IT is the biggest fight of the year and the implications of its result will carry across the Atlantic to Scotland.
At the MGM Grand in Las Vegas tonight Manny Pacquiao, regarded by many as the pound-for-pound supreme boxer on the planet, will defend his World Boxing Organisation welterweight title against Juan Manuel Marquez, the three-weight world champion from Mexico.
It is the third, and almost certainly final, instalment of a super-fight trilogy that has spanned seven years and three weight divisions, with the first meeting drawn and Pacquiao triumphing on a disputed points decision in the second.
It is a contest that will be observed closely by Ricky Burns, the new WBO interim lightweight title holder, as it will have a direct impact on the Scot’s next outing in the ring. “Marquez is the full WBO lightweight world champion and I am the interim title-holder after my victory over Michael Katsidis last week, and now his mandatory challenger,” Burns explained.
“That means that, after tonight’s fight – and, I guess, depending on the result – Marquez has a decision to make. I think, regardless of whether he wins or loses, it is a big ask for him to come back down to 135lbs and fight me at lightweight. Don’t get me wrong: Marquez is the fight I want. To share a ring with a modern great such as him would be a privilege, but I think the least likely of his options is that he steps back down to lightweight.
“If he doesn’t, hopefully I will be made full WBO world champion. I would rather win the title in the ring, though, and to face Marquez for the chance to do that.”
The very fact that a fight of the magnitude of tonight’s will shape the way ahead for Burns underlines just how far the Coatbridge man has come. His masterclass at Wembley Arena a week ago against Katsidis – who knocked down Marquez in the third round of their meeting last year before the latter gained control to win with a ninth-round stoppage – was near flawless.
Perhaps one of the most pleasing aspects of Burns’ victory over the Australian, whose left hook has troubled the best every time he has mixed in exalted company, was that at no time was he in serious trouble, such was the quality of his defence boxing en route to a unanimous points verdict.
While Burns’ hopes of meeting the great Mexican hang on tonight’s meeting with Pacquiao, he admits he can see only one outcome. “I think Pacquiao is rightly the favourite,” he said.
“Marquez is 38 and moving up all the way to welterweight is putting him at a disadvantage in terms of weight and power. I think maybe you saw in his fight with Floyd Mayweather Jnr in 2009 that, great fighter though he still is, he is not as fresh as he once was.
“Pacquiao has had Marquez down in both of their previous fights and although a lot of people believe Marquez’s classic orthodox boxing is a style Manny struggles to cope with, I think that, at this stage of their careers, Manny will have too much for him at welterweight. If it pans out that way it will be very interesting to see where Marquez goes from there.”