Filipino idol Manny Pacquiao seemed to have victory at his grasp in his fourth fight against Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico Saturday night, when the Pacman ran into a devastating right hand counter punch that rendered him unconscious for a good two minutes.
Since he began his dominance in the boxing world almost ten years ago, Pacquiao has stood his ground against such punches and had not been knocked down; thus, it was shocking to see him crumpled and unmoving on the canvass, face down with his once feared hands and fists tucked under his body. Is this the end of our Pambansang Kamao (National Fist)?
It is prudent to remember that boxing is a sport of delivering blows mostly to the head of the opponent, and many fighters who caught too many punches retire with slurred speech, blurred vision and brain damage. The great Mohammad Ali is a prime case in point. Certainly no one, especially his family, would want Pacquiao ending up similarly.
After such a crushing defeat, Pacquiao perhaps must consider retirement from boxing. Its history is littered with past great champions who were dominant and feared in their prime, but after losing by knockout, were never the same fighters again. Legendary pound-for-pound champions Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr., who were there Saturday night, were both heralded the greatest boxer not only of their era, but also for all time. But when they fell to the canvas, their aura of invincibility evaporated. They eventually lost to no-name fighters, and their career and fame went downhill.
One might argue that Pacquiao has not lost his skills, and before going down he had been impressively imposing his overall ring dominance. Despite suffering a flash knockdown in the third round, he evened the score with a similar knockdown of Marquez in the fifth. From then on Pacquiao clearly gained the upper hand and battered Marquez, who was bleeding around his eyes and his nose. In the fateful sixth, he pummeled his rival across the ring, and Marquez retreated, appearing to have been trapped in a corner. When Pacquiao went for the kill, Marquez, in desperation, fired a counter right punch. It caught Pacquiao off guard, and he dropped like a fallen tree. It might have been a lucky punch, but it woke up every Filipino to the fact that the Pambansang Kamao is mortal after all.
Pacquiao had been knocked out twice before, on his 12th and 28th fight, yet each time he rebounded and went on to win world titles. He is still considerably young at 33, but his fighting style is ultra-aggressive, reliant on speed and flexibility and he has fought so many mano-a-mano brawls that his alertness to duck a punch seems to have diminished and his reflexes, slowed. Despite Pacquiao’s loss, his marketability, though for now reduced, may possibly allow at least a couple of multimillion dollar fights ahead. The much awaited super-mega fight against Floyd Mayweather, once a probable $50 million bonanza for Pacquiao, has for now gone down the drain, as Pacquiao can no longer be considered a challenger for Mayweather’s crown. (A champion doesn’t fight a loser). However, if he wins a couple of quick redemption fights (such as against Tim Bradley, to whom he lost the welterweight title last June because of questionable judging), he can resuscitate such a dream fight. That would surely be a big reason for Pacquiao to keep on fighting.
His loss seems to validate the criticism that he is losing his focus on boxing because of his political career and other interests, such as acting in the movies and singing. These have certainly taken time away from the gym (though his dismal attendance record as a congressman may contradict this). Last year, he proclaimed he was cleaning up his life by becoming an evangelical Christian. Some people, including his mother, suggest that changing his religion and abandoning some “lucky rituals” led to his defeat.
Pacquiao has proved his skill and prowess in the ring, but after this humbling defeat and the image of him lying unconscious on the ring, his family surely will bear down hard on him to retire, if only to prevent more injury and shield his great legacy from being tarnished further.
So, is this the career ending knockout loss for the Filipino sports hero? Share us your thoughts.
I. Wilfredo Ver is a sports aficionado based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is the Tagalog translator for the Oakland Raiders web site.