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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 May, 2004, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Little men to the rescue
By Ben Dirs

Manny Pacquiao
Pacquiao is a former two-weight world champion
Nobody ever tells the little fellas when boxing is supposed to be on its last legs - certainly not Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.

After the shoe-gazing that accompanied the latest round of heavyweight title fights, the world's two best featherweights will serve up the perfect antidote in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Anyone depressed about the state of the sport should take note.

Last November, Filipino superstar Pacquiao dismantled the great Marco Antonio Barrera with a stunning display to become the division's consensus king.

"Pac Man" was expected to take a victory tour against inferior foes but, perhaps mindful his status was purely honorific, went straight for the man with the belts.

Marquez is the IBF and WBA champion, has built an enviable record of 42-2 (33) and brings 13 straight wins into Saturday's fight.

Manny's in great shape and as fast as hell. His footwork's fantastic and so is his power
Pacquiao's sparring partner
Ben Dunne

But the 30-year-old from Mexico City has been ducked more times than a helicopter blade and Pacquiao is his ticket to the big time.

One man to give "Dinamita" the swerve was Naseem Hamed, and the Sheffield enigma has much in common with Marquez's latest opponent.

Like Hamed, the 25-year-old Pacquiao comes at you from all angles with a maelstrom of punches and is every bit as compelling.

But where Hamed fell short against Barrera, Pacquiao made his name and became a hero par excellence in his native land.

Unlike "The Prince", Pacquiao, with trainer Freddie Roach, was able to tame the wilder aspects of his style and sawed right through Barrera's defences.

Pacquiao had Barrera down twice and the former two-weight world champion was pulled out of a contest for the first time since 1996.

Given Barrera's status, it was a contest shocking in its one-sided brutality.

Marco Antonio Barrera
Barrera was demolished by Pacquiao last November

However, Pacquiao's team may have been lulled into a false sense of security by the ease with which he won.

It came to light in the run-up to the fight that Barrera had been fighting with metal plates in his skull since 1997 and it has since been suggested he was under-prepared.

In short, some are unconvinced the real "Baby Faced Assassin" turned up to face Pacquiao in Texas and maybe Pacquiao has underestimated Marquez, a wily fighter who thrives on countering aggressive opponents.

However, Irish featherweight prospect Ben Dunne, who has been sparring with the Filipino at Roach's Wild Card gym, disagrees.

"Manny's in great shape and as fast as hell. His footwork's fantastic and so is his power.

"Marquez's game is going to be to fight on the counter but Manny's camp have prepared for it.

"Manny comes so fast from all different angles - he's devastating. How Marquez is going to deal with that is beyond me."

Most agree that if Marquez does win, it will be his size and power that carry him through.

But Pacquiao, a former world champion at 112 and 122lbs, seems to have brought speed and power into the nine stone ranks.

Bookmakers on both sides of the pond cannot split the two men and neither can boxing pundits around the globe.

Either way, Hallelujah for the little men, who refuse to fiddle while boxing's blue-chip division burns.


SEE ALSO
Pacquiao to step up
16 Jan 04  |  Boxing
Barrera suffers shock defeat
16 Nov 03  |  Boxing


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