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.

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.