Just how great is Manny Pacquiao?
Ask Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain, Mexico’s foremost trainer and the guy who guided Juan Manuel Marquez to a definitive knockout of the Filipino legend.
Regarded as one of the top five cornermen ever, Beristain swears he had been a Pacquiao fan ever since the lightning-quick southpaw demolished Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003 in Texas.
“He did not let me sleep several times. Since knocking out Barrera, he impressed me a lot. I watched that fight every day and I couldn’t decipher his style,” Beristain, now 82, said in Spanish.
But Beristain was fortunate to have a superb fighter in Marquez, whom the strategist described as “an expert in fighting left-handers.”
Still, Beristain knew that, even with his expertise and Marquez’s talent, taming the wild cat from General Santos City would be easier said than done.
“He was a different southpaw — he had a missile on his left (hand).”
Beristain was in Marquez’s corner four times against Pacquiao and each time, they could not find a way to negate Pacquiao’s intriguing style.
The first fight in May 2004 ended as a draw after Pacquiao sent Marquez down thrice in the very first round.
In the rematch four years later, Pacquiao carved out a split decision after sending the Mexican counterpuncher down in the third round.
Marquez attempted a third time in November 2011 but failed when Pacquiao fashioned out a majority decision.
Then came the fourth fight over a year later and Marquez seemed to have taken command after knocking down Pacquiao for the first time in the third round with a right.
In the fifth frame, he began to fade as he suffered a knockdown courtesy of Pacquiao’s lethal left and soon after the tide turned against the favor of Marquez, who walked back to his corner unsteadily, his broken nose dripping crimson.
The sixth came and Pacquiao picked up from where he left off, drilling Marquez with a variety of rights and lefts.
The predominantly pro-Pacquiao crowd was on its feet in anticipation of a stoppage as Marquez was on the defensive, looking as if he was waiting for that one solid shot before deciding to crumble for good.
Apparently, Marquez, though badly hurt and bloodied, was still very much alive and with one second to go before the bell ending the round, he exploded with a counter right to Pacquiao’s mouth, forcing the roof to cave in on his fierce rival.
Marquez, now 48, likewise paid homage to Pacquiao, who runs for the presidency next year.
“The retirement of a great fighter has arrived a legend is leaving. What I experienced with him were four great fights, some controversial, but we settled the situation as it should have been.”
Beristain could not help but lavish praises on Pacquiao.
“Pacquiao is (boxing) royalty. His name is up here when you think of all the greatest fighters because of what he did historically and what he will continue to do because he will surely be president of the Philippines.”