Tonight, Pacquiao and Bradley are calling a do-over of their first match in Pacquiao-Bradley 2 (HBO PPV, starting 9pm EST). And, the casual observer may assume that tonight will be a redemption for Pacquiao; however, the events of the intervening year since Pacquiao-Bradley I strongly suggest that tonight will go a different way.
Tonight is likely to mark the end of the Pacquiao era.
As the first and only boxer to earn a title belt in eight weight class divisions through his career, Pacquiao was once crowned boxing’s pound-for-pound king by Ring Magazine. Over the years, he has defeated many of boxing’s big names, including Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, and Oscar De La Hoya. At the height of his career, fans clamoured for him to take on boxing’s other undisputed champion — Floyd Mayweather. It was a fight that all hoped might actually match (even challenge) Mayweather’s superhuman technical skill, and was anticipated to earn millions for both fighters. Yet, despite intense negotiations between both camps (that devolved into vicious and even racist feuding) this fight has yet to manifest.
In 2012, Pacquiao suffered two consecutive losses that may have put the final nails into the coffin for a Pacquiao-Mayweather bout. For a fighter whose rise in boxing was meteoric, his fall from grace was equally as long a fall. In the 2012 spring season, Pacquiao suffered a controversial scorecard loss to the up-and-coming young fighter Timothy Bradley (a defeat that even I thought was an example of bad judging). Although boxing fans wrote this off as Pacquiao being a victim of the sport’s innate arbitrariness when it comes to scoring, fans were also certain that in the ring he looked more sluggish than we were used to.
Well, after an 11 month hiatus, Pacquiao was back in the ring, fighting the young and brash boxerfighterbrawlerplatypus with boxing gloves Brandon Rios (look for the Storify of my live-tweet coverage of the night at the end of this post, after the jump). To folks like me, it was as if Pacquiao had something to prove — that he wasn’t going to exit boxing with his face in the mat. That, despite his many other accomplishments, he still needed to be a boxing superstar.
And, after 12 rounds of one-sided action, one thing is clear: Manny Pacquiao is back. Sort of.
I’m not usually a huge sports fan — I’m one of the few Asian American bloggers who didn’t weight in on Linsanity (or Linsanity, part 2) because I don’t watch basketball. But, I make an exception for boxing, which I’ve been into for a few years. Those of you who are boxing fans (and perhaps all of you who are Filipino/Filipino-American, whether or not you watch boxing) are aware that this weekend is a big date in boxing: Manny Pacquiao, a major athletic figure turned Filipino congressman, is scheduled to stage a comeback this Saturday.
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.