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Boxing | International

Two gladiators R225 million richer



Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez are much bigger than they were when they first met eight years ago.

And after their bout in Las Vegas on Saturday night their bank balances will also be considerably bigger.

Both have added bulk and weight in recent years, and both have had to deal with those who suspect they didn't do it naturally.

Their ability to earn millions of dollars also grew rapidly as they headed for a fourth meeting in the ring.

Pacquiao was expected to make more than $20 million (R173 million) by the time the pay-per-view receipts are totalled. Promoter Bob Arum said last week Marquez could make as much as $6 million (almost R52 million).

The fight was a pay-per-view event that probably drew more than a million buys at $59.95 (R520) each across the United States.

It's a far cry from 2004, when the two could barely fill half the arena. The money they earned then, would barely pay for one of their luxury cars today.

Their ability to draw big crowds and huge TV audiences all around the world has rocketed. Their fourth fight started turning into a money spinner months ago.

For their first clash, Pacquiao came off a win over Marco Antonio Barrera that announced his entry into boxing's elite and Marquez had stopped his previous 11 opponents.

For the past few months their supporters knew Marquez would try once again to do what he had not been able to do in 36 evenly contested rounds against Pacquiao – get a decision from the ringside judges.

The Mexican is 39, and this fight meant more to his legacy than his future career. That is why he seemed almost desperate to win.

"All I ask is for the judges to be objective," Marquez said. "They need to see what is really happening in the ring instead of what they think might be happening."

Pacquiao was not as desperate, but he needed a win just as badly. The Filipino barely escaped with a majority decision over Marquez last November and lost a widely panned decision to Timothy Bradley in his most recent fight.

A loss to Marquez would not only confirm the whispers that he is slipping after 17 years as a pro, but perhaps derail for good any talk of a fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

HISTORY MAY HAVE CHANGED

Their first three fights were so close every one could have gone either way. And had they gone the other way, boxing history may have changed.

Pacquiao might not have got the fight with Oscar De La Hoya that catapulted him to stardom in 2008, just nine months after beating Marquez on a split decision in their second fight.

Marquez might have become more than just an opponent getting rich off the names of fighters who would be judged better than him.

A fourth fight between two world-class fighters is almost unheard of at a time when top fighters rarely box more than twice a year. Almost as astonishing is that they were spread out over eight years and five weight classes.

If the old rules applied, Pacquiao would have been fighting a rematch with Bradley for the welterweight title he lost in June. It was, many thought, one of the worst decisions in recent years.

But Bradley does not sell pay-per-views and Marquez does. So Bradley was on the sidelines as Pacquiao and the Mexican battled for riches instead of a crown.

CONTROVERSY OVER BULKING UP

The controversy needed to sell the fight was about Marquez bulking up in ways a 39-year-old normally can't, and the ties his strength coach had to steroid scandals of the past.

Angel Guillermo Heredia provided track athletes such as Marion Jones and Justin Gatlin with steroids and human growth hormone. He escaped prosecution by agreeing to testify for the prosecution.

He claimed Marquez had bulked up only because of an unorthodox strength and conditioning programme he designed for him.

Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, said Marquez did not look like a fighter who had naturally grown, prompting a threat of a lawsuit by Heredia and denials by Marquez himself.

Pacquiao, who himself was the target of suggestions by Mayweather's camp that he used something to grow, said he wasn't worried about it.

"Let's give him credit for hard work," Pacquiao said. "It's not about size; it's about how you function in the ring. I've been fighting bigger guys all my life."

SUPPORT FOR TYPHOON VICTIMS

Pacquiao on Friday pledged support for victims of a devastating typhoon in the Philippines where a quarter of a million people were rendered homeless and more than 470 were killed.

"I am aware of what is going on, and my prayers are with the people of the Philippines," Pacquiao said. "I have people who are monitoring the situation, and they will handle anything I asked them to do."

Pacquiao is a congressman representing the Sarangari province. "I'll go out and raise money for the people who were affected," he said. "I have helped my countrymen before, and I will do whatever they ask me to do to help."

The multiple world champion is running unopposed for re-election in May. He said his district was not severely affected by the typhoon but he was willing to assist in any way he could.



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