The poundage is the same. The composition is different. The debate is just beginning.
Juan Manuel Marquez scaled 142 pounds in front of a capacity crowd of more than 5,000 fans at Friday's weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, the exact same number he hit for his disappointing defeat to Floyd Mayweather two years ago. But for that weigh-in, the words of Paul Simon echoed in our heads: "Why am I so soft in the middle now?" For Saturday's bout with Manny Pacquiao, Marquez is not a soft 142. He's a more muscular 142, thick up and down his torso.
Unquestionably, the lightweight champion found a better way to bulk up. But the question remains: Should he have bulked up at all?
Pacquiao weighed 143 pounds (his lightest weight in five fights), thinner above the waist than Marquez but with thighs and calves as well-suited for the Preakness as for the prize ring. Officially, the two fighters are separated by just a pound. And neither man is likely to rehydrate and blow up to a markedly different weight overnight. There is no real size difference between Pacquiao and Marquez.
There are many, however, who believe Marquez would have been better off allowing there to be a size difference. His best work in recent years has been done at 135 pounds or below. Added bulk might give Marquez's punches added impact, and it might allow him to absorb Pacquiao's power better. But it also might hamper his speed, his elusiveness, his agility. Marquez could have conceded weight in order to ensure that he would be able to make Pacquiao miss and then counterpunch quickly. Maybe he'll be as quick as ever on Saturday night, having added weight "the right way." If not, his decision to try to go pound for pound against the pound-for-pound king will be debated long after the final punch is thrown.
One thing is beyond debate: The crowd is behind Pacquiao. Throughout the undercard weigh-in, fans chanted "Man-ny! Man-ny!" and held up Filipino flags and homemade posters, most of them decorated with a certain chomping yellow video game character. The boos drowned out the cheers when Marquez was introduced; the reverse was true a moment later when Pacquiao stepped through the black curtain. And Pacquiao appeared genuinely humbled and touched by the show of support, a "this never gets old" look spreading across his face.
HBO broadcast the weigh-in live (a first), and commentator Max Kellerman asked Pacquiao as they stood on the stage what he liked most about the experience. "I like the fans screaming," Pacquiao replied.
Look for the screams to get even louder the next time Pacquiao and Marquez go face to face.
With regard to the pay-per-view undercard, five of the six fighters weighed in without incident. Juan Carlos Burgos tipped the scales at 129 pounds, Luis Cruz at 130. Mike Alvarado and Breidis Prescott were each 140 pounds. And Timothy Bradley and his mind-boggling abdominal muscles were on the junior welterweight limit of 140. But Bradley's opponent, Joel Casamayor, stripped all the way down and still came in one pound over. So it was off to the sauna to try to sweat off another 16 ounces, which he did successfully, balancing the beam at 140 about one hour later.