee in three rounds on the earlier boxing show on Saturday. Carl Froch looked on from the Sky Sports studios as the man he looks to rematch in 2013 looked mightily impressive. Stopping Magee with straight body shots to the solar-plexus, he secured the victory he was tipped by experts to achieve, proving a level or two above a game Irishman, who even when seriously hurt by the initial knockdown in the second, gamely persisted for another few minutes.

On to an exciting 2013 for the remnants of the Super Six Tournament and the Super-Middleweight division as a whole.

 

Earlier in the night, the UFC brought a solid card, as is their usual modus operandi, and fights that, while maybe not being as epic as the boxing that was to come, gave MMA fans plenty to talk about.

 

Benson Henderson – Smooth Operator

Nate Diaz simply didn’t get to grips with Benson ‘Smooth’ Henderson. From the opening bell, Henderson attacked his challenger’s legs with vicious kicks. Diaz’s vaunted boxing skills never became a factor. Suffering an eye injury early, Diaz explained that his vision was blurry from near the outset, and waiting for it to clear up forced him to play safe on too many occasions. According to him, he simply ran out of time.

On the face of it, barring a few dangerous looking leg-locks, Henderson rarely looked troubled and took the shutout victory after dropping Diaz with punches, kicks and takedowns at various stages of the five round affair with little in response.

The main talking point of the fight turned out to be a mysterious object that Henderson spat out of his mouth between rounds, with the talk being that he fought with his signature toothpick in his mouth. At the post fight press conference he was evasive when questioned and when he finally came clean, backtracked claiming he was “just being facetious”. There is no question however that he’s now the best in the weight class.

Henderson:

“I’ll reiterate – I want to fight the best guys in the world. Line ‘em up, I ain’t going nowhere.”

The possibility of a super-fight with Featherweight king Jose Aldo is now on the table, with the Brazilian eager to step up in weight. Aldo however has the former Lightweight champion Frankie Edgar (who had two five round razor-thin decision losses to Henderson for his title) in his next fight.

 

Gustafsson and MacDonald – the Next Level

The chief supporting bouts on the card were almost telling the same story – a young, talented prospect needing to take the next step towards title contention facing off with a battle-hardened veteran looking to recover lost glory.

Alexander Gustafsson vs. Shogun Rua highlighted how tough Shogun is, again providing a blood-and-guts effort against the lanky Swede. Giving up reach and youth, Shogun valiantly worked for leg-locks, scrappy kickboxing and the experience advantage over his younger opponent. Gustafsson, to his credit, dealt with the task of facing off against a fighter he idolised as a young fan well and marked up Rua’s face with his own brand of lanky striking. Barring a short scare when caught in a leg-lock, Gustafsson looked impressive in dealing with a former champion over three rounds, taking a unanimous decision. It was competitive, but the best European prospect in the UFC looked good value for the win, announcing himself as a title contender.

Before them, BJ Penn and Rory MacDonald engaged in altogether less even contest. MacDonald looked almost two weight divisions above Penn as he battered his opponent with strikes against the cage wall. It was all Penn could do to stay standing, but he held on to keep an almost unbelievable record of never having been knocked down in his career. A return to retirement is surely the next step for the Hawaiian now, always best suited to the 155lb division but campaigning here at 170lbs against much larger opponents, resulting in harsh beatings against MacDonald and previously Nick Diaz.

UFC President Dana White called for time on Penn’s career, making his feeling known that ‘The Prodigy’ has nothing left to prove (From US TV network Fuel TV):

“He didn’t say it tonight but I think BJ is probably going to retire. I wouldn’t mind seeing that. He came back with a fire lit under him. Let me tell you what – that kid looked so good tonight. Rory looked better than he ever looked. The body punches he threw, you don’t see punches like that in mixed martial arts. He really put it to BJ tonight.

“BJ is a warrior, talk about a guy who doesn’t give up, doesn’t quit, and just keeps coming. I have so much respect for BJ I always have, even though the good times and bad times. I‘d like to see him retire. He’s got plenty of money, he’s got a great family that loves him, he’s got babies, a beautiful wife. He has nothing left to prove to anybody, and everybody loves him. You heard the arena here tonight. I’d like to see B.J. retire”

 

So there you have it, an utterly compelling and entertaining night of fights. Weekends are made for that type of action and looking back I’ll definitely remember the night of Pacquiao vs. Marquez 4 as one of the highlights of a life spent watching boxing and martial arts. I’ll also remember the night where a UFC Champion defended his title in stylish fashion while hiding a toothpick in his mouth (yes I believe he did have one) and look forward to more big fights on the Octagonal stage as well as the Squared Circle.

 

Tune into Hard Copy come Friday for all the build-up to the return of Amir Khan, UFC and of course Ricky Burns defending his title, when Jabs and Hooks returns.

 

Adil Qazi

@TheRealAdil


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