What could have been for Pacquiao

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peter_cariño

I have followed the career of Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao from the time he first won his first world championship in December 4, 1998 when he knocked out Chatchai Sasakul of Thailand for the World Boxing Council flyweight strap. By doing that, he joined the elite club of boxers who won world titles at 19 years old and below.

And I felt terribly sad after Pacquiao lost his world flyweight title in his second title defense, which made him a candidate to join the long list of former Filipino pugs who never made it beyond the first or second title defense and faded into oblivion.

Although Pacquiao would win his next fights, he (and I) got the scare of his life when he was deposited to the canvass by a determined Nadel Hussein in a bout held in October 14, 2000 in local shores. Pacquiao eventually bloodied up the part-Lebanese fighter to register a dramatic stoppage. That was the last time Pacquiao tasted a knockdown until Juan Manuel Marquez floored him in their fourth fight in December 8, 2012.

Then came Pacman’s unexpected fight with Lehlo Ledwaba, of which the Filipino was a substitute challenger. Pacquiao’s fight against Ledwaba had similarities with the Rolando Navarette-Cornelius Boza Edwards fight staged on August 29, 1981. Firstly, Navarette and Pacquiao were substitute challengers; secondly, both Filipinos were overwhelming underdogs; and both won by resounding stoppage. However, I must say that Navarette’s win over Edwards was more dramatic, considering that the African boxer had a four-inch height advantage over the Filipino.

But while Navarette had a more dramatic win over Edwards, he would go on a downward spiral after losing his title to Mexican Bazooka Limon and getting imprisoned for rape charges.

On the other hand, Pacquiao’s stock rose after the Ledwaba win, especially after he stopped a highly favored Marco Antonio Barrera in November 15, 2003. While he lost a decision in his first match with Mexican Eric Morales on March 19, 2005, he would register two knockout wins over his archrival.

Pacquiao went on to beat other top fighters in the higher weight divisions, notably Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Sugar Shane Mosley, among others.

At this point, it is safe to say that Pacquiao is indeed the greatest Filipino and Asian boxer in the sport’s history, and I personally believe that he belongs to the list of the top 10 greatest boxers of all time.

But to rank Pacquiao as the greatest of all time is just too much, because Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Thomas Hearns, among others, still have a better fight résumé.

Yet I sometimes think of “what could have been” had Pacquiao and/or his camp handled the Filipino fighter’s career better.

Although this is purely my opinion, I believe that the third and fourth fight with Marquez was totally unnecessary. While we can admire Pacquiao for facing a very dangerous Marquez up to four times (as of this writing), Pacquiao’s overall stock before his third fight with Marquez wasn’t depreciating. In other words, Pacquiao did not need Marquez to validate his greatness. In fact, it was the other way around – Marquez needed to beat Pacquiao or give the Filipino hard fits to validate the Mexican’s greatness.

The four knockdowns Pacquiao registered in his first two fights with Marquez were enough to show who was the better fighter.

I wonder if anybody called Ali a sissy for not even suggesting a fourth fight with Ken Norton, who obviously beat “The Greatest” in all of their three fights.

But one big error that the PacMan made in his career was to run for Congress. My argument against that is boxers have a very limited window of opportunity to achieve and maintain their peak, and that’s from their early 20s to their mid 30s. And boxers who rely more on power and athleticism like Pacquiao usually have a shorter peak life than those who rely heavily on skills and stealth. Go ask Floyd Mayweather who is still peaking even if he is 36 years old.

On the part of Pacquiao, he was near his peak after his demolition of Hatton on May 2, 2005, or when was 29 years old.

Pacquiao or his handlers should have realized after the Hatton win that Pacquiao only had five to six more good boxing years at the most left, and that he should capitalize on that by devoting 101 percent of his attention to boxing.

Some may point out that top heavyweight Vitali Klitschko is 41 years old. But Vitali always enjoyed a height and weight advantage over his opponents, since he is fighting in the heavyweight division.

Just imagine if Pacquiao devoted 101 percent of his attention to boxing. Maybe he could have easily disposed of Mosley, Timothy Bradley, and even Marquez in their third fight by knockout.

Also, Pacquiao has never registered a knockout since stopping Cotto on November 14, 2009. And don’t tell me that Bradley was a more durable fighter than Cotto.

Pacquiao can still redeem himself by racking a win over his next opponent, and then Marquez.

But a youthful Brandon Rios is the wrong opponent for Pacquiao. That’s another matter worth discussing.

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