Endangered species

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Ed C. Tolentino

Ed C. Tolentino

Out with the old, in with the new; so goes a popular New Year maxim.

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The adage does not necessarily ring true in boxing. While the young guns of the sport are raring to take over the sport, there are still a number of old guards who continue to hang around in the hope of giving their careers a blazing finish. Considering the boxing mileage these veteran pugs have accumulated through the years, it’s safe to say that they have come to constitute the sport’s endangered species.

Filipino Manny Pacquiao heads the list of the sport’s vanishing breed which also counts Puerto Rican Miguel Angel Cotto, Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez, Argentinean Sergio Martinez, and American Bernard Hopkins.

Pacquiao’s fistic stock actually took an Enron-like nosedive when he was knocked out cold by Marquez in 2012. Amid loose whispers that he may be shot as a fighter, Pacquiao made a successful comeback late last year with a one-sided drubbing of Brandon Rios. So dominant was Pacquiao that a not a few experts now believe that the Filipino still has what it takes to give Floyd Mayweather Jr. a good fight.

Of course, it cannot be denied that Pacquiao’s days in the ring are numbered. He is already 35 years old and has boxed 383 rounds in a career that started back in January 1995. Pacquiao (55-5, 38 knockouts) gained fame for his immense punching power, but he has not scored a knockout victory since he tamed Cotto in 2009.

Marquez finally achieved superstar status by beating Pacquiao, but his career returned to the doldrums after he was outclassed in 12 rounds by Timothy Bradley last September. While he appeared in excellent condition against Pacquiao, Marquez looked sluggish and unmotivated against Bradley. It appears that Marquez already had his fill against Pacquiao and is no longer that hungry. Then again, it cannot be denied that wear-and-tear also has a lot to do with Marquez’s descent. Marquez is already 40 years old and has been a pro since 1993. He could have retired in 2009, when he was dominated by Mayweather, but Marquez kept defying Father Time in pursuit of the elusive victory against Pacquiao. Now that he has accomplished his mission, Marquez (55-7, 40 knockouts) may want nothing more.

Martinez and Hopkins are two fighters long overdue for a trip to the retirement home, but they continue to find success primarily because of the dearth of quality opposition. Martinez regained the World Boxing Council (WBC) middleweight (160 pounds) title in 2012 by beating the extremely overrated and overfed Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., but he has since struggled with an assortment of injuries. The 38-year-old Martinez made only one appearance last year and had to recover from an early knockdown before outpointing Martin Murray.

At age 48, Hopkins has become boxing’s Methuselah. He currently sits as the International Boxing Federation (IBF) light heavyweight (175 pounds) champion, but truth be told he has been relying more on ring guile to eke out wins. Gone is the Hopkins who demolished the likes of Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya, replaced instead by one who relies more on grab-and-hold tactics.

Cotto, 33, looked terribly jaded when he dropped a lopsided decision loss to Austin Trout in December 2012 for the World Boxing Association (WBA) junior middleweight (154 pounds) title. It was Cotto’s second consecutive loss that year as he was beaten seven months before by Mayweather. Right then and there, Cotto’s followers called for him to retire, but the proud Puerto Rican hit the comeback road in October last year with a third-round knockout of unheralded Devil Rodriguez. Cotto has been plagued by confidence issues since he absorbed his first loss to Antonio Margarito in 2008. He is, however, working on one more megabuck against either Martinez or Mexican Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

Nobody stays a champion forever. The time will come when a king has to step down and pass the crown to a young usurper. This is an inevitable fact and a rite of passage of some sort for an accomplished champion as he takes his place among the all-time greats.

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