It has been roughly two decades since ring legends Marvin Hagler, Ray Leanard, Thomas Hearns, and Roberto Duran swapped leather against each other, continuously making fan-friendly fights that have since been immortalized in the pantheon of boxing history. As all of them continuously participated in meaningful fights against each other in round robin or carousel like fashion, their bouts, most of them thrillers, all helped generate interest and excitement in the sport.
Since the departure of that fearsome foursome from the ring, boxing has regressed in the public's conscious, and boxing fans have prayed for someone or something to recreate the excitement that boxing once felt. Although there is no heavyweight savior in sight, what there is, and has been for the several years, is the emergence of a foursome of fighters who, though not quite as fierce as their bigger counterparts decades past, have done more to recreate some much needed buzz than any other group of fighters in years.
Little guys Manny Pacquaio, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and Juan Manuel Marquez have all established themselves among the sport's elite group of fighters, all appearing on most pound-for-pound lists, and all participating in some great, if not legendary, fights. Now, before anybody begins to get excited, it's time for a frustrating reality check that fight fans have come to expect from this sport. Just as it seems more and more people are beginning to recognize how special these fighters are, this current foursome may have run its course just as the public is waking up to what they are, any sadly, maybe were capable of. Morales is only 29, but he is an old 29, appearing unable to fight at the 130 pound level anymore without having to kill himself to make the weight. Marquez, a natural featherweight who has been avoided like he was Winky Wright infected with the Black Plague, has only fought Pacquaio from the group of four, and hasn't surfaced in a meaningful fight since due to a rift with promoter Bob Arum. And a potential fifth member of this club, Zaheer Raheem, may be heading down the same path.
Moments after Pacquaio became the first fighter to ever stop ring legend Erik Morales Saturday night, television announcers immediately began clamoring about a return match between the Phillipino and Mexico City's Barrera. But it seems that Pac-Man has unfinished business with Marquez, a fighter whom he dropped three times in the opening round of their bout (all with his vaunted straight left) only to have his ears boxed off for most of the
remainder of the fight, which was scored a draw. As it stands, Pacquaio, who unlike either Morales, Barrera, or Marquez is the undisputed hero and national icon of his native country, the Phillipines, has notched a knockout victory over every one of the three save for Marquez, who held the explosive Asian to a draw in their fight, which says a lot about the resiliency and craftsmanship of Marquez, considering the first round ambush he had to
Regardless of whatever Pacquaio's handlers have in store for him in 2006, as long he's across the ring from any of his Mexican rivals, a great fight is in store. Golden Boy Promotions, have reportedly offered Pacquaio a rematch with Barrera in late March, knowing full well that Pacquaio won't be near ready to fight again after this weekend's ten grueling rounds with Morales. While it is admirable that Barrera would even consider a rematch that he doesn't need and, the offer only further cemented the claim that somebody should find and dig up Marquez from whatever cave he's been banished to and stand him across the ring from the Pac-Man. Now more than ever, with the spotlight shining on Pacquaio as bright, if not brighter than ever before, a rematch against either Barrera or Marquez, or even Raheem, would be just the sort of shot in the arm this sport is looking for. Especially given the fact that Morales is likely to take a long break, and recover from the first stoppage loss of his career. Regardless of whatever direction Pacquaio's handlers decide to guide the budding superstar, fans should be thankful for the emergence of these four extremely talented fighters.
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