Flying out to Vegas for this one…

Two items from the Juan Manuel Marquez camp really stood out to me during the HBO 24/7 series.  The first was Nacho Berestein’s acknowledgement that Manny Pacquiao has improved as a fighter since his last meeting with Marquez.  The second is Berestein’s feeing that Manny’s improved technical ability actually makes him easier to fight.  Nacho said something along the lines of Manny being easier to figure out now that he is less of a “wildcat”. 

These two statements are pretty fascinating from my standpoint.  A) I think it speaks volumes that the trainer of Manny’s archrival would admit that Manny is vastly improved.  Remember there are still some Pacquiao “haters” out there who refuse to acknowledge that Manny has evolved as a fighter.  B) It’s interesting to think about the possibly that Manny’s more refined style actually makes him easier to fight from a counterpuncher’s standpoint.  If you recall, earlier in Pacquiao’s career (think pre-David Diaz or before), Manny was totally unpredictable and his punch angles were often very weird / unorthodox.  Manny’s straight shots are actually straight now.  (Previously, you couldn’t fault someone for wondering if a Pacquiao left hand was intended to be a straight left, an overhand left, or just a haymaker.)

My sense is that Berestein is right on both points.  To be clear, just because Pacquiao’s more orthodox style makes him easier for a counterpuncher like Marquez to fight does not mean Marquez has a good chance of victory here.  Pacquiao still has physically superiority over Marquez and is proven at welterweight.  This is compounded to by two factors.  Under Alex Ariza, Manny has increased his strength, size, and possibly even speed.  On the flipside, Marquez seems to be slowing down with age.

Remember that Marquez was getting beat up by Juan Diaz in the early going in their first fight before he figured him out and KO’d Diaz with a series of uppercuts.  Note that Diaz was landing quite a lot of punches in those first 5-6 rounds.  Also keep in mind that Manny is even more accurate and hits harder.  In Marquez’s  most recent bout, Michael Katsidis even knocked him down with one punch.  A key point is that these are LIGHTWEIGHTS that are backing Marquez up and even knocking him down.  Manny has knocked down and backed up very sturdy welterweights / junior middleweights such as Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, and even Antonio Margarito.  If Manny can hurt guys like Margarito who have respected chins and Marquez is getting backed up by lightweights…

With Marquez being a slow starter and Pacquiao’s desire to make a statement here, I wouldn’t be surprised if this ended in 6 rounds.

The pick to win is obviously Pacquiao.  How do we make money though?  To maximize your potential return, my suggested bet would be to take either (1) Pacquiao to win by KO or (2) the under 10.5 rounds.

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