LAS VEGAS, United States - If round one of the fourth clash between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez was a bodybuilding contest, then score it 10-9 for Marquez.
Despite weighing four pounds less than Pacquiao's 147 pounds at 143, the former three-division world champion Marquez of Mexico City, Mexico brought the most impressive physique of his career to the scales on Friday night, December 7 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev.
Sporting an action figure-like upper body, Marquez (54-6-1, 39 knockouts) drew unanimous cheers from the nearly 6,000 in attendance to witness the official weigh-in. Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KOs) of General Santos City, Philippines, who looked lean and ripped himself, drew a mixed reaction of mostly boos from the crowd that appeared to be at least half Mexican.
Marquez's weight is one pound heavier than his previous highs, which were the 142 pounds that he checked in at in his third Pacquiao fight last November and his bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2009. Pacquiao, who has won titles in a record-setting eight divisions, weighed in at the 147 pound limit for the second straight time, matching his career high.
'Skills win fights'
At age 39, Marquez has been able to transform his body since hiring strength coach Angel "Memo'' Hernandez last year. Hernandez turned government witness during the infamous BALCO case after admitting to providing performance enhancing drugs to athletes but has vehemently denied using any illegal substances in preparing Marquez for his bouts.
Perhaps the only person in attendance who hadn't noticed any physical changes in Marquez was Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank Inc., the company which will be promoting tomorrow night's event.
"I didn't see any difference from before, but I'm going to be 81 tomorrow," said Arum. "My eyes aren't so good."
One observer in attendance who wasn't awed by Marquez's appearance was Roger Mayweather, a former two-division world champion and the trainer of his nephew, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
"That don't mean shit," said Mayweather. "Physique don't win fights; skills win fights."
When asked who he thought would win on Saturday, Mayweather confidently picked Pacquiao. "Pacquiao's gonna win because he has power on his side," said Mayweather. " I can't see how he could possibly lose."
Pacquiao, 33, is coming off a controversial decision loss to American Timothy Bradley in June, while Marquez defeated Ukrainian Serhiy Fedchenko in Mexico this past April in his most recent outing.
Pacquiao and Marquez first met in 2004 in a featherweight title match, with Marquez surviving three knockdowns in the first round to salvage a 12-round draw.
Four years later, they faced again in a rematch for Marquez's 130-pound title, with Pacquiao eking out a close split-decision victory. Their third bout, which was won by Pacquiao by majority-decision, drew controversy as many felt Marquez was deserving of the win.
This fourth bout will be the first time Pacquiao and Marquez meet without a world title at stake.
In the co-featured bout, Filipino contender Michael Farenas (34-3-4, 26 KOs) of Gubat, Sorsogon, Philippines will meet two-time Olympic gold medalist and former unified featherweight titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa (21-0, 16 KOs) of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for the interim WBA super featherweight title. Both Farenas and Gamboa weighed in at the 130 pound limit.
Gamboa is promoted by hip hop star 50 Cent, while Farenas is represented by former two-division titleholder Gerry Penalosa.
Also on the televised portion of the card, unbeaten Filipino contender Mercito Gesta (26-0-1, 14 KOs) of San Diego, Calif. by way of Mandaue City, Cebu, Philippines will meet IBF lightweight titleholder Miguel Vazquez (32-3, 13 KOs) of Guadalajara, Mexico in Gesta's first shot at a world title. Gesta weighed in at 134 pounds, which was a pound lighter than Vazquez. - Rappler.com
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and is a columnist for The Ring magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.