There have been few rivalries in boxing history that have matched the drama and historical significance of the first three bouts between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.
But there have been even fewer that can claim three fights as hotly contested with decisions as universally debated. Whether you come across a casual fan or a hard-core fight freak, one can be certain nearly everyone has a different opinion as to how all three of the fights in the rivalry should have been scored. Despite Marquez holding an official 0-2-1 record in the series, there are many who believe the Mexican legend could just as easily be 3-0 at this point.
Heading into the fourth meeting between the two fighters on Dec. 8 in Las Vegas, we asked a trio of our boxing experts to share how they scored each bout in comparison to the three judges assigned at ringside.
When: May 8, 2004
Where: MGM Grand, Las Vegas
Result: Split draw
Judges' scorecards: John Stewart (115-110 for Pacquiao), Burt A. Clements (113-113), Guy Jutras (115-110 for Marquez)
Marquez, 30, put his pair of featherweight titles and a 13-fight win streak on the line against Pacquiao, 25, who was fresh off the heels of a star-making TKO of Marco Antonio Barrera. Pacquiao started quick with a devastating assault of straight left hands that floored Marquez three times in the opening round. But Marquez regained his composure and went on to make enough adjustments to rattle Pacquiao throughout the majority of the ensuing rounds by answering his firepower with precision counterpunching. Both fighters overcame cuts and a grueling pace to produce a series of dramatic late rounds. But in the end, it was an error on the scorecard of Clements -- who incorrectly scored the opening round 10-7 for Pacquiao, instead of 10-6 due to the three knockdowns -- that robbed Pacquiao of a victory.
ESPN.com experts' scoring:
Rafael: If there is anyone to thank for the great rivalry that Pacquiao and Marquez have produced it's referee Joe Cortez. I was ringside for the fight (as I have been for all of them) and I have to be honest: When Marquez was dropped pretty hard near the end of the first round, the third time he had gone down in the opening frame, I thought the fight was over. But Cortez, a Hall of Famer, recognized that Marquez was not that badly hurt. There is no three-knockdown rule in world title fights and he rightly allowed the fight continue. I scored it 10-6 for Pacquiao and then also gave him Round 2. But Marquez collected himself by the third and you know what? In my view, he won every round over the rest of the fight with the lone exception being the 10th. Despite three knockdowns, Marquez climbed out of the hole and won the fight, but settled for a draw.
Mulvaney: This rivalry nearly lasted under a round. Another referee might have stopped the fight after Pacquiao knocked down Marquez the third time in that frenetic opening frame of their first contest; another fighter might not have haled himself to his feet. To be honest, sitting ringside, I wasn't sure Marquez would. But he did, and after a difficult second round, outboxed Pacquiao down the stretch. I gave him eight of the 10 remaining rounds; watching the fight later, it is jarring to see how one-dimensional Pacquiao was at the time.
Campbell: No matter how many times I've seen the fight, it always feels like a Marquez victory at the final bell. But, alas, scorecards don't have feelings. Marquez clearly won more rounds -- heroically taking Pacquiao's best punch early on before figuring out how to take away the same punch defensively in the middle rounds. But despite being outclassed in the rounds he lost, Pacquiao landed the harder shots in the rounds that were close and was busy enough to steal a one-point victory on my card. However you scored it, Marquez clearly won the event in a star-making performance of toughness and tactical brilliance, nearly climbing out of a daunting 10-6 hole.
When: March 15, 2008
Where: Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas
Result: Pacquiao by split decision
Judges' scorecards: Duane Ford (115-112 for Pacquiao), Jerry Roth (115-112 for Marquez), Tom Miller (114-113 for Pacquiao)
Four years after their epic 2004 draw, Marquez, now 34, entered the rematch on a divergent path from that of a prime Pacquiao, 29, who was on the verge of superstardom. Pacquiao had grown into a dynamic offensive force entering his final bout at 130 pounds. If there was a single punch that played the biggest role in the entire three-fight series, it came in the third round on a picture-perfect counter left cross from Pacquiao that knocked down Marquez. That single point on the scorecards is what separated the rematch from ending as a draw for the second time. The punch also saved Pacquiao from a slow start as Marquez picked up where he had left off by countering him with pinpoint accuracy. Deep cuts above the right eyes of both fighters would play major roles at different points, including one on Pacquiao's eye in the eighth round that fueled a Marquez rally.
ESPN.com experts' scoring:
Rafael: The rematch was a lot closer to me than the official draw in the first fight. I thought Marquez eked this one out even though he got knocked down again -- but only once, not three times like in the first fight. Looking in my original scorebook, I gave Marquez the first round but wrote "close" on my card. I also gave him the second round. But then Pacquiao dropped him in the third round to pull even. But in my mind, Marquez stayed the course and put rounds in the bank through the middle of the fight. I gave him four consecutive rounds -- the fifth through the eighth -- as he opened a three-point lead on my card. But let's be honest: These were almost all close rounds that probably could have gone either way. I thought Pacquiao closed strong and gave him three of the final four rounds but had him losing by one point.
Mulvaney: This was the last fight in which Pacquiao experienced any obvious distress, getting caught by a beautiful counter left hand that momentarily sent his feet and body in opposite directions, and wincing and back to the ropes in pain after a beautiful Marquez shot caught him right on the eye. But it was Pacquiao's power that made the difference, in the form of a knockdown at the end of a third round he had until that point arguably been losing. Although Team Marquez cried foul afterward, this was another incredibly close contest that could easily have gone either way, with Pacquiao's power and improved right hand running up against Marquez's outstanding aggressive counterpunching.
Campbell: The lone fight of their three meetings that I scored as a clear defeat for Pacquiao was ironically the same bout in which I felt he produced his most consistent performance. This was Pacquiao at his absolute prime as a dynamic two-handed puncher from multiple angles -- a far cry from the one-dimensional fighter from their first meeting. The rounds Pacquiao won in the rematch, he won convincingly. That alone made Marquez's performance, and the fact that I scored seven rounds for him, all the more impressive. But not only were Marquez's powerful counter shots seemingly always on time, his ability to adjust on the fly never allowed Pacquiao to take over control of the fight. All three fights were classics in their own right, but this was the jewel of the group, fought at an incredible pace with countless shifts in momentum.
When: Nov. 12, 2011
Where: MGM Grand, Las Vegas
Result: Pacquiao by majority decision
Judges' scorecards: Dave Moretti (115-113 for Pacquiao), Robert Hoyle (114-114), Glenn Trowbridge (116-112 for Pacquiao)
With Pacquiao having grown into a full-fledged welterweight in the years since their 2008 rematch, the majority of boxing experts believed the catchweight of 144 pounds for their third fight would clearly favor the Filipino. In fact, there weren't many who believed Marquez would be able to go the distance without being stopped. But Marquez was able to reconstruct his body without affecting his speed, using heavy counter shots to stun an admittedly distracted PacMan in the first half of the fight. Pacquiao made a late run as it appeared Marquez took his foot off the gas, with the end result -- a Pacquiao victory by majority decision -- becoming the most heavily debated outcome in their rivalry.
ESPN.com experts' scoring:
Rafael: Here we go again. While many thought Marquez clearly won this time, I had it the closest of the three bouts, scoring it even after giving him the first two fights. This time Marquez stayed on his feet so there were not really many decisive rounds either way. They knew each other so well by the time this fight happened that there was almost no difference between the two. I think if you watch the fight over and over you might score it for one guy one time, the other guy another time and maybe even the next time. It's just that kind of fight. Even Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer, said afterward that it could have gone either way. On my card, I had it 6-6 in rounds to give Marquez a 2-0-1 edge (on my scorecards) heading into fight No. 4.
Mulvaney: Of the three fights, this is the one that most feel Marquez won, but it's the only one I didn't score in his favor. By now, Pacquiao's technique had improved to the extent that this was much more of a fast-paced chess match -- on both sides -- than the previous encounters. Marquez would likely have taken it on my card had he not eased up over the final round or two, but ease up he did. The official count is 2-0-1 Pacquiao; my unofficial count is 2-0-1 Marquez; you can make the case for it being 3-0 in either man's favor. Each fight has been that close, and there's every reason to believe the same will be true of the fourth.
Campbell: If you watch this fight without scoring it and simply rely on the eye test -- as many fans did -- it's not hard to come away thinking Marquez had clearly won. Not only did he consistently thrash Pacquiao with heavy counter shots in the first half, it was the economical ease in which he did it that was so alarming. Remember, just about everyone thought Marquez would get knocked out at 144 pounds, yet he carried the added muscle perfectly without sacrificing his speed or reaction time. But what also can't be forgotten is the impact Pacquiao's late rally had on the round-by-round scoring. By ditching his strategy to counter Marquez and reverting back to the attacking fighter of old, Pacquiao won four of the last five rounds on my scorecard to secure what felt like an improbable draw, while also evening the series by my unofficial count at 1-1-1.