Given the closeness of their first two battles, it is curious that Manny Pacquiao is such a heavy favorite (6 ½-1) to beat Juan Manuel Marquez. On the one hand Pacquiao leads 679-678 on the judges' scorecards but on the other many agree that Marquez has won more rounds. Marquez had a 330-305 edge in punches landed in the two fights and landed more punches in 12 rounds, to nine for Manny, with three rounds even. Despite their divergent methods their styles meshed well enough to produce two classics.
Will their third meeting prove beyond doubt who is the better fighter or will it create even more questions? Their respective CompuBox resumes may lend further insight.
Act I: The scorecards may have been even but the raw numbers indicate Marquez was superior, for he out-landed Pacquiao 158-148 overall and 122-100 in power shots. He also was more accurate overall (29 percent to 23 percent) and his jab was more on the mark (17 percent to 12 percent). But the difference -- besides the three first-round knockdowns -- was Pacquiao's precise power punching (43 percent to 36 percent) and his work rate (639-547 in total punches and 408-208 bulge in attempted jabs). More than ever, judges are swayed by activity because that often equates as "pushing the fight."
Both men went against type as the aggressive Pacquiao landed more jabs (48-36) while the cerebral Marquez -- knowing he had a mathematical hill to climb -- attempted more power shots (339-231).
Act II: The second fight unfolded much like the first, both artistically and numerically. Marquez landed more total punches (172-157) and power shots (130-114), plus he connected at a higher rate in all categories (34 percent to 25 percent overall, 21 percent to 14 percent in jabs and 42 percent to 37 percent in power shots). Pacquiao again was the more active fighter as he out-threw Marquez 619-511 overall and out-jabbed him 314-201 (attempts) and 43-42 (connects). Had it not been for a third-round knockdown by Pacquiao, the rematch would have ended in a second draw.
What has happened since: In the seven fights since the Marquez rematch, Pacquiao has won them all and earned belts in four weight classes. In every fight -- with the notable exception of his most recent bout against Shane Mosley -- Pacquiao seemed to get better and more effective.
Since meeting Marquez, Pacquiao averaged 79.2 punches per round, of which he landed 34 percent. That percentage was a mixed bag, for while his jab remains inaccurate (4.0 of 30.9, 13.1 percent), his power punching more than made up for it (22.9 of 48.3, 47.5 percent). Pacquiao's defensive numbers -- despite his whirlwind attack -- are better than average as he was hit 24.8 percent overall (a plus-9.2), 19 percent jabs (minus-5.9) and 31.2 percent power (plus-16.3). Power punches made up 61.2 percent of Pacquiao's offense.
In Pacquiao's welterweight fights against Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey and Shane Mosley, the numbers are similar. He averaged 76.1 punches per round (23.3 percent above the divisional norm), landing 29.4 percent overall (slightly below the 32.8 percent baseline), 10.6 percent of his jabs (56.1 percent below the norm) and 42.9 percent of his power shots (8.9 percent above the norm). Power punches comprised 58.2 percent of his offense. On defense, Pacquiao boasts a plus-3.3 overall, a minus-9.4 in jabs and a plus-11 in power shots.
As for Marquez, he has remained steady offensively. Marquez averaged 58.5 punches per round and enjoyed 36.1 percent accuracy (8.4 percent above the lightweight norm); his 26.7 percent jab accuracy is 8.1 percent above the baseline, as is his 44.2 percent power accuracy. Power shots made up 53.6 percent of his offense, suggesting a balanced attack. Defensively, Marquez has a plus-2.9 (overall), a minus-5.1 in jabs and a plus-9.9 in power shots.
But remove the lopsided Mayweather loss and Marquez's numbers improve -- 61.4 punches per round, 41.5 percent overall accuracy (27 percent above the norm), 31.4 percent jab accuracy (31.3 percent above) and 50 percent power accuracy (28.4 percent above). On defense, Marquez would've enjoyed a plus-13.2 overall, a plus-7.5 in jabs and a plus-18.6 in power. Unfortunately for Marquez, the Mayweather fight did happen and the mileage accrued will always be there.
Prediction: Pacquiao has improved while Marquez has regressed since their second fight. The "Pac-Man" is also motivated to produce an "erase all doubts" performance and against a 38-year-old Marquez he'll succeed by mid-rounds KO.