Says Juan Manuel Marquez of his fourth bout with Manny Pacquiao: "Ive… (Steve Marcus / Las Vegas…)
In 36 intense rounds against Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez has been knocked down and bloodied, angered and heartbroken.
Yet, the 39-year-old from Mexico remains proud and defiant as he prepares to fight Pacquiao for a fourth time Saturday on pay-per-view at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Their three battles — 108 minutes of fighting — have been "decided" by a 2004 draw, a 2008 split-decision won by Pacquiao and last year's majority decision claimed by the Filipino superstar.
That last decision came amid post-fight booing in the arena after Marquez put on a brilliant display of counterpunching.
Marquez said he is here again because he remains certain this will finally be his time to break through with a victory in the non-title welterweight bout.
What convinces you this time will be different?
"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."
You've proved yourself a warrior in the ring, but it seems to me coming back mentally from these tough decisions against Pacquiao would be even more difficult than picking yourself off the canvas to continue fighting him like you did four times in the first two fights.
"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."
The last loss appeared to be the most difficult for you to get past. You marched out of the ring, disgusted by the decision. How long was it before you moved on?
"I was really upset that night. I couldn't believe it when it was announced. I knew, and I felt he knew, I had won in the ring. I knew I had won, and that's why it didn't stay with me a long time. I just knew it still wasn't settled. I badly want my hand raised."
You've visibly bulked up for this fight. I was debating why with some boxing guys the other day. Is it because you plan a sudden, massive attack to chase the knockout, or because you want to ensure there's no way he's knocking you down?
"I did it because I know how difficult it is in there with this guy. I've been training for four months for this fight. So, when you work that hard, it's impossible not to be stronger. I've heard that [Pacquiao trainer] Freddie Roach is saying I've been taking steroids. He's way off base. I don't appreciate that. I just work hard to get better every day, to get more physical and aggressive with him. If I win and it comes by knockout, fine. I just want to be as strong as I can be."
Regarding the steroid allegations, Nevada hasn't tested you or Pacquiao before this fight, so all we can lean on is your word you haven't used.
"To all the people who are saying things, I say let's do a test right now. I know I'm clean. I've been willing to take a test the whole time. Any time. And [Pacquiao] should do one too. I've been at this for 19 years, and have never been accused of anything illegal."
The judges for this fight are Adalaide Byrd from Nevada, Steve Weisfeld from New Jersey and John Keane from the U.K. After the previous decisions, how can you trust judges anymore?
"They're in the eye of the storm now. Everyone will be watching them. So I expect them to do their job very well. Plus, they're brand-new to us. None of them have ever judged one of our fights. I'm very happy they've never seen us."
Much is being made of your trainer, "Nacho" Beristain, telling you late in the last fight that you had it won. Did he give you bad advice?
"I don't believe so. The last round was difficult to take, but what cost me was that I lost a lot of rounds earlier, rounds that I believe I clearly won. All 'Nacho' told me was to be careful, don't get caught. [Pacquiao] was the desperate one. I fought like he told me to."
Do you think there's something about Pacquiao that prejudices judges for him?
"Yes, 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."
Describe your relationship with Pacquiao. Is it one of hatred? Respect?
"We're both professionals. I don't think there's any hate in there because of how the fights have turned out. There's a rivalry, but it's professional. He thinks he's won the three fights. I don't think he's won one. So that's why there's a fourth fight."
If you win or lose this fight, will you retire?
"I'm not thinking about retirement. I'm thinking about giving the fans a great fight, with all my sweat, blood, guts and heart. Once the fight is over, we'll look at my career and see where we are. But the way I feel right now, I don't think I'll stop."