Friday, March 14, 2008 | 2 a.m.
In an avowed effort to become pure in mind, body and spirit, Manny Pacquiao gave up gambling during his preparation for Saturday night’s world title fight against Juan Manuel Marquez.
The same cannot be said of Pacquiao’s supporters at the betting windows.
The betting action in Las Vegas has overwhelmingly favored Pacquiao since the Filipino idol opened at minus-155 (risk $1.55 to win $1) against the underdog Marquez in the super featherweight championship bout at Mandalay Bay.
The line on Pacquiao had been driven as high as minus-240 (risk $2.40 to win $1) this week at all Harrah’s properties, which had Marquez at plus-190 in the pay-per-view showdown scheduled for 12 rounds.
Most other sports books are offering similar odds, with Pacquiao at minus-230 at MGM Mirage properties and the Palms, and minus-220 at the Venetian. The Plaza downtown had the shortest price on Pacquiao at minus-190. As always, odds can and do change by the minute.
Bettors appear convinced Pacquiao has improved considerably as a boxer since he and Marquez fought to a 12-round draw on May 8, 2004, at the MGM Grand, particularly in the way he has developed his defense and his right hand.
Pacquiao, who entered the ring as a minus-165 favorite in their first bout, scored three first-round knockdowns against Marquez, but the Mexican did enough in the rest of the fight to earn a majority draw.
A southpaw, Pacquiao said he hurt his left hand in the second knockdown and acknowledged he figured the fight would be stopped after he dropped Marquez for the third time.
Pacquiao (45-3-2, 34 knockouts) has won seven of eight fights since — losing only to Erik Morales in the first of three meetings — even while enthusiastically betting on pool, basketball and other sporting endeavors between bouts. Pacquiao said he made a decision to rededicate himself to his sport before entering his most recent training camp.
“I realized Marquez is not an easy opponent,” Pacquiao said. “I realized I had not been as hungry as I had been before, when I (started) boxing ... Before, I was 50 percent or 60 percent dedicated to boxing. Now I am 100 percent dedicated to boxing and to the training. Boxing is my career.”
Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, said setting up camp at Roach’s gym in Los Angeles kept Pacquiao focused. For previous fights, Pacquiao would train in his homeland — where “everybody wants a piece of Manny,” Roach said — or split camp between the Philippines and Los Angeles.
Roach said Pacquiao, at the top of his game at age 29, will be ready for whatever Marquez, 34, throws at him Saturday.
“He’s a much more complete fighter now,” Roach said of Pacquiao. “He’s a lot stronger, and I think he’s just overall a better fighter. Marquez, he’s changed his style a little bit, being a little bit more offensive ... I think if he comes to us, it’ll make it easier. If he wants to go with that kind of punching style, we’ve got a great game plan for that.”
Pacquiao has about the same chance of winning by knockout or by decision, according to oddsmakers. In knockout/decision propositions, Pacquiao by knockout is plus-160 (risk $1 to net $1.60) and Pacquiao by decision is plus-170 at MGM Mirage joints, including host property Mandalay Bay. Harrah’s properties were offering 2-1 on either of those props.
The odds on Marquez winning by knockout were as high as 5-1 at the Palms, and Marquez by decision was as high as 5-1 at Harrah’s properties, including Caesars Palace and related books.The consensus price on a 12-round draw was 12-1 in Las Vegas.
With the exception of his second fight with Morales, which was pick ’em, Pacquiao has been favored in each of his fights since his draw with Marquez. Pacquiao was minus-125 against Morales the first time; an 8-1 favorite against Oscar Larios; minus-240 in his third meeting against Morales; a 10-1 favorite against Jorge Solis; and minus-330 against Marco Antonio Barrera.
Marquez beat Barrera as a plus-120 underdog last March in his highest-profile fight since the draw with Pacquiao. Marquez beat Orlando Salido as a 15-1 favorite (!) in 2004, and outpointed Rocky Juarez as a 4-1 favorite in his most recent fight, in November.