Once Ring Magazine‘s pound-for-pound top fighter, Manny Pacquiao is expected to formally announce his retirement from the sport of boxing with his final fight tentatively scheduled for next April. Pacquiao (also known as “Pacman” by the sport’s afficionados) is a boxing legend, and the only fighter in history to have won a world championship belt in 8 weight classes.
Pacquiao has served as an inspiration to citizens of his native Phillipines, as well as an icon for AAPI sports fans in the United States and around the world. Once lauded as standing at the pinnacle of the sport, Pacquiao was heralded as a defiance of the stereotypes that plague Asian and AAPI men. Pacquiao’s ring personality is the very antithesis of those stereotypes: he is brash, aggressive, unpredictable and ferocious, but not always the smartest fighter. Cementing his status as a beloved Filipino icon, Pacquiao has pursued activities focused on political and economic uplift for Filipino people: he is a movie star, a musician, philanthropist and member of the Phillipines’ House of Representatives.
But, perhaps the most exciting aspect of Pacquiao’s career has been the consequences of his team-up with fight promoter Bob Arum. For decades, boxing had progressed by simply ignoring the economies of countries making up nearly half the world. The committed collaboration between Pacquiao and Arum to open the Asian market to the sport of boxing has single-handedly created the Pacific’s now busy boxing hub of Macau, China. In recent years, for example, Pacquiao has eschewed fighting in America and has used his boxing fame and status at the top of the sport to force opponents to fight him in Macau (and to accompany him on lengthy Asian promotional tours preceding the fight), which has brought much-needed international revenue to struggling Pacific economies and has focused greater attention in the sport on Asian fighters. These successful efforts have ushered in the new era of the Asian and Asian American boxer, which includes names such as Zou Shimeng, mixed race Korean-Kazahkstani Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin, and the now-retired Nonito “Filipino Flash” Donaire.
However, when it comes to his performance within the ring, Pacquiao’s once bright star has now faded. In 2012, Pacquiao — already an aging boxer fighting off the heels of a controversial split decision defeat against Timothy Bradley — suffered a humiliating knock-out in the fourth matchup against career rival Juan Manuel Marquez.
Pacquiao never seemed to psychologically recover from that devastating loss. Pacquiao spent nearly a year after his Marquez defeat working with long-time trainer Freddie Roach, and appeared close to form in tune-up fights against Brandon Rios and Chris Algieri; I wrote two years ago that Pacquiao had made a comeback — sort of. Pacquiao looked crisp and polished in a recent victory rematch against Timothy Bradley.
Disappointingly, however, it was a sluggish Manny Pacquiao who appeared for the hotly-anticipated fight — years in the making — against Floyd Mayweather earlier this year. Pacquiao appeared stupefied by Mayweather’s legendarily fast hands and impenetrable defense. Days after his unanimous scorecard defeat, Pacquiao blamed a chronic shoulder injury on his poor performance but most fight fans believe Pacquiao is now a fighter whose physical age and growing boxing disinterest is finally showing.
Now, Pacquiao is doing the right thing, and planning his exit from the sport. ESPN reports that Pacquiao told Arum in a dinner last month that a planned fight for April 9 in Macau will likely be Pacquiao’s last.
“I’m telling you what he told me last week at dinner in New York,” Arum said. “We talked very seriously, and he said, ‘Bob, hopefully, by the middle of May I will have been elected senator in the Philippines, and at that point I cannot engage in boxing because I need to focus on the senate and I have to be in attendance.’
“Manny told me this fight on April 9 will be his last fight.”
Furthermore, it is predicted that Pacquiao’s final fight will likely be against rising star and Omaha native Terence “Bud” Crawford.
Crawford catapulted to superstardom with his unexpected victory over Yuriorkis Gamboa last year, and has quickly become a fan favourite, renowned for his astounding ringmanship, ring IQ, and ambidextrous switching between conventional and Southpaw stance. Last night, Crawford humiliated opponent Dierry Jean with a 10th round TKO in a fight widely recognized as an audition for a pay-per-view match-up with Pacquiao in April. Boxing insiders universally agree that Crawford passed that audition with flying colours.
A fight between Pacquiao and Crawford would be a treat for boxing enthusiasts. Crawford is a fight fan’s fighter, and his active tactical style will nicely complement Pacquiao’s wild aggressiveness, likely resulting in a busy, edge-of-your-seat battle guaranteed to satisfy both new and veteran viewers. As the younger, hungrier and smarter fighter, Crawford would also be the heavy favourite to win; but, if so, Pacquiao would be able to end his career by handing his mantle over to one of boxing’s unofficial pound-for-pound best. Pacquiao could safely retire with his mental and physical faculties still intact to focus full-time on serving the Filipino people as senator. Meanwhile, the fight would cement Crawford as boxing’s next superstar.
For now, Pacquiao’s retirement remains unscheduled. But, if Pacquiao really does decide to go out on a retirement fight next April in Macau, China against the incredible Terence Crawford, it will be the perfect punctuation to a storied, legendary athletic career that has made an indelible impact on boxing, Filipinos, AAPIs and the Asian economy.
Stay tuned to this blog for more details as they emerge.