With the fight between Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2 with 38 knockouts) and Timothy Bradley (33-1-1 with 13 KOs) now finalized, there are quarters who think the Filipino should have chosen a younger and more powerful opponent, also for the sake of undertaking the “changing of the guard” ritual.
Much of the time, it is the younger boxer who wins a changing of the guard fight, which is also called “passing of the torch.” If the younger fighter wins in such bouts, it confirms his potential as a future super star while signaling the need for the aging fighter to finally retire. But there are few occasions the aging fighter prevails.
But is the ritual a requirement for all boxers who are set to retire, like Pacquiao?
My answer: no.
Pacquiao at this juncture of his career is past his peak, but given his accomplishments and legacy from boxing, he is actually a very good “stepping stone” for any of the young and upcoming superstars today. And from what I have seen so far from the “young guns” at welterweight to middleweight in the past six to 24 months, the batch or group seems to be one of the most formidable in many years.
I have mentioned these boxers many times in my past columns: Canelo Alvarez (46-1 with 32 KOs); Gennady Golovkin (34-0 with 31 KOs); Keith Thurman (26-0 with 22 KOs); Terence Crawford (27-0 with 19 KOs); Shawn Porter (26-1 with 16 KOs); and Danny Garcia (31-0 with 18 KOs).
At this point, Alvarez does not need a bout with Pacquiao while Golovkin is courteous enough not to call out the Filipino, perhaps knowing that it would be ridiculous for him to seek a match up with a smaller fighter.
But the handlers of Thurman, Crawford, Porter and Garcia or the fighters themselves may have Pacquiao in their radar, and may be willing to cash in on a bout with the Filipino. Thurman even considered fighting Pacquiao about two years ago.
Given Pacquiao’s offensive fighting style, a younger and bigger fighter who can match his punching power presents danger to the Filipino in the ring. And Thurman, Crawford, Porter and Garcia all have power in their hands and stand between 5’8” and 5’9”. This means there is a chance Pacquiao will lose in the hands of any of the four fighters.
Boxing history has shown an aging fighter who has fought in numerous championship bouts usually cannot stand a chance against a hungry young fighter who wants to be the next superstar: a 24-year-old Jack Dempsey mauls a much bigger but older (at 37 years old) Jess Willard for the heavyweight championship on July 1919; on July 2009, a 38-year-old Julio Cesar Chavez lost via sixth-round stoppage to a 30-year-old Kostya Tszyu; and on December 2008, Pacquiao who was 11 days away from his 30th birthday, stopped 35-year old Oscar Dela Hoya.
But there are a few occasions when a fighter nearing retirement age turned back younger fighters: Marvin Hagler at 31 years old stopped on March 1986 then feared fighter John Mugabi who was 25 years old then and had a 25-0 with 25 KOs record; and Floyd Mayweather Jr. decisioned Canelo Alvarez on September 2013. Mayweather was 37 at the time while Alvarez was 23.
If an accomplished boxer who is past his prime is still hungry for more recognition, has a misplaced sense of machismo or is going bankrupt or actually bankrupt, he will most likely seek fights with the top young fighters to get better paydays or collar more championship belts. Well, Pacquiao does not need to bolster his stock anymore, wants to serve his countrymen as a politician and surely has millions of pesos left from the large purses he got.
So please stop asking Pacquiao to take part in the changing of guard or passing the torch ritual. Such rituals are actually saying to an aging fighter “your time is running out” or “your time is up.” Some fighters past their prime, fortunately, know when to quit. Ask Mayweather.