After much deliberation, Manny Pacquiao decided that meeting his foil, Juan Manuel Marquez, for a fourth time trumps avenging a controversial loss in a fight most believe he won.
Two sources close to the negotiations but unauthorized to speak publicly about the deal, told The Times on Wednesday that Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 knockouts) will fight Marquez on Dec. 8 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas after rejecting a rematch with Timothy Bradley.
Pacquiao edged Marquez in a majority decision in November, and the two have been separated by only the slightest of margins in their prior 36 rounds.
“Manny is the consummate entertainer and showman who cares about his fans,” Pacquiao manager Michael Koncz said earlier this week as the negotiations turned to favor Marquez. “He heard the boos after his last fight with Marquez. He has a lot of fans in Mexico and loves them. He wants to bring those fans back.”
Promoter Bob Arum said this week that he plans to have each fighter sign the deal Tuesday in Los Angeles when they appear for a news conference.
Arum pushed Pacquiao to consider the merits of another Marquez fight, pointing out that a pay-per-view audience is mostly Latino, and that their third fight resulted in 1.25 million pay-per-view buys compared with the disappointing 850,000 that bought Pacquiao-Bradley in June.
Bradley (29-0, 12 KOs) was given the victory in the World Boxing Organization welterweight title fight despite intense public scorn aimed at Nevada judges Duane Ford and C.J. Ross for dubious scoring, when many at ringside believed Pacquiao won at least nine of the 12 rounds.
Pacquiao had dragged out contemplations between Marquez and Bradley, to the point that speculation emerged he would possibly just wait and try to once again resurrect talks for a long-failed date with unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2013.
As recently as Monday, Pacquiao was said to have favored Bradley as a safer route to ensure positive momentum toward negotiating with Mayweather, Koncz said.
The thinking behind supporting a match with Bradley was that the Palm Springs fighter lacks the punching power to truly hurt Pacquiao, 33. Koncz said Bradley’s cause was hurt because his camp “outpriced” itself.
The fight plan would’ve been for Pacquiao to throw caution to the wind, increasing southpaw star’s stock by providing fans the type of spectacular knockout that helped him captivate the boxing world’s attention during a stretch in which he dominated Erik Morales, Ricky Hatton, Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto.
The November 2009 victory over Cotto is Pacquiao’s most recent knockout.
Last month, Pacquiao was focused on fighting a rematch with former three-division champion Cotto of Puerto Rico, whom Pacquiao defeated by 12th-round technical knockout in 2009.
Cotto fought Mayweather to a decision in May, and Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said Wednesday that he most wanted a shot at Cotto to one-up Mayweather’s victory.
Cotto, however, opted to return to his popular fighting spot, Madison Square Garden in New York, on Dec. 1 to fight unbeaten world super-welterweight champion Austin Trout.
Pacquiao is well-schooled in the difficulty of beating Marquez.
Asked about taking on Marquez again, Roach said, “I don’t like that fight, it’s just always very difficult and no matter what I tell Manny, he’s tempted to go back to his old way, which isn’t working.
“I’m debating what to tell him. I’m thinking, just to be very aggressive the way Manny was when he knocked Marquez down three times in the first round of their first fight.”
The two fought to a draw in 2004, Pacquiao won a split-decision in 2008, and a majority decision in November, but was picked apart at times by Marquez’s counter-punching prowess.
The closed-doors discussion about the Dec. 8 opponent reached the conclusion that it was a 60-40 proposition for Pacquiao to beat Marquez. Yet, the Marquez money was too good to resist, and Pacquiao’s camp maintained after last year’s bout that their fighter was distracted by marital instability and other issues.
“I give that some credit for bothering Manny,” Roach said. “When someone asks you for a divorce the day before you fight, that can’t be easy to deal with. Mentally, he just wasn’t there for that fight.”
“Without all of that stuff running through his mind, Manny knows he’ll be sensational this time,” Koncz said.