Manny Pacquaio: No Fire, Retire
I wonder if Manny looks back to those days of being knocked out, where he literally had to be picked up off the canvas by a cornerman, arms hanging limp…
Manny Pacquiao’s fan base is so strong and so ardent that one feels compelled, prior to offering any critique, to set out that they are, as well, a huge fan. That fan base of course has been earned time and time again, in the toughest of sports, as has the fan base of the great Juan Manuel Marquez. As we await Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez number four one is left wondering what level Manny will perform at.
“It’s no use going back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”—Lewis Carroll
Leading up to this fight Pacquiao has repeatedly spoken of going back to what he used to be in terms of a fighter. “For me I realize that I need to go back to the aggressiveness I had before when I was 25, 26 years old.” As a fighter Manny has come a long way, and a long way back it has been, fighter years, from that day, back in 1996, that he was knocked out cold by a single left hand courtesy of Rustico Torrecampo. “It’s over, it’s over, it’s over, one punch, his eyes are crossed…” yelled the announcers in repetitive fashion. Yet his career had hardly just begun.
The paradox of course, in talking about going back to what you once did or were, is in the mere fact that you are thinking and talking about yesteryear. How could it be back the same? Talking about what you used to be means you are not what you use to be. Make no mistake of that in terms of Champion Manny. The young lad with the dyed hair job and biker-like red flames flowing up the boxing trunks, with the Duran and Valero-like killer intent, is not the Manny we have watched the past few years.
LOOKING GLASS COUNTRY
“Without a sense of urgency desire loses its value.”—Jim Rohn
I wonder if Manny looks back to those days of being knocked out, where he literally had to be picked up off the canvas by a cornerman, arms hanging limp. Does he look back to that day that he had all he could handle, dropped by a jab, hurt badly and pounded relentlessly in round four, fighting Nedal Hussein? Does he look back, looking glass country to 1999, being chased from one post to the other, collapsing in the third round, in a prayer like position, and then squirming like a worm on hot black pavement, having being knocked out by a single body shot, literally coughing up his WBC crown to Medgoen Singsurat?
If ever there was a time for Manny to look back at the man in the mirror now would possibly be it. Pacquiao has traveled a long way from the extreme poverty of Sarangani Province and a long way, in boxer years that he has traveled to present day.
The storyline now grows thin: the $700 daily Nat’s Restaurant patronage; the huge entourage from personal dog do walkers to personal car washers; the Dan Hill duets; the bible classes; the everybody getting a flaming meteor rock tattoo like Manny and Manny will pay you $1500; the alleged marriage distractions courtesy of actress Krista Ranillo; the lawyer, or wannabe cornerman, who Freddie Roach, in response of “bullshit” offers up his own ”he was a gym hand at Wild Card”; the strength and conditioning coach, who in a fit of repeated boxing 101 crime, consistently speaks over the Chief Second in the corner; Hall of Fame trainer Roach…On and on one could go. To an outsider looking in, and pardon the direct crudeness, but a “what the fuck” could most certainly be served up. It is a testament to the upper stratosphere level of Manny’s boxing skills that the Manny show all sticks together for there certainly does not appear to be any glue bonding the whole picture in place. One would not even know where to put the first, next or last dab of glue to the whole matter. Looking glass country it should be. Manny, from abject poverty, using boxing as a vessel towards his greater out of ring social initiatives, at least for the very moment, needs as Bob Arum has warned in the past, to decide if he is a boxer or politician.
“Never make excuses. Your friends don’t need them and your foes won’t believe them.”—John Wooden.
It will be over three years by the time he steps in the ring, shortly, against 39-year-old Champion Marquez, since Manny has put an opponent on the seat of their pants, stoppage style. That would be the Cotto fight of course and post-Cotto there have been varying performance excuses from leg cramps in two different fights, to out of ring family matters, to taking opponents too lightly. It is of course hard to imagine how one would possibly take a Tim Bradley or Marquez, he who has fought you tooth and nail to a dead draw over previous total rounds, too lightly. Way back when, in 1996, having been knocked out, Manny wanted to make amends to his fans for being overconfident. Sound familiar! For the upcoming fight Manny delayed coming to L.A. to train. Sound familiar! It is unfortunate that the now 39-year-old Marquez had to wait back-to-back close to four year periods to get Manny back in the ring and having said that it is most certain that any excuses offered up this time by Manny and company will not be greeted kindly any more than the live crowd greeted the decision of the last fight.
LEGACY TIME IS NOW NOT THEN
“You know it’s just one small step from legacy to lame duck.”—Bill Clinton
For those of us fortunate to be ringside to watch the third fight, bird’s eye view so to speak, what we saw was an often out of position and off balance Manny getting whacked by solid counter shots while misfiring in response. Much like the ensuing Bradley fight there were lengthy time periods were Manny was not firing shots. Go back to a few rounds such as round five of the fight and watch them in slow motion and one can appreciate how hard it is to score rounds to a fighter who is fighting the last minute of the round only. There is a great deal of frenetic movement but not a great deal of punches landing solidly, if at all. Late in the fight Freddie Roach was suggesting to his charge that a charge indeed he did need in the form of a knockout. When the bell rang ending the fight Manny’s posture was that of a loser. When the decision was announced there was a resounding boxing chorus of boos from the crowd. The post-fight press conference had Champion Marquez staying well over 35 minutes, emotionally asking what he had to do to get a win and Manny showing up for a brief give or take 10 minutes, seemingly subdued. As far as I recall of that night and the day after, not many of the boxing scribes, if but one by way of a total, had Manny winning the fight.
As I watched Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless a few weeks back on ESPN’s First Take I was struck by Manny’s lack of “fire” by way or verbal response, or physical demeanor, to what was being said in his presence.
Smith to Marquez: “I believe you won. I’m sorry Pacquiao, I love you, but I believe he won the last fight.” Manny, as he does, throughout the interview is smiling, giggling and pointing fingers in friendly jest.
Smith to Marquez: “If he (Manny) fights Floyd Mayweather, who wins?”
Marquez to Smith: “I think Mayweather.”
Smith to Pacquiao: “ I am going to tell you how you would lose to Mayweather…I believe you are too small…Mayweather I think he is a boxing technician…decision or dare I say get caught late…” More smiling, more giggles.
Smith to Pacquaio: “Why were you not—aggressive?”
Pacquiao to Smith: “That’s why I decided to train here in Hollywood, put in the whole training camp this time, make this fight, I want to give a good fight, to end the doubt to all the fans…”
One week later, give or take, and Manny was late for his “Hollywood” arrival to training camp. What is one to make of that or to Manny’s reaction to Smith’s questions and comments. Perhaps it is Manny’s personality but one could not envision a Duran, Frazier, or LaMotta type, in response to such a scenario, of doing anything less than getting up out of the chair and strongly implying that somebody was about to get belted in the schnozz if the interview continued on such a merry course.
The Manny Show is becoming a bad, tired rerun when the only rerun to the show needed at this stage is a fireworks knockout or strong and urgent attempt at same. The show up late for training story, the once again “this is the best training camp ever” chirp, the cute little dog training partner, the Dan Hill duets, the late night TV appearances are all nice but what we really want to see, sometimes when we touch, is somebody touching the canvas in a big way.
Everybody loves a winner, but in boxing today’s heroes often disappear from rapidly, Titanic-like, only to sometimes be rediscovered nostalgically, down the way, years later. As much as Manny may not think it or chooses not to think it, boxing is what has of course brought him to this level of recognition and wealth. Boxing is still in large part what defines him and a loss to Marquez at this stage will be a rude awakening. To what level this rude awakening would be is of course unknown but a rude awakening, legacy-wise, nonetheless.
Our boxing heroes, our legends, have past and present shown quantitatively an ability to self-destruct. There is a long warrior trail of ruin that would have a Roman Emperor’s ghost no doubt winking in a conspiratorial “I told you so” thought. Champion Marquez, age 39, has nothing to lose in this fight for wherever down the road one rates Manny Pacquiao one must have Marquez close by. For this fight, having no further expectation than the performance of last fight past makes Marquez that much more the dangerous man than he already is.
Manny Pacquiao has been, and is, as great an ambassador for boxing as possibly there has ever been. For all the years and battles he has engaged in this fight may be the biggest career-wise for Pacquiao. Win or lose Manny Pacquiao, looking glass country, is right. It is time to show the old fire, and if not, he should retire!! Whether Manny wins or loses is an entirely different matter and there is nothing to separate either of these warriors, in consideration of the previous three fights, that suggests that anybody should offer up an opinion leaning one way or the other.