Magical Marquez makes point
Derek Bilton gives us his latest Sportinglife.com World pound-for-pound top 10 list.
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Enough has already been written about Manny Pacquiao's magnificent fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, a bout that was by far and away the finest of 2012.
It was a fight that had everything. Sport in the raw. The sort of brutal contest that shortens careers but transfixes fans and ensures that boxing will always have a place at sport's top table.
Marquez, one of the most under-rated fighters of the past 20 years, proved at the venerable age of 39 that he remains one of the sport's very best practitioners. He also proved to himself, after three agonising near misses, that at the very least he is the equal of Pacquiao, a fighter regarded among the best of his generation.
If ever a fighter needed to make a statement in a bout it was the Mexican, who had been on the receiving end of at least two (some would say three) wildly dubious decisions against Pacquiao in their three previous fights.
There wasn't that much ballyhoo when the pair signed to box for a fourth time. Thankfully in this instance however, familiarity bred drama and violence rather than contempt.
Inevitably the drum is already being beat long and loud for Pacquiao - Marquez V, and I wouldn't bet against that fight happening this year.
However over the holidays I managed to catch a re-run of Pacquaio's fight with Oscar De La Hoya in 2008. The Pinoy idol was simply electrifying that night, battering and befuddling 'The Golden Boy' with crisp combinations and dazzling footwork before forcing Oscar to whisper 'No Mas' at the end of eight largely one-sided sessions.
In the five years that have passed the Pac Man has made millions and consolidated himself as the greatest Asian sportsman of all-time. However, in the hardest game of all I am left wondering whether the Pacquiao whirlwind has finally blown itself out?
He has lost his last two contests, and since battering Miguel Cotto in 2009 there has been a gradual decline in his performances both in terms of punch output and desire.
He won't want to be remembered lying face down on the canvas so it is inevitable he will fight again. But given the distractions in his life and the fact he is now 34 I am unsure if he will ever be able to re-invent himself. If this year is his last in a prize ring, nobody will ever forget what he achieved.
In stark contrast Marquez looked in the best shape of his career in December, and the shot he knocked Manny out with in round six is unquestionably the best he has ever thrown in a career that began way back in 1993.
It's a punch that exorcised his Pacquiao demons and also helped move him back up to number two in our latest rankings.
Pacquiao may be on the slide but the Philippines is still well represented on the list, with the classy Nonito Donaire underlining his credentials as one of the best in the business with a sickening KO win over Jorge Arce in December.
Arce is a fighter who will one day end up in the Hall of Fame, but he had no answer to Donaire's explosive left hook in the third round of their showdown and announced his retirement as soon as he came to in Texas.
It was Donaire's fourth win of the year and he can enjoy an even better 2013 if he can entice either Abner Mares or Guillermo Rigondeaux to dance.
Sportinglife.com pound-for-pound world top 10:
1 Floyd Mayweather
2 Juan Manuel Marquez
3 Andre Ward
4 Manny Pacquaio
5 Nonito Donaire
6 Sergio Martinez
7 Wladimir Klitschko
8 Timothy Bradley
9 Adrien Broner
10 Robert Guerrero
Honourable mentions: Saul Alvarez, Roman Gonzalez, Brandon Rios, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Carl Froch and Yuriorkis Gamboa.