Last year, Manny Pacquiao — the one-time fighter heralded as boxing’s pound-for-pound greatest — suffered one of the most bruising falls from grace in the sports history. Last December, in the fourth rematch against Juan Manuel Marquez, this happened:
It was speculated that Pacquiao’s defeat last year occurred as a combination of excessive self-confidence, poor training, lack of mental focus, and distracting personal problems. Since that knockout, Pacquiao’s camp has been largely silent, and I personally felt like it was time for Pacquiao — already an aging fighter — to hang up his gloves and focus on other pursuits like his successful political career.
But, like almost all maturing boxers, Pacquiao can’t seem to see the writing on the wall. Two months from now on November 24, Pacquiao is scheduled to fight Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios in Macau, a fight largely seen by boxing fans as an all-in, must-win fight for Pacquiao. Should Pacquiao lose this fight, it will be almost necessary for him to retire. Furthermore, after the embarrassment of his knock-out by Marquez, fans also believe that Pacquiao needs an undeniable victory — preferably by knock-out — to maintain any claim to be at the forefront of boxing. It will not be good if the fight goes to the score-card.
While I personally dislike Pacquiao’s fighting style (I prefer technical and tight boxers and dislike how Pacquiao has a tendency to lead with his forehead), Pacquiao is a great fighter who if in peak fighting condition should have no problem with Rios. This is, after all, intended to be a comeback fight, and has even been organized for Pacquiao’s home turf.
Yet, even with everything that went wrong for Pacquiao in Pacquiao/Marquez IV (which culminated in that devastating knock-out linked above), Pacquiao still seems bizarrely unconcerned about preparing for his fight with Rios. Earlier this week, BoxingScene.com reported that Pacquiao had sprained an ankle in a pick-up game of basketball — his third consecutive game of the day. This happened despite reservations from Coach Freddy Roach that basketball games could lead to an injury.
What’s more concerning is further in the report, wherein Pacquiao says he’s not yet in “serious training” for his November 24th fight, and that serious training will begin when Roach flies to Macau October 6th after he finishes training Miguel Cotto.
Now, I get it. Fighters shouldn’t overtrain too early prior to a big fight: they risk exhaustion and serious injury. But, Pacquiao’s report that to-date his training is limited pretty much to “jogging and light training” makes me worry that Pacquiao hasn’t learned from his last fight that he needs to take his fighting career seriously. The upcoming bout with Rios is — like literally — the fight of Pacquiao’s career; a defeat will finish Pacquiao as a fighter.
So long as Pacquiao fails to consider the ramifications of a loss in November, so long Pacquiao continues to believe he can “wing” this and other fights, so long as Pacquiao persists in failing to take this upcoming fight or any other fight seriously, Manny Pacquiao’s days as a boxer will continue to be numbered.
And most tragically, he will have deserved it.