One of the world’s best fighters may finally get a title to call his own after one of the most anticipated matches of the year in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao challenges Juan Manuel Marquez for the Mexican’s IBF and WBA featherweight titles in potentially one of the best nine-stone scraps seen in years.
Pacquiao turned the division on its head last November by thoroughly outclassing Marco Antonio Barrera to win universal recognition as the division’s true champion.
Only Barrera’s admirable ignorance of the sanctioning bodies prevented the underdog from strapping a big belt around his waist following a stunning win.
Pacquiao – previously a champion at flyweight and super-bantamweight - nevertheless became a national hero in his homeland and arguably the country’s best boxer since the 1960s super-feather Hall of Famer Flash Elorde.
His non-stop, buzz-saw style flummoxed Barrera and victory over the tough Marquez would prove that Pacquiao is no one-hit wonder but a real contender in the pound-for-pound rankings.
But victory over Marquez will be no easy feat. The Mexico City man is anxious to seize his opportunity after years of being ducked by big names.
Now 30, Marquez was ducked by Naseem Hamed in his prime and dropped a controversial decision to one-time contender Freddie Norwood.
Thirteen straight wins, including impressive successes against Manuel Medina and Derrick Gainer, have finally earned him his big-money chance to cement his status as the division’s true champion.
And Marquez believes Pacquiao is in for a rude shock in a contest which it is somewhat surprising to see him taking so soon after his stunning success against Barrera.
Marquez told maxboxing.com: “I think they thought they had beaten the best guy out there and anybody else would be easier.
“So I think they are going to find out that fighting me is not the same thing as fighting Barrera. They are in for a rude awakening.”
Both men also know the prize at stake is not just recognition as the number one nine-stone fighter in the world.
It is also a ticket to future marquee fights, with the likes of super-featherweight Erik Morales waiting in the wings.
Possibly even more attractive for Pacquiao is the potential for a Far East unification scrap with Korea’s new WBC champion Injin Chi.
Getting those two speed demons in the same ring would help resurrect the sport for sure. But first things first, Marquez awaits and he is not promising Pacquiao an easy night.