By the time this column comes out, Manny Pacquiao’s next opponent should have already been announced. (Sources say it’s Mikey Garcia - Ed)
BOXING KEEPS CALLING OUT TO PACQUIAO
After Pacquiao’s win against Keith Thurman in 2019, many were unsure what was next for the Filipino ring icon.
Having just signed with Al Haymon’s Premier Champions suggests that there would be at least 2 more fights for the Filipino.
But the pandemic disrupted all plans and it became a race against time. As the only 8-division champion turned 42 years old in December of 2020, retirement seemed to be a very viable option.
Notably, Pacquiao settled into his senatorial obligations when Covid-19 hit and this fueled speculations that retirement from boxing was imminent. He doubled up his efforts to provide aid and comfort to ailing Filipinos through his foundation. He was very visible, personally distributing relief goods to those who needed help. Pacquiao was also very engaged in any legislation, issue and problem in connection with the pandemic.
Despite all these roles he is now playing outside the ring, the boxing world continues to call out for one of its own.
In late 2020, with a surprise move, Pacquiao signed a promotional contract with Paradigm Promotions, the same group handling the affairs of Universal Fighting Championships superstar Conor McGregor. Naturally, this sparked rumors for a Pacquiao -McGregor match up reported to be held in Dubai.
Soon after, the names of World Boxing Council (WBC) champion Errol Spence Jr. (27-0) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) champion Terence Crawford (37-0) started to float.
Boxing was clamoring for Pacquiao to fight.
If the lure is not enough, the WBA, where Pacquiao was champion, announced that the future hall-of- famer was demoted to a “designated champion in recess” for inactivity. A subtle message perhaps, that says that he needs to fight soon.
Mikey Garcia (40-1-0) and Danny Garcia (36-3-0), both top welterweight contenders, are falling in line for a chance at the now legendary boxer. Even the 21-year-old Ryan Garcia (21-0), despite the disparity in weight class, is running after him.
Many say it is the warrior in each fighter or it is just the nature of the sport, which boxers just cannot seem to stop boxing. Because of this, many of Pacquiao’s supporters are concerned for his safety that there is a silent clamor asking him to hang up his gloves.
LEARNINGS FROM ALI
The tragic end of Muhammad Ali’s career is still fresh in the memory of boxing fans.
“The Greatest” as he dubbed himself, continued to fight even after doctors have advised him to retire.
Ali was popular in and outside the ring. He was an activist, entertainer, musician, writer and philanthropist. His persona was larger than life so much so fans oftentimes could not separate the boxer from the man.
Late in his career, Ali was beaten by a much younger and lighter Leon Spinks in what many say should have been his last fight. But, for reasons only understood by him, Ali prepared for a rematch and wrested the heavyweight crown for the third time.
Ali then announced his retirement in July of 1979 only to comeback just over a year to fight the then champion Larry Holmes, his former sparring partner. It was reported that Ali was fighting because he needed the money and Holmes did not want the fight. Many already knew that Ali was too weak and old to face him.
But everyone wanted to see Ali. Despite all the evidence against fighting again, everyone including Ali turned a blind eye and chose to believe that he could still fight.
Ali lost to Larry Holmes in the most terrible way possible. Many say that the battering he received from Holmes that evening further sped up the onset of Parkinson’s disease on Ali. It was the first time the man whose life symbolized so many things and whose beliefs provided inspiration to many, stayed on his stool and gave up.
IT IS LONELY AND DANGEROUS TO BE AT THE TOP
It is true that the ones on top are the favorite targets. It was true for Ali and it is true for Pacquiao today.
Pacquiao like Ali, aside from becoming a boxing icon, has influence in various fields. Anyone who gets into the ring with him is ensured of a huge payday. Any fighter who gets a chance to fight him is guaranteed worldwide recognition. If any boxer beats him, that would be a significant achievement.
PACQUIAO AND ALI ARE ALIKE BUT TOTALLY DIFFERENT
Fortunately, Pacquiao is in a much better situation than Ali was in.
Pacquiao unlike Ali does not need the money therefore his decision to fight is borne of choice not circumstance. Unmistakably, at 42 years old, Pacquiao still fights like a 30 year old. Although he has slowed down, if his last fight was any indication, he still has the moves. More vital and noteworthy is that his power remains intact.
Consequently, if any of these rivals who are all calling him out expect to be Pacquiao’s Larry Holmes, they better think again.
The truth is, Pacquiao does not need to fight anymore. But who is to tell a warrior like him that he should hang up his gloves? Fighters fight. Boxing history will tell you that when a challenge is set, the legitimate combatants will never back down.
Whenever Pacquiao’s next fight will be, it will be on his terms. Whoever he will be facing amongst the long list of boxers waiting to be chosen does not really matter much. Pacquiao is the draw and every rival simply wants his name beside Manny’s.
Let boxing keep calling him out. When the time comes, Pacquiao will know when to say no.
Mike Ochosa is an avid sportsman. He has written for various broadsheets and on line publication providing his thoughts and insights on various sports. He is a freelance TV boxing analyst having sat ringside in 14 of Pacquiao’s fights and for various international sports networks as well. He was President of Punchout Boxing Club and is currently President and Program Director of Philippine Habagat Baseball.
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