Instead of avenging a controversial defeat against Timothy Bradley, Manny Pacquiao instead will fight Juan Manuel Marquez for a fourth time, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said Wednesday.
Pacquiao is due to return to action on Dec. 8. The HBO pay-per-view fight will take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, contrary to rumors that the fight would be held in Marquez’s hometown of Mexico City.
“It’s at the MGM,” Arum said. “The eighth is for sure. Vegas is for sure.”
The three candidates to face Pacquiao were Bradley, who won a highly disputed decision against him in June, Marquez and Miguel Cotto, who was stopped by Pacquiao in the 12th round of an action-packed welterweight title fight in 2009.
Pacquiao’s first choice was Cotto, who declined and instead made a deal to challenge junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout on Dec. 1 at Madison Square Garden.
With Floyd Mayweather Jr. out of the picture — for this year at least — that left Marquez and Bradley.
Pacquiao is 2-0-1 against Marquez in three action-packed fights that each ended in a storm of controversy over the scoring, with many believing Marquez had won all three fights — especially their most recent encounter. That was in November at the MGM Grand, where Pacquiao eked out a majority decision to retain his welterweight title.
Bradley pulled the upset on June 9 when he was awarded a controversial split decision against Pacquiao, which resulted in worldwide outrage over the scoring because most people had Pacquiao winning easily — except two of the three judges, Duane Ford and C.J. Ross.
Junior welterweight titlist Marquez (54-6-1, 39 KOs) and Bradley (29-0, 12 KOs) both wanted to meet Pacquiao (54-4-2, 38 KOs) again because he means career-high purses.
But there has been a divide within Top Rank and Pacquiao’s team on which opponent to select after Cotto turned them down. There also was Arum’s concerns over the cost of putting together each fight compared to the kind of $20 million-plus purse Pacquiao wants.
Some involved wanted to make the Marquez fight because it is, by far, the bigger pay-per-view event based on previous buy rates. The third fight last year sold 1.3 million units, according to Arum, substantially more than the approximately 950,000 sold by the Pacquiao-Bradley fight.
Pacquiao and Marquez also have a rivalry that has enthralled fans through three fights.
The 2004 featherweight championship draw saw Pacquiao knock down Marquez three times in the first round only for Marquez to storm back. In the 2008 junior lightweight championship fight, Pacquiao won on a split decision.
Arum said that if the deal is finalized before the end of the week, he hoped to launch the promotion next week with a news conference in Los Angeles.