Boxing

 
             === Patient Marquez produces movie-quality ending ===
 
 By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Boxing Editor
 
 Cape Coral, FL (Sports Network) - I'm what you'd call a cinema savant.
 
 I  don't go to  many movies -- in fact, I probably haven't been to five in the
 last  five years  -- but when I find  one I like I tend to watch it repeatedly
 until nearly every sliver of dialogue is memorized.
 
 So  it's hardly a surprise that as Manny Pacquiao lay face down and motionless
 on  the MGM Grand canvas, my early Sunday morning reactions instantly revolved
 around favorite on-screen quotes.
 
 And  when a  few days  have  passed and  ring highlights  have been  dissected
 Zapruder-style  to wit's  end, it's certainly a  more fun way to churn out the
 week's 1,000 words.
 
 Here,  then, are a few flicks I immediately thought of while still wobbly from
 a post-KO buzz:
 
 "To  beat me,  he's gonna have to kill  me. And to kill me, he's gonna have to
 have the heart to stand in front of me. And to do that, he's got to be willing
 to                                die                                himself."
 -- Rocky Balboa, Rocky IV, 1985
 
 I  concede that  quoting a series whose scenes were more caveman than cavalier
 is an odd tribute to Juan Manuel Marquez; but the more I thought about what it
 takes to actually employ counterpunching on the highest level, the more I came
 back to these words from Stallone to screen wife Talia Shire.
 
 While  appreciating  the beauty of  the right  hand that ended Pacquiao's stay
 atop pound-for-pound lists, the amount of courage it took to be ready to throw
 such  a  shot might get  lost. Bottom line,  while a lot  of guys can evade an
 aggressive  foe  and later  pounce on  a tiring  attacker, only  a few -- like
 Marquez  on Saturday  -- stay deep enough  in harm's way to both draw the fire
 and
 launch the decisive return.
 
 Sure,  Rocky  was talking about  a significantly  different brand of combat 27
 years  ago  in the fourth-best installment  of his signature six-pack, but his
 theme was still spot on for what occurred in Vegas right around 1 a.m. Sunday.
 
 "What                    is                   ya,                   ignorant?"
 -- Cellmate No. 2, Trading Places, 1983
 
 Anyone  who's read  my stuff  over the  years knows  I've not  been Pacquiao's
 biggest  fan.  There's no denying what  he's done while climbing the scales is
 remarkable  -- and unprecedented -- but I've long believed Bob Arum deserved a
 huge  share of  the  credit  for making  matches  that  accentuated his  man's
 positives and sidestepped his negatives.
 
 That  said,  the alacrity shown  by those  fleeing the Pacman bandwagon within
 hours  of Kenny Bayless's  wave-off stunned even the cynic in me. In fact, the
 deposed  seven-division champion had barely been revived and dispatched on the
 five-mile  trip to University Medical Center before the vultures began picking
 at what they perceived as decaying remains of a once-great career.
 
 And  while I'll  assign the predictable "See, this is what happens when you're
 off  PEDs" jabs  to the cretins who  provide little of value at any hour, I've
 got to wonder if the normally rational sorts who suddenly strayed were already
 falling victim to the Strip's well-chronicled after-hours charms.
 
 Most  egregious among  the exodus was a post-mortem P4P list on which Pacquiao
 plummeted  from  fourth to  12th, with  rationale that  included his losses to
 Marquez  and Tim Bradley in 2012 and the questionable decision over Marquez in
 2011.  Among  those passing him on  the dubious inventory were Nonito Donaire,
 Carl  Froch and  the aforementioned  Bradley, not  to mention  Wlad Klitschko,
 Abner Mares, Adrien Broner and even Lucas Matthysse.
 
 In my bleary-eyed morning-after state, all I had were questions.
 
 Not  the least of which were... doesn't it reek of double jeopardy to penalize
 a
 guy  both for getting a lousy verdict (Marquez, 2011) and losing one (Bradley,
 2012)? And... can only NASA ascertain how the WBO welter champ went from three
 spots  behind  Pacquiao to  five  spots  ahead  without  throwing a  punch  --
 especially when 99.9 percent of lucid observers felt the Filipino won big when
 they met?
 
 It  made no  sense to me then and  it hasn't changed since. But whether just a
 contrarian  way to draw readers or actually a misguided thought process on the
 author's  part,  the best byproduct for  me was how well it embodied Giancarlo
 Esposito's stellar cameo in one of my all-time favorite flicks.
 
 "The  house  always wins. Play  long enough, you  never change the stakes. The
 house  takes you. Unless,  when that perfect hand comes along, you bet and you
 bet         big,         then        you        take        the        house."
 -- Danny Ocean, Ocean's Eleven, 2001
 
 For the record, let me say upfront that not only do I hope Marquez will retire
 after  one  of the sport's greatest  final scenes, I honestly believe he will.
 But  in the event he doesn't, his career-defining right to Pacquiao's jaw most
 certainly changed the stakes in his favor going forward.
 
 Should  he parlay  the win into a  duel with someone not named Manny, he could
 legitimately  expect  a purse in the  environs of the $6  mill he drew to be a
 sidekick.  And  if the  promoter is  prescient and  a fifth  match is what the
 Mexican  really desires,  the landscape he created with a single blow puts him
 in an eight-figure stratosphere reserved for the game's truly high rollers.
 
 It's proof that good guys sometimes do win.
 
 And  for a veteran who'd seen the house take him three times in three previous
 tries -- in as excruciating a fashion imaginable short of water-boarding -- it
 was an exit perfectly worthy of a Clooney/Pitt caper.
 
 
 
 This week's title-fight schedule:
 
 SATURDAY
 IBF       bantamweight      title       --      Los       Angeles,      Calif.
 Leo     Santa    Cruz    (champion)    vs.    Alberto    Guevara    (unranked)
 Santa  Cruz (22-0-1,  13 KO): Third title defense; Eleven stoppages in last 12
 fights
 Guevara   (16-0,  6  KO):  First  title  fight;  First  fight  outside  Mexico
 Fitzbitz  says: "Huge  step up for Mexican challenger likely to end in painful
 fall as streaking incumbent gets a network TV showcase." Santa Cruz in 7
 
 WBA       super       bantamweight      title      --      Houston,      Texas
 Guillermo   Rigondeaux   (champion)  vs.   Poonsawat  Kratingdaenggym  (No.  2
 contender)
 Rigondeaux  (11-0,  8 KO):  Third title  defense; Second  fight in Texas (1-0)
 Kratingdaenggym  (48-2,  33 KO): Sixth title  fight; Held WBA title in 2009-10
 (two                                                                 defenses)
 Fitzbitz  says: "Thai  veteran dwarfs champion in terms of experience, but has
 been  just  mediocre in previous title  events in weight class." Rigondeaux by
 decision
 
 WBO        cruiserweight       title        --       Nuremberg,        Germany
 Arthur    Abraham   (champion)   vs.   Mehdi   Bouadla   (No.   2   contender)
 Abraham  (35-3,  27 KO):  First  title  defense;  Unbeaten in  Germany  (33-0)
 Bouadla  (26-4, 11  KO):  First title  fight; Second  fight  in Germany  (0-1)
 Fitzbitz  says: "Homestanding  champion should continue excel on familiar turf
 while  facing foe  clearly lacking  in the  championship fight  qualifications
 department." Abraham in 8
 
 WBO      junior      featherweight      title      --      Houston,      Texas
 Nonito    Donaire   (champion)    vs.   Jorge    Arce   (No.    1   contender)
 Donaire  (30-1,  19 KO): Third title  defense; Unbeaten above 118 pounds (4-0)
 Arce (61-6-2, 46 KO): Nineteenth title fight; Held titles at 108, 115, 118 and
 122                               (nine                              defenses)
 Fitzbitz  says: "Mexican action hero is rarely in a bad fight, but probably in
 over his head when it comes to streaking Filipino with equally concussive work
 rate." Donaire in 10
 
 WBO     junior     bantamweight    title     --    San    Miguel,    Argentina
 Omar    Narvaez    (champion)   vs.   David   Quijano   (No.   11   contender)
 Narvaez  (37-1-2, 20  KO):  Sixth  title defense;  Unbeaten  below 118  pounds
 Quijano  (15-2-1, 9 KO): First title defense; One loss in six fights at 115 or
 below
 Fitzbitz  says: "Argentine  champion has been a master of his own weight-class
 domain  and should  continue the run, even against opponent more than a decade
 his junior." Narvaez by decision
 
 NOTE:  Fights  previewed are  only those involving  a sanctioning body's full-
 fledged  title-holder --  no interim,  diamond,  silver, etc.  Fights for  WBA
 "world  championships" are  only included if no "super champion" exists in the
 weight class.
 
 Last                    week's                   picks:                    0-1
 Overall picks record: 456-151 (75.1 percent)
 
 
 Lyle  Fitzsimmons  is a veteran  sports columnist who's written professionally
 since  1988 and covered  boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and
 posted  online  for  clients  in  North  America  and  Europe.  Reach  him  at
 fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter: @fitzbitz.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 12/11 11:14:01 ET

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