Manny Pacquiao beat the daylights out of Marco Antonio Barrera in November 2003, stopping him in the 11th round of a one-sided fight in San Antonio, Texas. Yet, just six months later -- in May 2004 -- Juan Manuel Marquez figured his fight with Pacquiao in Las Vegas was going to be a walk in the park.
Say what? That's what Marquez told reporters Tuesday during a conference call promoting his rematch with Pacquiao a week from Saturday in Las Vegas. That, Marquez said, was why Pacquiao decked him three times in the first round of a fight that eventually was scored a draw.
"What I can tell you is I was pretty confident in that fight," Marquez said. "I was connecting well in the first round. I was confident. I thought it was going to be an easy fight. But I got the surprise that it wasn't. He caught me with three great punches."
It is very difficult to believe that a fighter as intelligent as Marquez, one who had already boxed professionally for 11 years heading into that first fight, would think that a fight with a killer like Pacquiao was going to be a cinch.
His trainer, Nacho Berestein, said that's exactly what Marquez may have been thinking. Not because of anything Berestein was telling him, but perhaps because of what others were whispering in Marquez's ear as he was preparing for the fight. And Berestein was not happy about it.
"I was worried," Berestein said, when asked his thoughts as Marquez was thrice floored in the first three minutes. "But I was mad, more than worried. I was angry when I saw him on the canvas three times. Because we talked about it before.
"And he was so confident, he was so relaxed in the first half of the first round. ... And I was thinking to myself, 'This is not the way he's supposed to be fighting,' because he seemed so relaxed. And knowing Manny Pacquiao, that he is like a wild guy because he throws punches from everywhere, I knew that at a certain time, a certain point in the fight, he was (going to connect) with Juan Manuel Marquez. And he did it."
Pacquiao connected, all right. But of course, Marquez more than proved his mettle. Not only did he get up from three first-round knockdowns, itself a rarity, he dominated most of the rest of the fight. Many reporters, including this one, actually thought Marquez came back to win the fight.
But one judge had it even, one had it for Marquez by five points and the other had it for Pacquiao by five points. Yes, we know, just the typical curious scoring that seems to occur in Las Vegas.
Then again, the draw did allow Marquez to keep his two featherweight championship belts.
"I was down three times, but I got up," he said. "I got up because of the great condition I had at that time. But also because I was defending two titles, two titles that cost me a lot to win them. And I wasn't letting them go in three minutes just like that."
Marquez, 34, said he has learned from his mistakes. During Tuesday's call, he talked about what will be different this time against Pacquiao, 29. Overconfidence won't be a problem in the rematch, he said. Psychologically, he insisted he will be sharp as a tack.
"I'm going to be alert from the first (round) when the bell rings until the end of the last round," Marquez said. "It doesn't matter what round ends the fight. I'm going to be alert. I'm going to have all my senses. ... I won't be so confident thinking that it's going to be an easy fight."