When the legends fought last, on November 12, 2011, Manny Pacquiao won a controversial majority decision.
The outcome was criticized by media and fans alike as many, if not most, spectators thought the Mexican challenger had done enough to edge PacMan.
How could this be?
According to CompuBox PunchStats, Manny Pacquiao out-threw and out-landed Juan Manuel Marquez during their epic third encounter. Based on the official fight statistics, Pacquiao Pacquiao threw 578 punches and landed 176 (30% connect) while his Mexican foe threw 435 punches and landed only 138 (32% connect)
What about power punches (or non jabs)?
More surprisingly, according to PunchStats, Pacquiao also edged Marquez in power punches (or non jabs). Manny Pacquiao connected on 117 of 274 power punches (43% connect) while Juan Manuel Marquez connected on 100 of 254 power punches thrown (39% connect).
So what's the issue?
When a world champion a) throws and lands more overall punches b) outpoints his foe in powershots and c) doesn't get floored or points deducted he usually wins without controversy. And according to PunchStats, Manny Pacquiao earned a narrow but deserved victory over Juan Manuel Marquez.
So why do so many fans believe Marquez was robbed when CompuBox Stats show the Mexican challenger was outboxed?
Answer 1: Marquez's punches were undoubtedly more eye-catching, drawing more "ooohs" from the crowd than Pacquiao's.
Answer 2: Manny Pacquiao's long hair may have exaggerated the impact of Marquez's punches, mistakenly giving more credence than necessary to Answer 1
Pictured: A long-haired Manny Pacquiao
So was Manny Pacquiao's hair a factor in the controversy generated as a result of the outcome of Pacquiao vs Marquez III? Is it possible Manny's long, stringy hair exaggerated the impact of Marquez's blows and partially-missed shots, creating the "optical illusion" of more devastating punches?
We'll never know but its certainly possible the Filipino's long hair could have given viewers an optical illusion of sorts.
Now before calling this writer "nuts," give my argument a fair assessment and remember that Compubox stats contradict the alleged "robbery" staple some have labelled Pacquiao vs Marquez III.
Now back to Manny's hair...
No issues with a buzz cut: Manny Pacquiao, right, sporting a buzz-cut wins a far less controversial decision over Juan Manuel Marquez in 2008.
Those who believed Marquez should have won Pacquiao vs Marquez III last year base their argument on their view the Mexican decisively landed the more impactful, more eye-catching blows, more jolting blows.
Whenever Marquez landed, including jabs and partially-landed powershots, Manny Pacquiao's hair appeared to fly up wildly like a rag doll's. From behind, Pacquiao's head appeared to snap back in 'bobble-head' fashion because his long hair bounced wildly every time he was hit, cleanly or partially.
As a matter of fact, Pacquiao's hair jumped high in the air whenever he took an exaggerated step.
Get a haircut Manny
Some fighters purposely wear their hair shorter-than-normal when entering the ring for fear of creating an optical illusion with the judges and media when being hit. Old-time trainers understand this well, knowing the impact of a fighter's punches can often be exaggerated by the 'ragdoll' effect generated by a fighter's long, stringy hair.
Pacquiao vs Bradley
Perhaps the judges, instead of the viewers this time, were optically-tricked into thinking Tim Bradley's shots were far more damaging than they were? After all, Bradley threw more punches than Manny Pacquiao throughout the second half of the fight. Given Manny's hair length, perhaps the judges thought "Desert Storm" was landing bombs?
Pictured: Manny Pacquiao, left, faces Tim Bradley. All punches being equal, which fighter's head will give the illusion of a greater shot landed? Hint: One fighter's hair bounces wildly when hit by a jab while the other's doesn't.
Camacho vs Duran I and II
In 1996, Hector Camacho won a slightly controversial decision over Roberto Duran. And in their rematch, Camacho cruised to a lopsided win.
Although the lengendary Duran was 50 and his skills had deteriorated more than Camacho's since their first meeting five years prior, the first thing some observers noticed was how Duran's long hair sprung-up wildly every time he was hit, giving viewers the impression he was being tagged incredibly hard.
In fact, the actions of Duran's hair gave the impression Camacho, who was never known for being a power puncher, had somehow obtained new found power.
Although the "Macho Man" landed well in their first meeting, his punches didn't seem nearly as impactful because Duran was sporting a short tight, flattop and wasn't a victim of the 'ragdoll' effect every time he was hit or grazed.
So should fans expect Manny Pacquiao to look like Marvin Hagler when he steps in the ring December 8 against Juan Manuel Marquez?
But it would be wise for PacMan to sport shorter hair, especially given the likelihood of another close decision.