Does Marquez stand a chance facing Pacquiao?

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Does Marquez stand a chance facing Pacquiao?

Earlier this week Ring Magazines website asked a panel of 15 fighters, trainers, and scribes to prognosticate tomorrow nights third clash between archrivals Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.

The verdict was resolute, as 11 of themSugar Ray Leonard and this writer includedpredicted a Pacquiao win by knockout, with 14 total votes for the WBO welterweight champion from the Philippines, who is generally regarded the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport today.

Virgil Hunter, celebrated trainer of WBA super middleweight champion Andre Ward of Oakland, was the lone voice of dissent in the chorus. Staying in line with the pattern of the first two hotly contested bouts that were separated by just one point, Hunter has tabbed Marquez to pull out a split decision in a fight that will take place at 144 pounds, 14 above their last scrap three years ago.
CONTEST: Win a Pacquiao-Marquez autographed glove!

Logic says Manny Pacquiao because of the weight difference and things of that nature, Hunter said. But I just cant count out Juan Manuel Marquez, because he knows so much about Pacquiao.

In a sense, hes right. Aside from a decision loss to Erik Morales in 2005 that was avenged with two emphatic knockout wins, the only other competitive fights on Pacquiaos record in the past decade since his arrival in America have been the split decision victory and split draw with Mexico Citys Marquez.

In those two entertaining wars, Dinamita rose off the canvas four times to expose several flaws in Pacquiaos defense, clocking him on countless occasions and buckling his legs with pinpoint counterpunching.

Thus, while the Pac-Man proved he could solve the puzzle Morales presented, he has yet to definitively unlock what seems to be Daedalus Labyrinth embodied in Marquez, whose ring generalship and poise amid pressure has continuously confounded Pacquiao.

HUNTER NOT ALONE IN HIS ANALYSIS

Timothy Bradley, the reigning WBO junior welterweight champion, fights Joel Casamayor on tomorrows undercard and is one of the candidates to face Pacquiao next if the Fight to End All Fights with Floyd Mayweather Jr. does not occur next spring. The Palm Springs native thinks that Pacquiao is far from invincible as well.

Every fighter makes errors, Bradley told online reporter Elie Seckbach and others after a public workout last Saturday. The thing is, you got to capitalize on themManny Pacquiao punches from the weirdest angleswhen he feints you, he wants you to cover up. Hell spin around you, sidestep you, run those combinations off of you, and do it again.

Bradley then briefly delved into his formula for defeating Pacquiao.

You come back on him, hell just lay up on the ropes, hell put his hands up, and hell let you punch him, he said. At that time, hes recovering. Hes taking a breather. Then after you stop, he comes right back on youYou got to isolate him with your feet and have good defense.

Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward is another influential figure in the sport who isnt quite ready to rule out a Marquez upset. In a recent interview with HBO.coms Eric Raskin, the former trainer of Thomas Hearns and current cornerman of heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, is also of the mindset that against a seemingly indomitable battering ram like Pacquiao, the best offense is a stingy defense.

One sticking point pertained to Pacquiaos vulnerability after rattling off his combinations, as he often finds himself out of balance.

Sometimes Pacquiao rushes in recklessly, and most of the guys he fights are just blocking the punches, so he gets away with it, Steward said. But if Marquez just takes a little step back when Manny comes in, he can make him lose his balance and then he can counterpunch when Manny gets out of position. Marquez proved in the first two fights that hes capable of doing this.

Never was this idea more evident than during the two combatants meeting on HBOs FaceOff last month, when both Pacquiao and Marquez agreed that gaining position on the inside has beenand will bea deciding factor on who comes out of their various exchanges the more accurate puncher.
GUTIERREZ: Pacquiao-Marquez III -- What's changed

Obviously Pacquiaos trainer Freddie Roach has also looked at the same film that we have, and hes noted that weve always won the combat zone as I like to call it, said Marquez trainer Nacho Beristain, his words translated from Spanish. Its important that we do it again.

We know its not going to be easy. Its going to be tough to do it again, but thats why we work so hard. You have to be smart enough to know how to do it and when to do it, and thats something Juan is capable of doing.
TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL?

Perhaps the final wild card in this equation is Marquez addition of strength coach Angel Hernandez, who has helped to sculpt the 38-year-olds body to handle the rigors of battle above his usual lightweight limit of 135 pounds. While Pacquiaos body has grown 12 pounds heavier into welterweight, Marquez has not.

After all, the main factor behind his virtual shutout loss against Mayweather two years ago was his inability to carry the extra poundage. In his only other foray at welterweight, Marquez was flabby, slow, and powerless to put a dent in the Money mans chin.

However, this hiring has met its share of controversy, as former BALCO chief Victor Conte used his Twitter account last week to out Hernandez as the former Angel Heredia, who was a key witness in the BALCO cases after testifying in 2008 that he dealt steroids to numerous track stars including Marion Jones.

For his part, the new-look Marquez went on the record stating he had no idea about Hernandez past until Contes revelation.

We're using all legal supplements permitted by the rules of boxing, Hernandez told Ring Magazines Lem Satterfield after announcing he had filed a lawsuit against Conte for defamation. We're using creatine. Juan Manuel has used amino acids and enzymes that help him to recover and to reduce the lactic acids.

Marquez has also discarded with drinking his own urine, of which he informed the world on HBOs 247 documentary series two weeks ago. Whether these developments will have an impact on tomorrow night is one thing, but referring back to Virgil Hunters original quote, one has to consider the logic as well.

MARQUEZ STILL A HEAVY UNDERDOG

The sportsbook has pegged the Filipino a 9-to-1 favorite, and the bookies make sense. As stated above, no one doubts Marquez knows how to fight him tooth and nail; its just that the jurys out on whether hell be able to execute the gameplan given his perceived physical limitations.

At this stage of his career in a heavier weight class against a 32-year-old lion in his prime who has added a vicious counter right hook since their last fight, to say Marquez has a tall order ahead of him would be an understatement.

Unified bantamweight world champion Nonito Donaire of San Leandro summed up the majority opinion succinctly.

I know that Pacquiao has a lot of power, and you dont really want to underestimate the capability of Marquez, but from his power and from this weight class, I think Marquez is a bit too small for 140 or 147 pounds, Donaire said. I think that fight can end around six or eight rounds if Pacquiao can land his big shots.

Then again, as Virgil Hunter has correctly pointed out, theres a reason why we dont crown our champions before the contests have even commenced. Theres a rationale behind thousands of fans and media descending on Las Vegas or the rest calling their cable subscriber to watch it at home.

Deep down, we know why we even discuss such contingencies in the first place, likely or not. As much as this fight has been labeled a mismatch, even the most repulsed of fans is going to refresh the online browser or check the ticker on the bottom of their television screens for the ultimate result.

Its because fights arent won on paper, and the essence of competition against all odds is what drives sports fans to care about Pacquiao-Marquez III. In most cases, such wishful thinking amounts to nothing more than an exercise in futility.

But in a year where the sport has been riddled with upsets and implausible outcomes, one just has to wonderwhat if?

See you on Sunday morning.

Boxing correspondent Ryan Maquiana is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America, and Ring Magazines Ratings Advisory Panel. E-mail him at rmaquinana@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

MESA, Ariz. — Khris Davis enjoyed quite an offseason travel itinerary, checking out Toronto, taking in the beaches of Hawaii and dining on lobster in Belize.

However, it was the time spent in his adopted hometown of Oakland that most struck a chord with the A’s left fielder. After finishing his first season with the A’s, Davis followed through on his plan to make his offseason home in Oakland, and he was glad he did.

“I got to just feel the heart of the city,” he said upon arriving at camp Sunday. “That was basically the purpose of why I was there. … I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it, honestly. I love the city.”

He trained at Dogtown Athletic, a gym in West Oakland. He took part in the A’s holiday party for kids at the Oakland Zoo, joined by A’s Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who grew up in the city.

“Just to feel these kids’ happiness,” Davis said. “They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They just looked at me as a role model kind of.”

It should be music to the ears of A’s fans that the team’s most dangerous hitter has a love affair with the city he plays in. If the A’s ever entertained the idea of trying to sign Davis to a multi-year extension, and that’s purely hypothetical here, it would help that Davis feels comfortable in his surroundings.

Even when he described Oakland in edgy terms, such as when he said it “has its dark side,” he seemed to find it endearing.

In return, Davis felt the love from the fan base in 2016, hitting a career-high 42 homers with a team-best 102 RBI. That was despite the awful start he got off to, hitting .143 and mustering just one RBI over his first 12 games.

Obviously, any chances the A’s have of improving last year’s American League-worst offense rely on the 29-year-old Davis having another big year. But over-analysis is one thing he tries to avoid.

“I don’t want to get caught up in last year — the slow start and the strong finish, whatever,” he said. “However it was, I’m just ready to do this year.”

Davis decided to back out of his plan to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, saying his main priority was preparing for his A’s season.

“My main focus is to perform for the organization,” he said. “I feel like I want to get off on the right foot this year.”

NOTEWORTHY: Heavy showers continued to pelt Mesa on Sunday, spoiling the A’s first full-squad workout. The hitters were relegated to swinging in the cages and playing catch, while pitchers were scheduled for a day off from throwing on the mound anyway.

“If ever there was a day, at least for the pitchers, that you don’t need to (work out), it’s today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you have everybody there on the first day, you wanna get out on the field and do everything. Hopefully we can incorporate everything tomorrow.”

The A’s have a whopping 70 players in camp, more than in any other spring Melvin can remember as a big league manager. He addressed the full team in a meeting Sunday morning.

His message?

“We’re gonna have to outwork, out-hustle everybody like we have in the past,” he said, “and get back to playing the game with the same tenacity that we did a couple years ago.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Longtime A’s second baseman Mark Ellis is back for the second year in a row as a spring infield instructor. The plan is for Ellis to spend a week with the team now, then another week later in camp.

“I’ll take Mark Ellis as many days as I can have him,” Melvin said.

LIGHTER SIDE: Nursing his broken right foot, starting pitcher Daniel Mengden has been making his way through the clubhouse on a knee scooter in order to keep pressure off his foot.

Apparently, it looks more fun than it really is.

“I contribute to society Friday, when I can start walking again,” Mengden quipped.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days.