La Vegas: Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines retained his WBO welterweight title with a closely contested majority decision over Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday.
The 32-year-old southpaw was tested to the full by his older opponent over the 12 rounds but his superior foot and hand speed made the difference as he improved his career record to 54-3-2 with 38 knockouts.
Back in the ring for a third time since winning a seat in his country`s national congress last year, Pacquiao won his 15th consecutive fight after earning two of the verdicts from the three judges.
Dave Moretti (115-113) and Glenn Trowbridge (116-112) awarded the fight to the Filipino while Robert Hoyle made it a 114-114 draw.
"My fans are very happy because clearly I won the fight," Pacquiao said in a ringside interview as boos echoed around the arena from the disgruntled Mexican fans.
"We have to accept that my opponent is not easy. He is good fighter and it`s not easy, but I won the fight."
Marquez, who lifted his arms in triumph after the fight ended, was bitterly disappointed with the outcome after firmly believing he had been cheated of victory in his two previous meetings with Pacquiao.
"It`s hard when you are fighting against the fighter and the judges as well," the 38-year-old Mexican said in his dressing room.
The two boxers fought to a draw in May 2004 before Marquez lost his WBC super-featherweight title to Pacquiao in a controversial one-point split decision in March 2008.
Watched by a sell-out crowd of around 15,000 that included former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson; Pacquiao initially focused on his lightning left jab in the opening round while Marquez relied on counter-punching.
The nimble-footed Filipino, moving faster than his opponent, dictated the early pace but Marquez caught Pacquiao with a couple of right-hand body blows in the second round.
An evenly matched third round ended after Paquiao struck Marquez in the head with a crunching right hook and both boxers traded a flurry of telling counter punches late in the fourth.
As chants of "Marquez, Marquez, Marquez" echoed around the arena, the Mexican dominated the fifth round, catching Pacquiao with a searing left uppercut to the head and later on with a crunching right.
With the intensity building, the two fighters counter-punched at every opportunity and Marquez had the better of the seventh round, landing solid lefts and rights with pinpoint accuracy and cutting Pacquiao on the lip.
The Filipino upped his work rate in the ninth round, peppering Marquez with a series of combinations to the body and head while varying his angle of attack with slick foot movement.
Pacquiao was cut above the right eye in the 10th but immediately signalled to referee Tony Weeks that he had been head-butted and he went on to finish the round with a flurry of solid punches.
The two fighters strived to claim a telling advantage in the last two rounds and Pacquiao landed a crunching left to the Mexican`s head late on in the 12th.