As usual, I will keep tab of my round-by-round scoring when Manny Pacquiao meets Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time.

But I will also be looking at how much speed is lost from the two fighters, who have been going at each other’s throat since fighting to a close and controversial split draw in 2004.

Two more fights in between, they will enter the ring on December 9 (Philippine time) with a little less mane (Marquez) and few more scars (Pacquiao).

Before he left for his Wild Card Gym leg of training, Pacquiao got rid of his beard but kept the moustache and trimmed his locks.  (Did his Head and Shoulders ad contract already expire?)

Pacquiao’s new look may be a paean of his own old self – when he was boxing’s fastest and biggest gun because he needed as much speed against probably boxing’s fastest draw.

Yes. Both boxers are good, if not the best, with their limbs.

Pacquiao is non par riel as far as foot speed and footwork is concerned.

Marquez is as lethal as any venomous serpent with his hands.

Both are heavy punchers but Pacquiao owns probably the most explosive left hand around. But as they add years to their boxing life, their reflexes also wear them out.  They, too, become predictable.  Blame old habits.  And old habits die hard.

Against any other ordinary mortals, I will place my bet on an old Marquez and an aging Pacquiao – anytime.

Trouble is, these two are no mere mortals like us.  They are demigods of the square ring.

When two lords of the ring collide, they cannot forever fight to a draw.   Eventually one of them will become the decisive victor, the other a pitiful vanquished.

That is why it is essential for me to observe early on who has lost THE step.

At 33 going on 34, Pacquiao is still bouncy.  But he has already logged so many fights that some threads may have already lost traction.  It can affect his foot speed.  No wonder conditioning coach Alex Ariza is again pushing Pacquiao to do more isometric exercises to regain some of the lost speed. Pacquiao today will no longer be as quick with his footwork as he was eight years ago.  But a little push, nay, a hard one, could restore some of the lost memory of his leg and calf muscles.

Team Pacquiao knows Marquez will again lay in wait for Pacquiao to commit and make some stupid mistake of staying in front of him.

Marquez, 39, needs to prove he can still pull the trigger.

How he will deploy his trap will dictate how he will negate Pacquiao’s still above-average and still blistering pace.  If he comes like the aging Oscar de la Hoya was when the latter stood in front of the smaller Pacquiao, it would be an early lights out for him.

But for Pacquiao, it is essential to avoid the Marquez ambush.

He has to be the sly fox who wears out his victim.

Oh, I can’t wait to see who outwits who and outpunches who.

You, too?