(AP)-- If Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao were heavyweights, no one would be asking, "What's wrong with boxing?" The featherweights meet
Saturday night for the two titles held by Marquez in a battle of little sluggers who hit big. It's scheduled for 12 rounds, with neither fighter
likely to back off from the opening bell.
Together, they barely make up one Vitali Klitschko. Put them in the ring together, though, and they could produce one of the best fights of the
Pacquiao is a national hero in the Philippines, and he's coming off a crushing win over Marco Antonio Barrera. Marquez has stopped his last 11
opponents and is looking to make a name for himself outside his native Mexico.
One will leave the ring recognized as the best 126-pounder in the world.
"People get the idea that boxing is just awful, and rightfully so, because of the heavyweights," promoter Bob Arum said. "But this is a fight that
shows how good the sport can be."
Arum has been known to exaggerate, but the fight at the MGM Grand hotel-casino (9:45 p.m. EDT, HBO) is one of those matchups not often seen in boxing
- two fighters at the top of their games willing to take a chance against each other.
Pacquiao won a title at 122 pounds, but he gained recognition in November when he stopped Barrera, thought to be the best featherweight around, in the
11th round. He was greeted by his president back home, who said his win proved that Philippine athletes were world class.
Marquez, meanwhile, merely continued to win, taking the IBF and WBA titles, and getting little notice while doing so.
"I think this is the first big fight for me," Marquez said. "But there will be even bigger fights after this."
Arum hopes so. He has watched the 30-year-old Marquez (42-2, 33 knockouts) dominate opponent after opponent without getting the credit he feels he
"As far as the public is concerned, there is no recognition and very little recognition in the press," Arum said. "But he has been a legend in the
featherweight division for years. He's the guy nobody would fight unless they had to."
Marquez will have his hands full with Pacquiao (38-2-1, 30 knockouts), who attacks nonstop and has taken advantage of every opportunity he has been
"I give the Pacquiao group a lot of credit," Arum said. "They think they've got a guy who's a world beater and they figured to prove that to the world
they would face and beat Marquez. The truth is, if he's able to beat Marquez, we know he's for real."
If Pacquiao wins, he'll probably move up in weight again and fight 130-pound champion Erik Morales.
As for Marquez?
"Right now I don't even want to think about it," he said. "Once I win this fight, I think there will be names coming up and some interesting fights
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.