Ghost of Marquez past still haunts Team Pacquiao

Ghost of Marquez past still haunts Team Pacquiao

LOS ANGELES — Manny Pacquiao’s training team is still feeling the stigma of the Filipino icon’s devastating loss to Juan Manuel Marquez more than six years ago.

As Pacquiao heads into his showdown with Keith Thurman on Saturday (Sunday Manila time), head trainer Buboy Fernandez has only one concern.

It’s neither Thurman’s size nor youthfulness.

Fernandez said he is expecting Thurman to pull a page out of Marquez’s playbook when the 30-year-old fighter collides with Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

“Of all the leaked training videos I’ve seen, I’ve noticed that Thurman’s team is focusing on one thing: They want to do what Marquez did to Manny,” Pacquiao’s chief cornerman told Filipino scribes at the Wild Card Gym here Saturday (Sunday Manila time).

The nightmare of Pacquiao’s knockout setback to Marquez in December 2012 is still fresh in Fernandez’s mind. After fighting Pacquiao three times, the Mexican legend finally figured out his rival and did what no one has done to the Filipino star in a long time.

Marquez uncorked a perfectly timed right straight that knocked Pacquiao unconscious right before the bell sounded in the sixth round of their fourth and last meeting.

While Pacquiao has long recovered from that shocking loss, he has never been the same in terms of going all out and actively pursuing a knockout.

He hesitates in going in for the kill whenever he has an opponent in trouble, fearing a repeat of what happened to him against Marquez.

Prior to stopping Lucas Matthysse in Kuala Lumpur last year, Pacquiao hasn’t scored a knockout in more than a decade. And in his last fight in January, he was overly cautious against Adrien Broner, contented with just marching to a one-sided unanimous decision win.

Broner landed only 50 punches on Pacquiao that night. He tried in vain to land the only shot that mattered. Fortunately for Pacquiao, Broner’s moment never came.

Fernandez, for his part, believes Thurman will try to do the same.

“We won’t let our guard down,” he added.

Fernandez wants Pacquiao to exercise the same caution and not give Thurman room to counter.

“Once we land a left straight or any solid shot, immediately move away,” he continued.

He said he also warned Pacquiao of wild haymakers from Thurman, which, if they find their mark, could spell disaster.

“I’d tell him to keep using his zigzag move because Thurman can’t turn. We can’t head straight because we might run into a counter,” Fernandez said.

In training, Pacquiao had been honing his footwork and working on the same side-stepping maneuver. He is confident it will work against Thurman.

Pacquiao can never let a déjà vu of what happened over six years ago.

And his team badly wants to banish the ghost of Marquez past.