Although Manny Pacquiao won a majority decision over Juan Manuel Marquez Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the real winner was Floyd Mayweather Jr.
As Pacquiao and Marquez battled to an extremely close decision for the third time, the contentious outcome favored Mayweather, who dismantled Marquez in 2009.
Pacquiao retained his welterweight title as judges Glenn Trowbridge, 116-112, and Dave Moretti, 115-113, scored the fight for Pacquiao. Robert Hoyle called it a draw, 114-114.
Similar to the first two fights in the series that dates back to 2004, there was certainly no convincing winner in the classic bout. Pacquiao (54-3-2) traded fierce combinations with Marquez (53-6-1) through 12 rounds, and the Mexican may have won the fight, in some opinions.
There were many losers to this fight, though. The clearest losers were the oddsmakers who erroneously picked Pacquiao as the 9-1 favorite. As famed boxing expert Bert Sugar told the International Business Times this week, the fight should have been 4-1 in favor of Pacquiao, but in hindsight that would probably have been a reach, as well.
Other losers include Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, and his strength-and-conditioning coach, Alex Ariza, who audaciously claimed that in this third fight Pacquiao would knock out Marquez. Maybe that was a ploy by the Pacquiao camp in an attempt to have the message find its way to Marquez so that Marquez would fight a different style. That wasn't that case, however, as Marquez maintained his typical toe-to-toe strategy, and took advantage of Pacquiao's susceptibility to being hit, while Pacquiao failed to deliver anything that resembled a knockout punch.
Pacquiao did little talking leading up to the much-anticipated bout. The Filipino icon is an easy figure to like, with his affable charm and active interest in aiding the underprivileged, and it's not surprising for him to take a humble approach. It was clear that he respects Marquez, and he showed the 38-year-old that respect through 12 rounds, as he sometimes appeared cautious.
Although he won the fight according to the judges' scorecards, Pacquiao is probably aware that he did not win over a sizable portion of the public. The 32-year-old star was seeking a clear-cut win over Marquez, and he didn't get it.
While Pacquiao could move on to fight Mayweather next in a fight that many don't believe will happen, Marquez is in limbo, and may have taken on a sympathetic status with boxing enthusiasts. In three close fights with a boxer many presume to be the best of the last 10 years, Marquez's best result was a draw.
In Round One, Pacquiao and Marquez felt each other out, as neither showed an aggressive attempt to win the round. As the rest of the fight progressed, it seemed that the rounds could go either way.
Pacquiao looked strong in Round Four. He delivered three lefts that clearly connected. Though Marquez returned the favor with a body shot, Pacquiao countered.
Round Five appeared to have gone to Marquez. He was efficient with his jab, and had a right-handed shot that backed up Pacquiao. He followed it with a hard left, and then again with a right that seemed to irritate the champion.
Round Seven seemed to go Marquez's way. He landed some nice shots, and seemed to outmaneuver Pacquiao in an inside exchange and connected on a strong uppercut at the bell, as well.
Of all the rounds, Round Nine appeared to be the most spirited. Marquez sent Pacquiao to the ropes with a hard left. Marquez would also land a strong right. Pacquiao responded with an excellent combination.
In Round 10, Pacquiao tapped his head to let the referee know that he was head-butted. On replay, it was confirmed that the head-butt was accidental, and it gave Pacquiao a cut, though it didn't affect the fight much, if at all.
In Round 11, Pacquiao appeared to be more of the aggressor, and landed with a combination in the early part of the round, and then also delivered a quality left.
Round 12 was another difficult-to-judge round.
Pacquiao won the decision on two-of-three scorecards, but it will be difficult for many to forget how competitive the fight was.
There likely won't be a fourth fight, as Pacquiao may move on to Tim Bradley. Pacquiao may need a convincing win to regain his title of best pound-for-pound boxer after his showing on Saturday.
Greg Bishop of the New York Times didn't hide a sentiment many may have felt after the fight.
It seems now that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, wrote Bishop. He didn't need to fight Pacquiao to prove it, not at this point anyway.
Meanwhile, Mayweather has a fight on May 5, against an unknown opponent.