Will there be a Pacquiao comeback?

The only thing standing in the way of Manny Pacquiao is Manny Pacquiao.
The only thing standing in the way of Manny Pacquiao is Manny Pacquiao.

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:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfZtHuE2MJU

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.

Although it's also totally possible that Manny just had no idea what Freddy Roach was saying when he said it.
Although it’s also totally possible that Manny just had no idea what Freddy Roach was saying when he said it. Because no one really ever has any idea what Freddy Roach is talking about.

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.

 

Will the devastating knockout that ended Pacquiao-Marquez 4 also spell the end of Pacquiao’s boxing career?

This may be the punch that ended the Pacquiao reign for good.

I just got home from watching Pacquiao-Marquez 4. By now, you’ve probably heard the news: Manny Pacquiao, at one time the greatest pound-for-pound boxing champion in the world, was knocked out cold by Juan Manuel Marquez in the final seconds of the sixth round, ending both the fight and possibly Pacquiao’s boxing career.

In truth, perhaps it’s time to let Pacquiao’s boxing career go quietly into the good night.

For nearly 30 seconds, Pacquiao lay listlessly on the mat as ring-side officials desperately checked to make sure he was still breathing and Pacquiao’s wife, Jinkee, sobbed hysterically. When he was finally roused, Pacquiao gamely sat up and smiled for the cameras. But, news reports say that the Pac-Man was later rushed to the hospital for a full, albeit preventative, check-up.

Pacquiao is no longer a young fighter. At 33, Pac-Man is older, slower, and heavier than the speedy, youthful fighter who debuted in 1995 in the light flyweight division at 16 years old and less than 100 pounds. In the following 17 years, Pacquiao has moved up eight weight classes, and become an undisputed champion in each.

I’ve been a begrudging Pacquiao fan for the last few years. Let me tell you why: as a boxer, Pacquiao is undisputedly great. Before Pac-Man, no boxer had dominated in as many weight classes as he had. And, further, Pacquiao is a household name in boxing, and he’s Asian; for Asian Americans, Pacquiao was a direct, headlong challenge to the stereotype of the emasculated, weak Asian/Asian American male. Throughout the controversial negotiations that aimed to set up a fight between Manny Pacquiao and the talented boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather — negotiations that were often bitterly racist — Pacquiao was remarkably poised and dignified, earning him further respect within the Asian American community.

But, Pacquiao’s star has also shone at a time when boxing, as a sport, is waning. In boxing, a fighter is only as good as his opponents, and Pacquiao dominated in multiple weight classes while there was a dearth of superstars for him to challenge. And, I’ve always felt that Pacquiao was most comfortable in the lighter weight classes; every time he moved up in weight, his technique seemed to suffer.

Among the fighters that Pacquiao has fought is Juan Manuel Marquez. Pacquiao and Marquez were among the most evenly matched fighters we have seen in modern boxing. Their first fight ended in a draw, with two judges scoring on opposite ends of the spectrum, and the final judge scoring the fight a tie. The remaining two fights were both given to Pacquiao by scorecard, but the decisions were controversial with many believing that at least one of the two should have been decided in Marquez’s favour.

Fast forward to tonight. Pacquiao-Marquez 4 was supposed to be the final showdown between these two fighters, and it was an edge of your seat fight with both boxers earning knockdowns. But, the final seconds of Round 6 were definitive and unquestionable; and potentially devastating for Pacquiao’s boxing future.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFwhqs1OCYg

There’s no ambiguity here. This punch was the winning salvo in the war between Pacquiao and Marquez. This punch eliminated any possibility that Pacquiao is still boxing’s greatest pound-for-pound fighter. This punch destroyed any possibility of a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. This punch, most likely, ended Pacquiao’s boxing career. And, it goes without saying, this punch could have caused permanent damage to Pacquiao’s brain.

If Pacquiao can’t prevent a blow like this — whether due to age or fading athleticism or deficits in skill — it is simply no longer safe for him to be boxing. It is time for him to retire.

In truth, this is tragic. Like him or hate him, Pacquiao is a great fighter who also helped repopularize a dying sport. He deserved to retire gracefully from boxing, with either a knockout win or even a close technical decision. He deserved the opportunity to maintain a claim to being one of boxing’s true greats. He deserved better than to be eulogized in the sport of boxing with an image of him knocked out cold with his face buried in the mat.

But, perhaps I’m being too hasty. Perhaps Pacquiao will stay in the sport. Certainly, there have been other fighters who have failed to see the writing on the wall, and who have continued to fight long past when they should have. Hopefully, Pacquiao will not follow in their footsteps, because these stories often end in true champions on the receiving end of devastating knockouts at the hands of unworthy opponents. Nonetheless, if Pacquiao chooses to continue fighting, than these are the lessons he must learn from this knockout defeat:

  1. Keep your guard up. Pacquiao (like many boxers) suffer from guard laziness. In this fight, Pacquiao was knocked down (and the second time knocked out) twice by an overhand right to the face left wide open by a left guard that Pacquiao routinely leaves sagging. All boxers, even Pac-Man, need to be reminded of the consequences of leaving your defenses down.
  2. Quit fiddling with your shorts. Bold. Underline. This is one of Pacquiao’s most bizarre bad habits. Pacquiao routinely drops both his guards to pull his pants up; which makes even less sense when one realizes that it’s impossible to pull your pants up when you have boxing gloves on your hands! Also, ridiculous when you consider that your shorts aren’t going anywhere! This weird habit appears to be part of Pacquiao’s rhythm in the ring, but one that I’ve maintained is dangerous because it leaves your guard wide open. It only takes one skilled fighter to clock him while he’s busy messing with his shorts to end that nonsense.
  3. Stop trying to win rounds with the wild final 10 second flurry. Pacquiao has the bad habit of hearing the 10 second warning clapper and going into full-out Tazmanian Devil mode, windmilling wildly with left and right hooks designed to steal the round on a judge’s scorecard. Here’s the problem: it’s full-out, out-of-control Tazmanian Devil mode. All it takes is one skilled counter-puncher (re: Juan Manuel Marquez) to take advantage of this predictable behaviour. In fact, Pacquiao’s reliance on this strategy is so consistent that I predicted back in round 3 that Pacquiao would be knocked out in the next few rounds in the final seconds of the round when he left his head open during some crazy windmilling. And, lo and behold…
  4. You are not Superman. This is the most important lesson to learn. No boxer is invulnerable. You, too, can get popped.

Asian Americans will predictably be disappointed if Pacquiao does, indeed, decide to announce his retirement from boxing in the coming weeks. But, while Pacquiao was an undeniable great, he is not the sole Asian American who has, or will, dominate in the sport of boxing. Indeed, tonight alone we saw Michael Farenas, another Filipino fighter, fight in an undercard match against Yuriorkis Gamboa. Although Farenas lost the fight, he demonstrated better skill, strength, and heart than his opponent, and I believe he is a rising star in the sport worth keeping our eye on.

And either way, whether this is the coda to, or a mere hiccup in, Pacquiao’s boxing career, Manny Pacquiao will go down in history as one of boxing’s greatest fighters. And no one, not even Juan Manuel Marquez’s right hook, can take that away from him.

Join me for Pacquiao/Marquez IV on Twitter at 9pm EST

Pacquiao/Marquez IV goes down tonight starting 9pm EST.

Tonight it all goes down. Manny Pacquiao, coming off a grueling scorecard defeat at the hands of Timothy Bradley (which virtually everyone  — including me — but the ringside judges believed should have gone to Pac-Man), is facing off against his career-long nemesis, Juan Manuel Marquez tonight. Pacquiao and Marquez have squared off three times already over 8 years: the first bout was a draw, while the second two were awarded narrowly to Pacquiao although many watching the fights thought Marquez should have won.

Tonight is the fourth showdown between these two boxers, and both sides agree that it will also be their last. I will be live-tweeting the undercards and the main fight tonight on Twitter at @reappropriate. Please join me if you’re also a boxing fan!

Roger Mayweather’s Racist Tweets

One of the many ignorant Tweets tweeted by Roger Mayweather prior to Saturday's bout between Pacquiao and Bradley. Hit up the link to 8Asians for more.

8Asians has documented some of the racist, anti-Asian Tweets sent by Roger Mayweather, uncle and trainer to Floyd Mayweather. They were all tweeted prior to Saturday’s Pacquiao/Bradley fight, and while some are targeted towards Pacquiao, others seem geared towards other Asian American athletes like Jeremy Lin, or against Asian Americans at-large.

(On an unrelated note: what’s up with the glaring grammatical errors when it comes to hate speech? What, bigots are so filled with rage and intolerance that they don’t have time to proofread their inane self-absorbed scribbles? It’s called spellcheck, morons.)

There’s boxing trash-talk and then there’s heinous, disgusting racism. The Mayweather camp seems to be really, really confused about the distinction. But then again, maybe bigotry and intolerance runs in the family.

Hey Money Team — way to bring down all of boxing with your idiocy. As if Saturday’s decision wasn’t enough of an embarrassment for the sport.

 

Pacquiao Was Robbed

Pacquiao delivering a counter-punch to Bradley. This pretty much sums up the entire fight in a single image.

Last night, Manny Pacquiao fought lesser-known Timothy Bradley to defend his WBO Welterweight title. Pacquiao gained fame and notoriety for accumulating championship belts in eight separate weight classes and being named boxing’s pound-for-pound best fighter, and (amongst Asian Americans) for doing so as a proud Filipino. Pacquiao, or Pac-Man as he’s called by fans, is also a prominent elected official in the Phillipines, and has become a household name around the world, even amongst people who don’t follow the sport of boxing, particularly after the repeated hyping (and fizzling) of a Pacquiao/Mayweather bout.

Let’s be clear: Pacquiao’s good, but he’s not phenomenal. I think Pacquiao is a superstar in a sea of mediocrity, but that he would have lost a head-to-head against Pretty Boy Floyd Mayweather, who is a boxing prodigy gifted with the ability to deliver lightning-fast punches with force and accuracy. Mayweather may be a racist asshole, but he’s also a danged good boxer.

That being said, Pacquiao is better than Timothy Bradley, last night’s Welterweight challenger; and, he demonstrated that in his fight against Bradley last night. Since paying $50 for PPV is just obscene, I went out to a sports bar last night to watch the fight. I waded through some really bizarre undercard fights:

  • Jones vs. Bailey: Bailey was an old dog losing on the scorecard against the precocious Jones, but who refused to back down and somehow delivered a devastating knock-out uppercut to Jones for a crazy, Rocky-style win
  • Arce vs. Rojas: Arce knocked down Rojas in the middle of round 1 with a solid punch to the jaw, but the fight ended in the first ten seconds of round 2 when Rojas delivered an illegal headbutt to Arce and then followed with a powershot to Arce’s temple while Arce was reeling and defenseless from the skull-to-skull contact. Arce was unable to stand up after that, and the ring doctor was forced to stop the fight. Arce was robbed of what should have been a clear win, which should have been foreshadowing for the main event.

All this while I tried to comprehend the bizarre sport that is basketball (the East Coast finals were on, and Boston was playing the Miami Heat).

So, let me get this straight: this is a game where a bunch of freakishly gigantic men trade turns rushing back and forth across the court to put a teeny tiny ball into a teeny tiny net, while simultaneously pretending that any slightest touch has wounded them mortally?

After the Heat defeated the Celtics, Pacquiao and Bradley took to the ring. Bradley started off strong in round 1 with some flurries that seemed to announce that he was no slouch, and clearly ready for the challenge of taking on the Pac-Man. Bradley was armed with a clear strategy: throw his jab every couple of seconds to keep Pacquiao distant (smart, since Pacquiao is a close-in fighter who likes to deliver wild, looping flurries on the inside) and then to lunge in on the offensive when he felt like he had an opening. Pacquiao was largely inactive in this round, seeming to take his time to assess his opponent. I scored round 1 10-9 for Bradley, rewarding him for his activity and ring dominance.

But, then enter in rounds 2-10. Bradley experimented with combination after combination on Pacquiao, and all of them seemed to bounce harmlessly off Pacquiao’s defenses. Like a puppy trying to fight a seasoned hound, Bradley spent most of these rounds getting cuffed behind the ear after delivering wild, and largely ineffective, flurries. While I applaud Bradley’s execution of his strategy in keeping Pacquiao distant (his jab was out every few seconds like clockwork, even though there was no power behind it), he was simply ill-equipped to actually be offensive at that distance either. Meanwhile, every time Bradley lunged in, he left his big shiny head open like a blinking target, and Pacquiao kept clocking him in the temple. At least a couple of times, these hooks rocked Bradley on his feet, and he stumbled as he struggled to maintain his footing.

Pacquiao’s strategy seemed to be to win on the scorecards. As has been observed by other reporters, Pacquiao largely took the first minute of each round off, and then seemed to find his wind within the last 30 seconds of each round to try and steal the round. I have to admit that his punches seemed to lack power; a larger and stronger fighter should’ve had Bradley on the floor with a couple of those temple shots. Last night’s fight made me wonder if Pac-Man has reached the limit of his weight increases; he may simply not have the power to compete in some of the heavier weight classes, where power-punching is critical. That being said, in comparison to Bradley, Pacquiao was landing more punches, and they were clearly more effective; on every score card of every fan, including that of HBO’s Harold Lederman, Pacquiao won almost every round between rounds 2-10.

By round 10, Bradley appeared exhausted, and his arms hung limply by his side. His distancing jab was looking weak and his feet were dragging. To be fair, the same could’ve been said of Pacquiao. But both fighters dug deep in round 11 and found some more juice; to Bradley’s credit, Bradley had more left than Pacquiao. Bradley came out cleaner, sharper and more active in the last two rounds of the fight, and had he performed throughout the fight as he did in rounds 11 and 12, than his victory would have been without question. On my scorecard, Bradley easily took the last two rounds, while Pacquiao — perhaps assuming (and I should think rightly so) that he had the fight in the bag on the scorecard — seemed focused merely on staying upright.

The fight ended with a relatively lacklustre final 30 seconds, and I started packing up my things. I had scored the bout 117-111 for Pacquiao, in an obvious technical win.

Except, apparently, the judges were asleep at the ringside. In a stunning, shocking, and infuriating outcome, two out of the three judges (C.J. Ross and Duane Ford) scored the fight 115-113 in favour of Bradley. The final judge, Jerry Roth, scored the fight 115-113 for Pacquiao.

Pacquiao/Bradley scorecard. This is the worst example of blatant, ball-sy lying that you will see all year.

Here’s what happened: for completely inexplicable reasons, both Ross and Ford gave most of the middle rounds to Bradley. They apparently rewarded Bradley for his out-of-the-corner flurries, seeming to be blind to the fact that none of these flurries got through Pacquiao’s defenses. They apparently wrote their decision out in the middle of each round, and then took a nap for the last few minutes of each round. Or, maybe they were too distracted by what was going on on their laptops:

Kinda like this guy

Either way, the judge’s behaviour reeked to even the most unseasoned of boxing fans. Their decision couldn’t be supported by the CompuBox numbers (Pacquiao was more active, and landed more overall punches and power punches), or even by the naked eye (Pacquiao was the clear dominator, pushing Bradley around the ring). Their decision made no sense from the perspective of punch effectiveness (Bradley was clearly shaken at multiple points throughout the fight by Pacquiao’s shots connecting to the temple). Their decision was, in short, based almost entirely on money.

That’s right, money. See, Pacquiao has run out of opponents to fight, and he recently made headlines when he (erroneously or otherwise) condemned homosexuality based on his traditional Catholic upbringing. A win for Pacquiao was a redemption that he remains the greatest active fighter in boxing, but with no one left to fight, and thus no money left to be made. A lose for Pacquiao is a slap on the wrist for the recent poor publicity, and also a great set-up for Pacquiao/Bradley II, because it (artificially) elevates Bradley to Pacquiao’s level. Pacquiao’s hands are tied: he has almost been forced by last night’s piss-poor decision to fight Bradley again (in which Bradley will get utterly destroyed because he’s just not that good). And with a Pacquiao/Bradley sequel comes a veritable landslide of revenue for WBO.

And this — exactly this — is why boxing is dying as a sport.

Last night’s fight was watched by casual and hardcore boxing fans alike. This was boxing’s moment to define itself as a sport, to prove to the naysayers that its reputation for being violent, arbitrary, and unfair is unfounded. This was a chance to win new boxing fans and to reinvigorate the loyal followers with a great match.

Instead, the sport of boxing caved to the demands of capitalism and, in effect, threw a fight to help enhance its bottom line. Doing this in such a brazen, shameless, and obvious way may have secured a Pacquiao/Bradley re-match, but it has turned off thousands of potential and actual fans, who have been left with the bitter realization that the sport may have been indelibly corrupted. No longer can boxing claim to be a fair, just, or objective sport of skill and athleticism: clearly, boxing has become nothing more than a large-scale money-making device, rife with fixed fights and corrupt judges.

Even without the bad scorecard decision, last night’s fight was not Pacquiao’s shining moment. Pacquiao was slow, a little weak, and had sputtered out in his last rounds. But even so, he still outclassed Bradley, who was little more than a flailing brawler. Pacquaio deserved a close, but clear, technical win last night; the fact that he was denied it signifies, to me, the end of boxing as a sport.

Pacquiao was robbed and boxing is dead. Hey, is that basketball game still on?