|Manny Pacquiao (L) of the Philippines connects on Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico during their WBO welterweight fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada November 13, 2011 (Manila time). REUTERS/R. Marsh Starks
MANILA, Philippines - (3rd UPDATE) Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao retained his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title with a 12-round majority decision victory over rival Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico Saturday night (Sunday morning in Manila) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Dave Moretti and Glenn Trowbridge gave the bout to Pacquiao, 115-113 and 116-112, respectively, while Robert Hoyle saw it as a 114-114 draw.
It was a controversial finish to the epic trilogy between Pacquiao and Marquez, as none of the three fights ended decisively.
Marquez seemingly took control of the fight in the middle rounds as he rattled Pacquiao with his superb counterpunching ability. Pacquiao, meanwhile, seemed frustrated as he was unable to get into any rhythm throughout the fight.
In the end, however, Pacquiao was able to land enough power shots in the later rounds that swayed the fight to his favor.
"I clearly won the fight," Pacquiao said in the post-fight interview. "I got hurt a couple of times, but I'm very careful."
"We have to accept that my opponent is not easy. He is a good fighter and it's not easy, but I won the fight," he added.
Pacquiao's coach, Freddie Roach, admitted afterward that he did not expect the fight to even go the distance.
"I was surprised. I predicted 5 or 6 rounds. I was way off," Roach said. "I thought Manny edged it out in the last 2 rounds."
Roach added that Marquez clearly had Pacquiao's number, and said that they will still have to work on figuring out how to fight against counterpunchers.
"He fell into that old trap that he did in the first two fights," Roach said.
According to CompuBox, Pacquiao threw 578 punches and landed 176, while Marquez connected on 138 of 436 punches. Pacquiao also connected on 117 of 274 power punches, while Marquez landed 100 of 254 power punches.
Marquez, however, is convinced that he has been robbed of victory three times now against Pacquiao. The Mexican boxer was confident that he won the trilogy bout, raising his hands in triumph when the bell sounded after the 12th round.
"It's hard when you are fighting against the fighter and the judges as well," Marquez said.
His trainer, Nacho Beristain, called the result of the fight "a joke."
"The real winner is right here, Juan Manuel Marquez," he said.
Marquez and Pacquiao battled to a draw in their first meeting in 2004, while Pacquiao eked out a split decision victory in their 2008 rematch.
Very few analysts gave Marquez a chance of victory in the third match, as most expected his age to finally catch up with him. The Mexican boxer stunned the over 16,000 fans in attendance as he fought superbly against his Filipino rival, with neither fighter giving an inch throughout the bout.
Because of the result of the match, Marquez told reporters that he is now contemplating retirement.
"I need to sit down with my family and my camp and make a decision about whether to continue in this sport," he said.
He seemed bitter about the judges' decision, adding, "If I drop him, they are going to pick him up and give him the fight again. I don't know what else I need to do."
After a feeling-out period in the early rounds, Pacquiao was able to hurt Marquez in the closing seconds of round 3. A powerful right hook from the Filipino shook the Mexican, but unlike in the first two fights, Marquez was able to stay on his feet.
Marquez then seemed to take control of the fight in the middle round, beginning with the 5th when he staggered Pacquiao with a series of punches. He outboxed the Filipino fighter through the 7th round, but Pacquiao bounced back with a barrage of shots late in the round.
Although he was the older man, Marquez was able to keep up with Pacquiao throughout the 12 rounds. He was able to evade majority of Pacquiao's attacks and used his counter-punching to hit the Filipino with right straights and hooks to the body and head.
Pacquiao became more active in the later rounds. Although he was not able to find a good rhythm, Pacquiao landed power punches that caused Marquez to clinch.
After 36 rounds of boxing and with no clear winner to the trilogy, Top Rank chief executive officer Bob Arum is thinking of putting on a 4th bout between Pacquiao and Marquez.
"I am bound and determined to find a definitive winner once and for all. If both fighters agree, I'd like to do the rematch in 2012," he said.
Pacquiao is leaving the decision to his promoter.
"I can fight any fighters as long as there's no problem with my promoter. It depends on Bob Arum," Pacquiao said.
It remains to be seen if Marquez is willing to fight Pacquiao a fourth time, as the former is contemplating retirement after what he considers is another robbery.