The guessing game is on as far as the fourth encounter between Manny Pacquiao and the Mexican legend who has made him suffer through 36 rounds in the ring, Juan Manuel Marquez.
Both fighters have made conflicting claims as to the results of their three previous clashes. Marquez has persistently — and often annoyingly claimed — that he won all three fights and the judges robbed him of the decision.
Taken objectively, Marquez does have a case in terms of their last fight which Pacquiao won by a majority decision while many boxing writers in the US felt Marquez should have earned the decision although Pacquiao believes he did enough to win.
Their first fight ended in a draw due to the error committed by judge Burt Clements who scored the first round for Pacquiao 10-7 instead of 10-6 which is how the two other judges scored the opening round after Pacquiao dropped Marquez three times.
[ALSO READ: Manny, JuanMa vow: 'This will be the last']
Clements himself admitted after the fight that he had made a mistake but it was too late to correct the scorecard which would have given Pacquiao the decision, although nobody really took vehement issue with the announced draw since Marquez clawed back with an exquisite display of counter-punching.
Pacquiao won the rematch by a split decision with a third-round knockdown of Marquez conceivably giving the Filipino the edge. Here again, it wasn't a decision that too many people questioned or criticized unlike the third which drew as much flak as the inglorious split decision given Timothy "Desert Storm" Bradley in his WBO welterweight bout with Pacquiao.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum was livid and blasted the judges, referring to them as "three blind mice."
WBO president Francisco "Paco" Valcarel didn't like what he saw and created a panel of top class judges to review the tape and score the fight.
Their decision which was obviously not binding was that Pacquiao won by a unanimous twelve-round decision.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission and its procedure in appointing judges also came under fire from a number of quarters including World Boxing Council president Don Jose Sulaiman who has often voiced his bitterness over the NSAC playing "God" and refusing to allow the world boxing organizations to name officials for the championship fights which are under their jurisdiction.
Marquez, too, joined the fray and in a Q & A with Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times . He charged the judges with looking at Pacquiao as a mythical figure who gets the decision because of "the stuff he does outside the ring. He's popular, a guy with great skills who sells a lot of tickets and is good for the sport. He's like a mythical figure who has to get a decision."
Despite his complaints about the judges and how they have unfairly judged his fights Marquez is back in Las Vegas to face Pacquiao for a fourth time but aims to take the fight out of the hands of the judges by scoring a knockout.
Trouble is, this is also the announced intention if Pacquiao who, from all accounts, has looked ferocious in sparring and has somehow re-kindled the fire within that helped pulverize a succession of fancied opponents such as Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton, Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito.
Although he hasn't outwardly shown any emotion in reaction to Marquez's consistent claims that he was robbed by the judges, Pacquiao seems peeved and wants to please trainer Freddie Roach by knocking out Marquez and in the words of Roach and strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza "shutting his mouth."
That may be easier said than accomplished because Marquez has bulked up, turned muscular and looks stronger than ever. He came back from four knockdowns in two fights and never retreated. As he told the LA Times, "For me, the biggest thing is just by looking back on the last three fights, I know I can compete with him and beat him. I've prepared myself better than I ever have and believe I'll win."
The setbacks have strengthened Marquez who said "The fact I've been right there, competing in very close fights with him, and believing the judges have been wrong . . . that's made me strong, inspired me to prove that. I fight for the pride of my country. I feel that every time I walk into the ring, and that doesn't allow you to walk away from finishing this."
This time around there will be only one judge from Las Vegas in the person of Adelaide Byrd who has a tendency to rack up scorecards with wide and sometimes unrealistic margins like she did in the Austin Trout — Miguel Cotto junior middleweight title fight where she gave Trout a 119-109 margin while the two other judges, Steve Weisfeld and Sam Poturaj turned in identical 117-111 scorecards.
[ALSO READ: JMM wary of Pacquiao's power]
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated branded the Byrd scorecard "ridiculous" and pointed out that the wife of Hall-of-Fame referee Robert Byrd has been involved in controversial decisions in the past, although he said that Weisfeld who has been picked to do the Pacquiao-Marquez fight alongside Byrd and John Keane of Britain who is classified as a "Class 'A' Star" referee and judge, " is sure to get it right" and in his estimation is "a phenomenal judge."
Clearly Marquez is the one most concerned with the judges while Pacquiao, even though he was clearly robbed of the decision in the Bradley fight which raised a storm of protests worldwide, hasn't shown any concern.
Mannix believes the judges for the fight should be "a legitimate concern not just for Marquez but for both fighters " as the boxing world waits with bated breath to find out who the judges will bless if they are not removed from the equation by a knockout or stoppage either way, with fight fans taking comfort in the fact that probably the best referee in the business, Kenny Bayless, will be the third man in the ring.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.