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THE BREAKDOWN How Marquez Beat Pacquiao

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Marquez Pacquiao 121208 005aSaturday night at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, Juan Manuel Marquez finally got the elusive win that he’s craved for so long over his long-time rival, Manny Pacquiao. He did it by first dropping Pacquiao in the third and then finally for good in the dying moments of the sixth. It was an astonishing performance by Marquez, who had tasted the canvas himself mid-way through the fifth. Here, I’d like to touch on what both men did from a stylistic and tactical perspective only. {There are other issues surrounding the nature of the fight’s outcome that I’m in no position to reflect upon}.

Even though Pacquiao was able to land more visibly clean punches on Marquez during six rounds of this fight than he probably did during the entire third fight, he still never really managed to dominate the ring generalship, as once again, Pacquiao failed to cut the ring off on Marquez. Predictably, it was Marquez who seemed to be controlling the tempo. It was Marquez who was positioning Pacquiao where he wanted him to be. And it was Pacquiao who was reduced to following Marquez around the ring once more.

marquez beat pacquiao

Here, as was often the case in all three of their fights, Pacquiao is reduced to following Marquez around the ring. Notice as Pacquiao is looking to land his double jab/straight left hand combination, Marquez is simply turning with Pacquiao, staying on Pacquiao’s right shoulder and away from his trailing left hand. Moving in this direction keeps Pacquiao punching across himself in order to land his straight left.

The above sequence shows Manny Pacquiao at his most aggressive. For me, attacking in this way against Marquez plays directly into his counter-punching hands. Even though Marquez doesn’t land anything in return this time, notice how off-balance Pacquiao is after his failed attack. This is what eventually cost him the fight in the end.

If we think back to Pacquiao’s fight with Miguel Cotto, Pacquiao had a lot of success landing his straight left hand by punching with Cotto, sitting back more and almost playing the part of counter-puncher himself. Using feints to draw a reaction out from the counter-puncher and then countering them is a far more productive way of attacking them than simply rushing in blindly hoping to overwhelm them with volume. Counter-punching technicians like Marquez thrive on aggression.

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Here’s Pacquiao landing his trailing left hand inside of Cotto’s Jab. Notice how Pacquiao is dipping low and his head is taken away from the center line and to the outside of Cotto’s jab.

During the aftermath, many have claimed that Pacquiao was far too aggressive and this is how he was later knocked out by Marquez. This may be true in part, but in the early going of the fight, Pacquiao actually used more intelligence and relied more on his timing on offense, as opposed to all out aggression. Because Pacquiao was landing more frequently on Marquez than we’ve become accustomed to seeing him do lately, many were quick to put this down to Pacquiao being more aggressive, when in fact, he was actually displaying more patience. Pacquiao was still coming forward as usual, but unlike last time, he was punching less and feinting more. But because of the added head and shoulder feints, when he did decide to punch, he connected more often. Pacquiao’s feints in the early going worked extremely well for him. Juan Manuel Marquez is one of the greatest counter-punchers in boxing history. The staple of his game is to read and react to anything that his opponent does. Whenever Pacquiao was throwing head and shoulder feints, he was successful in drawing out an attack or a physical reaction from Marquez.

marquez beat pacquiao 3

Here, as Marquez responds to Pacquiao’s bending at the waist by throwing a jab, Pacquiao counters him by taking his head to the outside and landing  a straight left hand inside of the Marquez jab. This was a far cry from Pacquiao’s usual “feet off the ground” attack. In this instance, Pacquiao’s feet are planted. Instead, it’s his upper body that’s creating the punching angle.

marquez beat pacquiao 4

Here, as Marquez throws a jab, Pacquiao performs an outisde parry with his trailing hand and counters the counter-puncher with a right hook. Again, Pacquiao was landing more visibly clean shots than we were used to seeing him land against Marquez, but it wasn’t really aggression that allowed him to do it. Pacquiao was countering the counter-puncher.

By attacking in this way, Pacquiao is not directly in line to be hit with anything in return.

marquez beat pacquiao 5  

Here, Pacquiao is punching with Marquez. As Marquez is throwing his jab, Pacquiao is throwing his straight left hand. Because Pacquiao is dipping low and his head is off to the side, his straight left hand lands while Marquez’s jab misses the target.

Pacquiao continued to have success against Marquez by being less aggressive with his movement and more cerebral with his punching. So much so, that Marquez touched down in the fifth as a result.

marquez beat pacquiao 6

As Marquez is throwing the jab, Pacquiao is bending at the waist and off to his right, landing his straight left hand down the pipe, sending Marquez to the canvas.

For me, it was obvious that Marquez was looking for the knockout. But like Pacquiao, he did this by actually being less aggressive and more cerebral. By throwing less and feinting more, Marquez opened up his attacking options. It must be said, Marquez was simply brilliant in disguising his attack towards Pacquiao’s two main targets. If you think about the human body, the lower right side of the stomach and the left side of the face are about as far away a target as you can legally hit inside a boxing ring. Marquez attacked both of these targets by positioning himself in such a way that Pacquiao couldn’t tell what target Marquez was aiming at. Needless to say, because both targets are so far away from each other, the natural defenses for both shots aimed at these targets –the left hook to the body and the right hook to the head- are vastly different.

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Here, Marquez dips and feints low, which causes Pacquiao to react.

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Both fighters are in the same position. As Marquez dips low, he continues forward and this time connects with a left hook to the lower right side of Pacquiao’s body.

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Both fighters are in the same position. This time, Marquez occupies Pacquiao with a jab before feinting low and coming back up top with a right cross. Pacquiao is trapped in two minds –is it a body shot? Is it a hook? Pacquiao’s so busy thinking what to do with his hands, that he’s neglected his feet. Marquez’s lead foot is on the outside of Pacquiao’s, who is leaning back and on his heels.

Despite many in the media suggesting that this was a new offensive wrinkle from Marquez -a cross with a different arc attatched to it- Marquez has used the exact same shot before on Pacquiao. This was nothing new.

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Here’s Marquez stepping in with the exact same looping right cross in the third fight. Again, Pacquiao is leaning back and his feet are planted as Marquez manages to get his lead foot on the outside of Pacquiaio’s lead foot.

After Pacquiao had equaled things up by knocking Marquez down with a straight left hand in the fifth, we saw Pacquiao resort back to his usual ultra-aggressiveness against Marquez again. This is where the fight turned on its head. With Marquez probably in the most trouble he’d been in against his Filipino rival since the first round of the first fight, Pacquiao became overly aggressive in his eagerness to close the show. Up until then, even though Pacquiao still hadn’t really managed to avoid being directed onto Marquez’s right hand, it was Pacquiao who was on top and it was mainly because of how he used head and shoulder feints before throwing his straight left hand to open Marquez up. Now, all of a sudden, we saw Pacquiao’s signature foot feint/right jab/straight left hand attack come into play. All of a sudden, Pacquiao became predictable again.

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Here’s Pacquiao’s signature foot feint attack. Out of range, Pacquiao bounces in and throws a jab/straight left hand combination. Marquez easily blunted Pacquiao’s advance by taking a step back and using his left glove, almost performing an old technique called the stop hit.

The warning signs were there for Pacquiao. With Marquez now able to hurt and drop Pacquiao, the last thing Pacquiao should have done was throw caution to the wind in his quest for the knockout. During the final moments of the sixth round, with the crowd now in a frenzy as Pacquiao was looking to close the show behind wave after wave of attacks, one of the smartest technicians in boxing was also sensing closing time.

marquez beat pacquiao 12

Here’s Pacquiao coming in with another one of his signature feint attacks. As he feints and then steps in, Marquez takes his head off the the side and away from the center, and connects with a short right hand as Pacquiao is leaping in.

Disregarding any controversial rumours that may or not be true, Juan Manuel Marquez is one of the most cerebral technicians in boxing. During 36 rounds with Manny Pacquiao, you can guarantee that he will have soaked up every little Pacquiao nuance and embedded it into his boxing database. Earlier, I mentioned that  a feint against the counter-puncher is one of the best tools a fighter can use in an attempt to unlock them. However, if that feint is no longer seen as an intended punch or an offensive maneuvre, and is actually recognized for what it is, then you are providing the counter puncher with familiarity and something to key off on. Something to counter.

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No disrespect to Shane Mosley, but he doesn’t possess the timing or ring IQ of Juan Manuel Marquez. Here, Mosley easily succumbs to Pacquiao’s foot feint attack. Frozen by the feint, Mosley can’t avoid the right hand follwed by a straight left.

Here’s another look at that stunning finish by Marquez.

marquez beat pacquiao 14

Contrast how Marquez countered Pacquiao’s attack compared to how Mosley did. Unlike Mosley, Marquez isn’t frozen by Pacquiao’s feint, instead treating it like an amber light on a set of traffic lights. Marquez has seen this attack time and time again from Pacquiao. In the past, Marquez has defensed it by redirecting it past his left shoulder or by ducking under it. Here, Marquez keys off Pacquiao’s stutter before the leap and connects with a right cross just as Pacquiao’s throwing his right hand. Marquez knows that Pacquiao’s right hand is nothing but a decoy before the straight left hand. Once Pacquiao feints, Marquez knew there was another move before Pacquiao launched his real attack.

Up until the point of the knockout, although Pacquiao seemed to be coming on strong, the fight was pretty much in hanging in the balance. I was really impressed with Pacquiao’s more controlled attacks and his improved upper body and head movement, as was I with Marquez’s continued ability to force Pacquiao into moving onto his right hand -this time by using a left hook to the body to go with his already excellent positional foot work- and also his timing.

Although many will argue that Pacquiao’s best moments came just after he knocked Marquez down, when he seemed to be on the verge of taking over the fight, this was the moment when he actually became most vulnerable to Marquez’s hard right hand counters.

The warning signs were there all along for Manny Pacquiao.

 

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The Fight of the Century: A Golden Anniversary Celebration

Arne K. Lang

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In professional boxing, fights can be rank-ordered as generic fights, big fights, bigger fights, mega-fights, and spectacles. The first fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier wasn’t merely a spectacle, but the grandest spectacle of them all. This coming Monday, March 8, is the 50th anniversary of that iconic event.

Ali-Frazier I was staged at three-year-old Madison Square Garden, the fourth arena in New York to take that name. It drew a capacity crowd: 20,455 (19,500 paid). An estimated 60 percent of all the tickets sold fell into the hands of scalpers.

The fight was closed-circuited to more than 350 locations in the United States and Canada. At some of the larger venues, it established a new record for gate receipts, and this for an attraction that wasn’t produced in-house. In Los Angeles, 15,333 saw the fight at the Forum and 11,575 at the nearby Sports Arena.

Bill Ballenger, the sports editor of the Charlotte (NC) News, saw the fight at the Charlotte Coliseum. He reported that the audio – Don Dunphy did the blow-by-blow with Burt Lancaster and Archie Moore serving as color commentators – was loud enough to be heard outside the arena and that many folks, either unable or unwilling to purchase a ticket, loitered outside and followed the action in 30 degrees weather.

An estimated three hundred million people saw the fight worldwide. In England, by some estimates, half the population tuned in, watching either at home on BBC1 or at a theater where one could watch the fight unfold on a movie screen. Now keep in mind that in England the fight didn’t commence until 6:40 in the morning on a Tuesday!

Inside Madison Square Garden, the large flock of celebrities included many folks one wouldn’t expect to find at a prizefight. Marcello Mastroianni, Italy’s most famous movie star, made a special trip from Rome. Salvador Dali was there and Barbra Streisand and Ethel Kennedy, widow of Bobby Kennedy, seated next to her escort, crooner Andy Williams. Frank Sinatra was there working as a photographer for Life magazine. Lore has it that Sinatra wangled the assignment after failing to boat one of the coveted ringside seats.

The scene was made brighter by human “peacocks,” the label applied to Harlemites with an outrageous sense of fashion, and the electricity was palpable. When Ali appeared at the back of the arena, making his way from his dressing room to the ring, everyone had goosebumps.

The late, great New York sportswriter Dick Young once wrote that there is no greater drama than in the moments preceding a big heavyweight title fight and that was never more true than on March 8, 1971 at Madison Square Garden.

Ali (31-0, 25 KOs) and Frazier (26-0, 23 KOs) were both undefeated. Both had a claim to the heavyweight title, Ali because the belt had been controversially stripped away from him for his political beliefs. Opinions as to who would win were pretty evenly divided. In Las Vegas, Joe Frazier was the favorite at odds of 6 to 5. Across the pond in England, bookies were quoting odds of 11 to 8 on Ali.

Those that favored Ali were of the opinion that ‘Smokin’ Joe was too one-dimensional. That much was true. Joe was as subtle as a steam locomotive on a downhill grade. He ate Ali’s hardest punches, said Boston Globe reporter Bud Collins, as if they were movie house popcorn and he eventually wore Ali down. There was little doubt as to how the judges would see it after Joe knocked Ali down in the 15th round with a frightful left hook. When Ali arose, it appeared that he had been afflicted with a sudden case of the mumps. The decision was unanimous: 11-4, 9-6, 8-6-1.

This wasn’t the greatest fight of all time, but it was a fight that more than lived up to the hype. And, as several people have noted, the event took on a life of its own without the benefit of modern technology to push it along. The buzz was fueled in a large part by newspapers, the “antiquated” sort of newspapers that a fellow fished from his driveway or purchased at a newsstand on the way to or from work. If twitter and facebook had been around during Muhammad Ali’s prime, Ali would have blown the doors off the internet.

A cultural touchstone is an event that remains sealed in our memory. As we slide into old age, if we are lucky enough to live that long, we may not remember what we had for breakfast in the morning, but some long-ago events are as vivid as if they had happened just yesterday.

Boxing historian Frank Lotierzo has written poignantly about how overjoyed he was when he was surprised with the news that his father would be taking him to the fight. “To this day it remains the biggest thrill of my life!” wrote Lotierzo, who was then in the seventh grade. “And it’s not even close!”

I didn’t see the fight, but I can recall the faces of people that I overheard talking about it, people whose interest in the fight struck me as odd as I knew they had little interest in the world of sports. So, when the fight is replayed in its entirety on Sunday – it airs on ABC at 2 p.m ET and again at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN – I will be watching it for the first time. And it will be bittersweet as I will be reminded that I am in the twilight of my life and my thoughts will inevitably drift to my friends and loved ones that have left this mortal world in the years since that grand night in 1971 when Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier locked horns in the Fight of the Century.

I get misty-eyed just thinking about it.

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Yoka TKO 12 Djeko in France: Claressa Pitches a Shutout on Ladies Day in Flint

Arne K. Lang

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Yoka TKO 12 Djeko in France: Claressa Pitches a Shutout on Ladies Day in Flint

March 8 is International Women’s Day which is actually a formal holiday in many parts of the globe. It was somehow fitting that female boxers were on display on the Friday feeding into it, a weekend without a must-see attraction on the men’s side.

Today’s activity began in the French port city of Nantes where 2016 Olympic gold medal winners Tony Yoka and Estelle Mossely, husband and wife, kept their undefeated records intact, both advancing to 10-0, against European opponents. Yoka (10-0, 8 KOs) was matched against Joel “Big Joe” Djeko (17-3-1), a 31-year-old Brussels native of Congolese and Cuban extraction who had fought most of his career as a cruiserweight. Mossely, a lightweight who now goes by Yoka-Mossely, drew Germany’s Verena Kaiser (14-2).

At the Rio Olympiad, Yoka got by Filip Hrgovic in the semis and Joe Joyce in the finals to win the gold, winning both bouts by split decision. Both would be favored over the Frenchman in a rematch fought under professional rules.

Against the six-foot-six Djeko, Yoka controlled the fight with his jab, repeatedly backing his foe against the ropes. Very few of Djeko’s punches got through Yoka’s high guard. Had the fight gone to the scorecards, it would have been a rout for Yoka, but it didn’t quite get there as Djeko turned his back on the proceedings midway through the 12th round after absorbing a sharp jab and it went into the books as a TKO for Yoka. At stake was some kind of European title or a derivation thereof.

Mossely’s fight with Kaiser, slated for 10 two-minute rounds, followed a somewhat similar tack, save that it went the full distance. With only one knockout to her credit at the pro level, Mosseley, typical of female boxers, lacks a knockout punch. But she’s a good technician and had too much class for the German.

Flint

A Covid-19 limited crowd of perhaps 300 was on hand to watch hometown heroine Claressa Shields oppose IBF 154-pound title-holder Marie Eve Dicaire at a 4,400-seat arena in Flint. There were five bouts on the undercard, three of which were women’s bouts.

Claressa

Claressa Shields

Shields, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was seeking to become a four-belt title-holder in a second weight class, having previously turned the trick at 160. Dicaire, a 34-year-old southpaw, brought a 17-0 record but she had never won a fight inside the distance and all of her previous bouts took place in French-speaking Canada.

The self-proclaimed GWOAT, Shields has no peer between 154 and 168 pounds. Heading into this contest, she had hardly lost a round since meeting Hanna Gabriels and tonight was another total whitewash, her fourth overall in 10-round fights.

Claressa Shields, now 11-0 (2) may be too good for her own good. Her fights are so one-sided that they are monotonous. Her TV ratings have actually been falling. Today’s show was a $29.99 pay-per-view on FITE when the established networks refused to meet her purse demands. It will be interesting to see how many tuned in.

In another fight of note, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Marlen Esparza, in her first fight as a bantamweight, dominated Toronto’s Shelly Barnett en route to winning a 6-round unanimous decision. There were no knockdowns, but the scorecards (60-54, 60-53 twice) were indicative of Esparza’s dominance.

Esparza, who pushed her record to 9-1 (1), came in ranked #1 by the WBC in the flyweight class. Her lone defeat came at the hands of rugged Seniesa Estrada. Barnett declined to 4-4-3.

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Brandon Adams Bursts Bohachuk’s Bubble in Puerto Rico

Arne K. Lang

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Brandon Adams Bursts Bohachuk’s Bubble in Puerto Rico

Ring City USA, a new promotional entity, debuted on Nov. 19, 2020 with a show staged in the parking lot of Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, CA. Ring City stayed outdoors for their first offering of 2021, but the company was a long ways from California. Tonight’s card was staged on a roundabout near a municipal gym in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.

The headline attraction was an attractive match between junior middleweights Serhii Bohachuk and Brandon Adams. The bout was originally set for Dec. 3, but had to be pushed back when Bohachuk tested positive for the coronavirus.

Bohachuk, a 25-year-old California-based Ukrainian, had stopped all 18 of his previous opponents. He had never gone past six rounds. Brandon Adams, a former world title challenger, represented a step up in class.

Bohachuk was well on his way to winning a unanimous decision when the tide turned dramatically in round eight. Fighting on a slick canvas, Adams suddenly found a new gear, unloading a series of punches climaxed by a thunderous left hook as Bohachuk retreated. The Ukrainian beat the count, but was teetering on unsteady legs and the referee properly called a halt.

Adams was without his regular trainer, 80-year-old Dub Huntley, who remained back in LA as a health precaution. In winning, he elevated his records to 23-3 (15). It was his best performance since defeating Shane Mosley Jr in the finals of Season 5 of the “Contender” series.

In the co-feature, an 8-round featherweight contest, Puerto Rico’s Bryan Chevalier improved to 15-1-1 (12) with a third-round stoppage of Peru’s Carlos Zambrano (26-2). Chevalier scored two knockdowns, the first a sweeping left hook that appeared to land behind Zambrano’s head, and the second a punch to the liver that left Zambrano in severe distress. The referee waived the fight off in mid-count.

The official time was 2:21. Chevalier, a tall featherweight (5’11”) made a very impressive showing; he bears watching. This was Zambrano’s first fight since April of 2017 when he was knocked out in the opening round by Claudio Marrero in a bout for the WBA interim featherweight title.

The TV opener was an entertaining fight between contrasting styles that produced a weird conclusion when Danielito Zorrilla was awarded a technical decision over Ruslan Madiyev. The bout was stopped at the 1:16 mark of round eight after Zorrilla sank to his knees after absorbing a punch to the back of the head. The ringside physician examined him for evidence of a concussion, but ultimately it was Zorrilla’s choice as to whether the bout would continue. He declined and was reportedly taken to a hospital for observation.

Madiyev, a California-based Kazahk, was the aggressor. He fought the fight in Zorilla’s grill, often bullying him against the ropes. In round five, he had a point deducted for hitting behind the head, squandering what was arguably his best round.

The fight went to the scorecards with Zorrilla winning a split decision (77-74, 77-75, 73-76), thereby remaining undefeated: 15-0 (12). Ironically, Madiyev (13-2, 5 KOs), suffered his previous loss in a similar fashion.

Madiyev’s new trainer Joel Diaz reportedly discouraged his charge from taking this fight for fear that he wouldn’t get a fair shake in Puerto Rico. Diaz’s apprehensions were well-founded.

Photo credit: Tom Hogan / Ring City USA

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