Pacquiao-Marquez 2012: A technical comparison

Carlos Cinco
In preparation for the fourth bout between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, Rappler analyzes and compares the fighters' technical skills. Part one looks at their footwork, jabs and counterpunching abilities.

SINGAPORE – They’ve fought three other times before, each time ending with similar results: a controverslal decision that could have gone either way.

Regardless of who received the official verdict and tally in the win column, neither fighter has achieved the ultimate accomplishment – the consensus win over the other. Even if officially, Manny Pacquiao has taken all three wins over Juan Manuel Marquez.

Pacquiao and Marquez are considered polar opposites.

Pacquiao is the offensive dynamo, relying greatly on his freakish physical ability to imbue him with incredible speed and immense power upon a seemingly boundless reservoir of energy. This devastating combo has slapped Marquez around the ring like a ragdoll for years, giving him a taste of canvas a total of four times so far.

Marquez is the yin to Pacquiao’s yang. The Mexican is a cerebral assassin. He uses well-placed traps inside the ring to manipulate his opponent, make him go where he wants him to go, react the way he wants him to react. Marquez is the ultimate puppeteer, and throughout the years has made Pacquiao his unwilling puppet.

It’s now 2012, and the two fighters have logged 36 total rounds against each other yet we still find ourselves dead even. At this stage in their careers, let’s compare each fighter against the other ahead of their fourth (and perhaps final) bout.

1. Footwork


Marquez shows a more textbook approach to footwork than Pacquiao. He’s got solid speed on his feet and at age 38 does not seem to be slowing down at all. Footwork is key to getting away from Pacquiao’s dynamic offense. Marquez uses footwork to set up his feints and power shots. 

Marquez’s main technique is the feint and circle. He knows Pacquiao’s main weapon is the straight left hand down the middle. Knowing Pacquiao fights at a certain rhythm, he throws hard and soft feints to ‘reset’ his opponent. This is frustrating for Pacquiao because feints are ‘fake attacks’. Once Pacquiao succumbs to the frustration, he lunges in for an ill-advised attack, one that Marquez can see coming a mile away thus giving him the ability to avoid it.

Part of the reason Marquez is so effective against Pacquiao is because he can effectively turn Pacquiao back into a one-dimensional, one-handed fighter. This is done with good footwork, circling away from Pacquiao’s money shot. Refer to Marquez’s first three fights against Pacquiao to understand.


Pacquiao’s footwork is perhaps the most beautiful thing about his overall game, and is very different from that of Marquez. His footwork is like magic: he’s able to shuffle his feet around like a blur, getting on either side of his opponent with ease. He’s bouncy and erratic, making him hard to predict.

And the fact that he can dart into the contact zone and dart back out like a flash is what makes him who he is.

Some people credit Pacquiao’s hand speed to be his main weapon, but it’s clear that his foot speed is what fuels everything. Pacquiao likes to keep on his toes. He relies heavily on rhythm and motion, and has abnormally fast and nimble feet. Just take a look at Pacquiao’s enormous calves that are now pretty much a trademark for him.

His legs allow him to keep a frenetic pace of constant motion, bouncing up and down, shuffling side to side in quick, rapid bursts. When in trouble, Pacquiao is one of the best at scurrying away quickly and out of harm’s way. But his legs, and subsequently footwork is used primarily as part of his offensive repertoire.

The way Pacquiao can quickly enter the contact zone and unleash his combinations as quickly as he can get back out and away from retaliation is his true strength as a fighter. Because of this, Pacquiao is never ‘out of range’, keeping opponents constantly on the defensive. Case in point: Pacquiao’s fights with Oscar de la Hoya, and Antonio Margarito.


2. Jab


Neither Pacquiao nor Marquez do much with their jabs.

For Pacquiao it’s just a basic double-jab. He almost paws with it and uses it as a range-finder. Behind the double-jab comes the straight left hand for Pacquiao which Marquez likened to a “bullet.” Aside from that, the jab is virtually non-existent in Pacquiao’s game.

In fact, the jab actually works to his detriment. It’s so predictable, Marquez can see it coming from a mile away. The minute Pacquiao unleashes that double-jab, Marquez knows what’s next and he effectively gets away from it.

Normally you would tell fighters to ‘jab’ their way in, but in Pacquiao’s case, it’s much better for him to fight behind his combinations. For any other fighter, the jab is a key tool in the offensive repertoire. But for Pacquiao, it’s best used sparingly.

The reason being Pacquiao is just simply not a technical fighter by any means. He’s a supercharged fireball of a fighter who should stay true to himself and stop trying to outbox Marquez because it will never happen.


Marquez is actually no different. He also uses the jab as somewhat of a range-finder.

However, he does use the jab erratically to throw Pacquiao off his rhythm. Once again, Pacquiao fights in a certain rhythm, and it’s in Marquez’s best interest to take him out of it as often as possible.

Marquez likes to use the jab as a feint at times. He’ll fake with it, he’ll extend it, he’ll use it to keep Pacquiao at bay.
The thing with Marquez is, he does everything right to confuse Pacquiao and make him tentative on the offensive end, and that’s the secret to Marquez’s game. It really is a mental war with Marquez, one that Pacquiao has yet to win.

Whereas Pacquiao would best be served to use the jab sparingly, Marquez’s best bet is to use the jab to thwart a surging Manny and stop him dead in his tracks.


3. Counterpunching


Let’s get one thing straight: Marquez is perhaps the greatest counterpuncher in the history of the sport.

No one mixes counterpunching with technical mastery quite like he does. He will draw you in with his feints and once you overextend on your punches, his counters are automatic and are packed with power.

The reason he’s able to land so cleanly on Manny is because he gets Manny to overcommit on his offense, and when he does, Marquez is there to counter. Every. Single. Time.

As soon as Pacquiao overreaches on his double-jab, straight left combo, Marquez will pivot to his right, to avoid Pacquiao’s left. When Pacquiao misses, this will leave him in a vulnerable position. Marquez then likes to counter this with a straight right hand of his own, followed by a combination.

This process is washed, rinsed and repeated over the course of 12 rounds. Pacquiao is often helpless as he gets drawn into Marquez’s desired position. Marquez then just picks him apart with his counterpunch combos.


Pacquiao has developed some counterpunching skills of his own which started to show way back in the David Diaz fight. Credit Freddie Roach on that. But his counterpunching skills come more from muscle-memory than they do from Pacquiao’s strategic approach.

In other words, Pacquiao’s body “remembers” when to throw counters based on his hours of mitt work with Freddie Roach but he isn’t able to counter voluntarily the way Marquez is able to. He’s not a thinking fighter in the same vein of Marquez.

Pacquiao practices his counterpunching sets in the gym against mitts and heavy bags and sparring partners. Roach sets up visual triggers to unleash Manny’s counters. See Pacquiao against Ricky Hatton and Pacquiao against Miguel Cotto.

The Hatton and Cotto fights are the prime examples of this. Notice how when the moment Ricky Hatton drops his left hand to throw his hook, Pacquiao throws the right hook over the top of it every time. He knocked Hatton down this way and repeatedly tagged Cotto with it too. This is due to muscle memory and Pacquiao’s body remembering how to react to a certain situation.

In short, Pacquiao’s counterpunching ability is built-in to his amazing reflexes. Again, credit Freddie Roach.


Read Part Two here which compares hooks, relentless. defense and combinations.

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