Now that Jeff Horn is reportedly set to face Gary Corcoran in December for his first title defence, Manny Pacquiao will have to wait, or choose another foe if he opts to put retirement at the side for now.
Remembering Pacquiao, the boxing superstar
Although the odds were against him when he launched his career, Pacquiao defied them all and showed that boxing is about hard work and dedication.
He first fought at a tender age of 16 in the 106lbs weight class. As a baby-faced skinny teenager, introducing himself to the game played by tough men, no one knew he’d become what he has.
Although already making a name for himself by winning titles in the flyweight and super bantamweight divisions, he caught his first big prey on his featherweight debut when he scored an 11th round demolition of Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003. He stood as a Waterloo for Mexican fighters, earning him another monicker as the “Mexecutioner”.
Since then, the boxing world set its eyes on “Pac-Man” as he destroyed opponents on his impressive run from one weight division to another. He defeated the likes of Erik Morales, Antonio Margarito, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Shane Mosley on big paycheck bouts. To date, he has already won eight world titles in eight different divisions, a feat difficult to match nowadays.
Post glory days
Since his knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012, Pacquiao has been fighting more cautiously and has caused fans to feel less excitement in his fights.
Despite having a significant drop in his performance, Pacquiao sealed a deal for a blockbuster fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. The bout hit 4.6 million pay-per-view buys, a record in the United States. In the fight, Mayweather out-boxed Pacquiao and claimed victory via unanimous decision.
Just last July, Pacquiao fought Australian Jeff Horn, the leading contender for the WBO welterweight title he used to own. The fight with Horn ended up with the Australian being declared as the winner via unanimous decision, albeit in controversial circumstances. Pacquiao looked close to stopping Horn towards the end of the fight, but with a dogged determination and high work-rate Horn clearly impressed the judges on home soil, leading to a 117-11, 115-113, 115-113 victory.
Pacquiao supporters will argue that the Filipino landed the cleaner more classy work, however fighting away from home will always add further hurdles and complications to secure a ‘W’, a factor that weighed heavily on “Pac-Man” as he suffered his seventh professional defeat.
What’s ahead for Pacquiao?
Although sports science has done so much to keep older fighters in good shape and improve longevity, Pacquiao isn’t the same dominant fighter he was ten years ago. He may still have signed a lucrative deal earning millions in his last fight against Horn, but HBO’s decision to let go of his fight and allow ESPN to air it on free TV tells it all; his market value dropped dramatically.
The future is still unclear for Pacquiao. Top Rank big boss Bob Arum has previously stated that 2017 will be a farewell tour for “Pac-Man”, but it doesn’t have to be. Through his 68-fight career, Pacquiao has only fought in the Philippines, USA, Thailand, Macau and once in Japan and Australia; considering his draw as a fighter, Top Rank have plenty of other locations to visit if their sole aim was to ‘milk’ the Filipino of his last few bucks in the sport. Cynically thinking, Bob Arum knows anything he can squeeze out of the Pacquiao legacy at this late stage is nothing but a bonus to Top Rank as a company.
With talk arising earlier this year about a potential fight with Amir Khan somewhere in the Middle East, the pull of Pacquiao as a headline fighter is still far from diminishing. Politics inevitably proved the issue in getting this fight over the line, however the 38-year-old needs to decipher what is the priority in this career at this late stage. Money, belts and attention rarely amalgamate into one opportunity or fight in boxing, so “Pac-Man” will need to mull over his final push as a professional as we await the path he takes.
With a reported net worth of $190 million, coupled with the status of being the only fighter to win world championships in eight different weight classes, your gut tells you that Pacquiao’s love for the sport and a determination to prove he can still compete at the highest level is the main motivation to fight on. “Pac-Man” doesn’t strike me as a materialistic character motivated by the fruits that the sport can provide; more a guy with a humble upbringing and a passion to fight.
Whether it’s a Horn rematch in 2018, a super-fight with Amir Khan or a retirement fight en route to setting off into the sunset, one thing is necessary – Pacquiao finishes this long race and enjoys a graceful exit from the sport that made him a legend.
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