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“It’s one thing to be great, but another to even strive to push yourself to be even greater. Pacquiao and Marquez gave each other the reason to do so.”
Manny Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza can continue patting himself on the back and taking all the credit he can get and dish out blasphemous figures of speech to discredit his boss’ nemesis and opponent this weekend at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but the long and the short of it is this: Juan Manuel Marquez is the second best thing that has happened to Pacquiao’s professional boxing career, next to his trainer Freddie Roach.
Some say Ariza may even be the worst thing that has ever happened to Pacquiao’s career. (I can only guess why, but I’ll remember that statement when the time comes).
(Click here for my interview with Munoz before his fight vs. Leben as he talked about his training and his thoughts on Pacquiao vs. Marquez 3)
Rivalries between greats are what elevates any sport to the next level. Think about the Celtics and the Lakers; Bird vs. Magic, Yankees vs. Red Sox, Manchester United vs. Liverpool and right from boxing’s archives, Ali versus Frazier (As of this writing, the great Joe Frazier was reported to have passed away. May his soul rest in peace).
Not only do fight fans love to see two great teams or athletes go up against each other and give it their all, rivalries between the best are like two opposing forces that conjure up a tornado leaving those who witness it in awe of it’s sheer brilliance and impact.
Just like how Larry Bird and Magic Johnson pushed each other throughout their college and pro careers and made each other better and compete harder, the same can be said about Pacquiao and Marquez.
It was a perfect clash between two opposing styles and two equally determined competitors with work ethics second to none. After giving it both their all in their Fight of the Year of 2004 candidate that ended in a stalemate, and their controversial fight in March of 2008 which Pacquiao won via split-decision by the slimmest of margins, each has worked on improving the nicks in their game that was exposed by the other.
Not only have Pacquiao and Marquez been the cream of boxing’s crop since their last clash, they have also drastically dominated their opponents while showing improvements on the facets they needed to- Pacquiao with his defense and counter-punching, Marquez with his aggression and finishing off fights. By themselves, Pacquiao and Marquez were two individually great fighters. After their classic wars in the ring, however, they elevated each other to “All-time Great” status.
It takes two exceptional fighters to make such a special rivalry happen. The difference between Pacquiao and Marquez’s rivalry compared to other rivalries out there fueled by personal dislike and anger is the fact that these two men, despite what they say in the media, actually respect the greatness in each other.
Their quest is not to destroy the other person like how Barrera and Morales did against each other, their motivation is to prove who truly is the better fighter. It’s one thing to be great, but another to even strive to push yourself to be even greater. Pacquiao and Marquez gave each other the reason to do so.
For Pacquiao, it was Marquez, more than anybody, who gave him reason to better himself. Matterfact’, Marquez reminded him twice. So it is only fitting, now that Pacquiao has reached the top of boxing’s pedestal, to give his nemesis the best tribute he can give him as a way of saying “thank you”: Pacquiao should retire and finish off Marquez for good.
No more split decisions. No more draws. Finish the unfinished business. It’s the only true way he can show his appreciation for how this rivalry has helped transform him into one of the greatest to ever do it.
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