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 position outlook: Will three catchers make Opening Day roster?

A's position outlook: Will three catchers make Opening Day roster?

The A’s have options at the catcher position, and with those options come decisions to make.

Figure that manager Bob Melvin and the rest of Oakland’s front office will use the length of spring training to evaluate their catching corps, and the decisions that eventually come down will impact the rest of the roster.

Stephen Vogt and Josh Phegley could form a natural left-right platoon, as they did to begin last season. But Phegley is coming off right knee surgery that ended his 2016 season in July and proved more problematic than anticipated as he recovered. His status can’t be adequately judged until camp begins and he’s behind the plate testing his mobility.

Adding intrigue to the catching puzzle was last season’s emergence of Bruce Maxwell, who hit .283 after making his major league debut in July and shows defensive upside.

Might the A’s keep three catchers to begin the season? Melvin acknowledged that possibility when asked about it during the winter meetings. Vogt has played first base and the outfield in the past, so he provides a little flexibility. But keeping him, Phegley and Maxwell would short the A’s roster elsewhere.

There are decisions to make, but a full Cactus League exhibition season should influence how things shake out at catcher.

STARRING CAST: Maxwell’s emergence, and the fact he hits left-handed, made the 32-year-old Vogt a potential trade piece this winter. But the veteran is still an Athletic and has been an All-Star in back-to-back seasons, though his 2016 stats didn’t jump off the page. He hit .251 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI, delivering a much better first half than second half offensively. But Vogt’s biggest value comes with his clubhouse leadership and ability to connect with his pitchers. He’s the unofficial team spokesman, always willing to stand in front of the cameras after a tough loss. His steadying presence is even more important on a team that annually undergoes such heavy roster turnover.

CAMP COMPETITION: Phegley, 28, missed time in May with a strained right knee, then underwent surgery in July to remove a cyst from the knee. That seemed a rather minor procedure, but Phegley was hospitalized in August after developing a case of synovitis, or inflammation in the knee joints. A’s general manager David Forst said recently that Phegley’s offseason rehab has gone well, but Phegley will remain a question mark until he shows he’s full strength throughout camp.

Maxwell, 26, hadn’t played above Double-A before last season. But he impressed at Triple-A Nashville both with his bat and overall defensive skills. After a slow start in the majors, Maxwell hit .367 over his final 20 games. He began showing flashes of the potential the A’s saw when they made him a second-round pick in 2012 out of tiny Birmingham Southern College.

“Bruce is a guy that maybe in the season you didn't expect to see (before) September, and he’s a guy that came in and made an impact defensively and offensively,” Melvin said during the winter meetings. “It's exciting to have a young catcher like that, especially that hits from the left side of the plate to give Stephen some days off. Stephen is a versatile guy where you can DH him some too, maybe even play him at first base on a day that Yonder (Alonso) gets a day off.”

Could the A’s simply go with Vogt and Maxwell at catcher, though both hit left-handed? Again, Phegley’s health could factor prominently.

PAY ATTENTION TO: A catcher the A’s drafted in the third round last summer, Sean Murphy. He’s a non-roster invitee to big league camp. Murphy, who attended Wright State, is said to be a gifted catcher defensively, with mlb.com’s Jim Callis saying last June that Murphy had the strongest arm of any catcher in the 2016 draft.

Raiders name former Chargers DC as assistant head coach-defense

Raiders name former Chargers DC as assistant head coach-defense

Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio has hired former Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano, the team announced on Monday evening. He will be the team’s assistant head coach on the defensive side of the ball.

Pagano has spent most of his coaching career in San Diego, working with the Chargers in various capacities since 2002. He was promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator in 2012, where he led that unit for five seasons.

Pagano and Del Rio worked together in 1997, when Pagano was a New Orleans Saints defensive assistant and Del Rio was the assistant strength coach.

Pagano was a longtime linebackers coach before becoming a play caller. He has worked with several quality pass rushers and has proven to be adept at creating pressure.

The Raiders created a position for Pagano, who will help a defense that ranked 26th in yards allowed and dead last in sacks. Pagano was looking for a different gig after new Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn hired Gus Bradley as his defensive coordinator. 

Ken Norton Jr. remains defensive coordinator, but Pagano will bring experience and creativity to the game-planning process.

He has worked within a 3-4 defensive scheme, but has experience in all formations. The Raiders run multiple defensive fronts.

Pagano is the assistant coach on defense, while offensive line coach Mike Tice has a similar title on the offensive side. The Raiders have a vacancy on the staff, and are looking for a new defensive backs coach.

John Pagano is the younger brother of Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano.