Pinoy Fight Scribe: Pacquiao retirement after Bradley fight a good idea

(This piece appeared in InterAKTV on February 21, 2012.)

by Mark Lorenzana

Manny Pacquiao turns 34 this year.

As a boxer, he has logged a lot of miles: since turning pro in 1995, he has figured in a total of 59 fights, which translates into 353 rounds boxed. Just recently, Pacquiao had hinted that he might walk away from the sport after his upcoming fight with Timothy Bradley on June 9.

According to the Retired Boxers Foundation, the average age of retirement for a professional boxer is in the mid-30s. Some boxers, especially those who lose a lot of fights early in their career, decide to hang up their gloves at a young age while others hang on and continue fighting until their 40s. Right now, Pacquiao is at the optimal retirement age for boxers.

This is not the first time, though, that Pacquiao has hinted at retirement. Three years ago, Pacquiao announced that he would retire at the end of 2009 as he unveiled his plans to run for Congress. Then in 2010, after defeating Joshua Clottey, Pacquiao hinted that he might talk to his family about his possible retirement that year. The year after that, in 2011, there were talks once again that Pacquiao might call it quits after his fight with Sugar Shane Mosley.

Those previous retirement talks never really amounted to anything, so die-hard Pacquiao fans can at least take solace in the knowledge that nothing is set in stone yet, and that there’s a big possibility that Pacquiao might change his mind.

But here’s the thing: after Bradley, who’s next for Pacquiao? Floyd Mayweather Jr.? He won’t step in the ring with Pacquiao until he feels that Manny is too old and too shot. That fight will never happen in a million years. Juan Manuel Marquez? He has Pacquiao’s number, but Marquez will never ever get the benefit of the doubt against the judges because of his counterpunching style. The surest way for Marquez to beat Pacquiao is by a knockout, but it’s been three fights already, and he hasn’t floored the Pacman even once. Besides, Marquez already said that he will retire at the end of this year even if the fourth fight with Pacquiao doesn’t happen.

In other words, if a fight against Mayweather or Marquez can’t be made, who else could be a meaningful opponent for Pacquiao? A severely dehydrated Sergio Martinez? The high-risk/low-reward Lamont Peterson? Miguel Cotto again? Why?

So yes, Pacquiao retiring after the Bradley fight is perhaps the most logical decision that the reigning pound-for-pound boxer and future hall-of-famer can make at the twilight of his brilliant career. In boxing, it’s always a good idea to quit while you’re ahead, and not until you’ve been squeezed dry by your greedy promoter.

* * *

Speaking of the undefeated Timothy Bradley, the reigning WBO light welterweight champion, how might he fare against Manny Pacquiao?

Juan Manuel Marquez had an interesting thing to say about the matchup: “Even though Bradley is a great boxer, and he has skills, he needs the power. He [doesn’t] have that power. Pacquiao has the speed and Pacquiao has the power. The difference in this fight is power. The difference will be the power punches that Pacquiao has.”

I agree wholeheartedly with Marquez’s assessment. In my last column, I wrote: “Timothy Bradley is young, undefeated, a good boxer with decent-enough skills, someone who has defeated quality opponents. Problem is, Pacquiao tends to make mincemeat out of offensive-minded fighters who take the fight to him, especially someone smaller and who has no power punch.”

I stand by what I wrote. To reiterate, the difference will be the power. It’s just common sense, really: Bradley doesn’t punch that hard, and Pacquiao has a world-class chin. If you cannot make Pacquiao respect your power, what’s gonna stop him from coming in and raining down blows on you until you scream “uncle” or until you get pounded out or until your cornerman throws in the towel, whichever comes first?

And here’s a little-known fact about Pacquiao that might seem trivial but I think is worth noting anyway: since Pacquiao won his first world title as a flyweight by beating Chatchai Sasakul in Thailand fourteen years ago, he has knocked out every single opponent he faced when he either lost or scored a draw in his previous bout.

Cases in point: Pacquiao knocked out Reynante Jamili in two rounds after losing to Medgoen Singsurat, Pacquiao stopped Jorge Eliecer Julio in round two after he settled for a draw against the late Agapito Sanchez, Pacquiao scored a fourth-round knockout against Fahsan 3K Battery after he drew with Marquez in their first fight, and Pacquiao annihilated the tough Hector Velasquez within six rounds after he lost his first fight against Erik Morales.

Pacquiao is coming off a close win against Juan Manuel Marquez, a fight that could have gone either way, a fight that boxing pundits thought should have been awarded to Marquez. Pacquiao’s performance against Marquez has been criticized, and who’s to say that the Pacman isn’t itching to bounce back and score an impressive win? Technically, Pacquiao didn’t lose his third fight with Marquez, but who’s to say that he won’t want to bounce back with an emphatic performance?

In his poem “The Hollow Men,” T. S. Eliot wrote, “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.”

On the contrary, going back to the earlier point at the beginning of this column about Pacquiao’s possible retirement, if this is indeed where the Pacman’s legendary career ends, he’d most certainly want to end it with a bang, not a whimper.

That said, be afraid for Timothy Bradley. Be very, very afraid.

Pinoy Fight Scribe: Breaking down Pacquiao-Bradley, Mayweather Cotto

(This piece appeared in InterAKTV on February 10, 2011.)

by Mark Lorenzana

WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao and WBC welterweight titlist Floyd Mayweather Jr. are, undoubtedly, the two biggest attractions in the sport of boxing today. Both fighters possess speed, power, ring smarts, and tough chins — attributes that have catapulted them to superstardom.

Both boxers also possess varying fighting styles that, needless to say, promises an intriguing and mouth-watering matchup: Pacquiao’s relentless, unorthodox, and blitzkrieg offensive attack against Mayweather’s outstanding defensive skills and counterpunching prowess.

This matchup is a boxing fan’s dream come true: one of the game’s best boxer-punchers in Pacquiao fighting one of the game’s best counterpunching stylists in Mayweather.

The problem, though, is that they aren’t fighting each other anytime soon.

It’s official: Pacquiao has signed to fight undefeated Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley on June 9. The report comes on the heels of the recent announcement by Mayweather that he will be facing Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto for the latter’s WBA super welterweight strap on Cinco de Mayo.

So what could we expect from the two matchups?

Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley

After Pacquiao struggled against Juan Manuel Marquez in their third fight, a close bout that Pacquiao won by majority decision, the consensus — both spoken and unspoken — around Boxlandia was that Mayweather was next for Pacquiao. But when feeble attempts at negotiations to make the dream fight fizzled out, several prospective opponents for Pacquiao cropped up overnight: Marquez, Cotto, Bradley, and even Lamont Peterson.

Marquez was out of the running as a potential opponent for Pacquiao soon after he voiced out several demands before a fourth fight could happen, demands that Top Rank head honcho Bob Arum deemed too unreasonable, even crazy: a venue other than Las Vegas, neutral judges, and a bigger purse. But Marquez was probably out of the running as a potential opponent for Pacquiao as early as the end of the third fight when everyone realized that the Mexican was the perfect foil for Pacquiao. Marquez will, most probably, fight another rumored Pacquiao opponent, Lamont Peterson in mid July.

Cotto was the initial pick by Pacquiao, but the Puerto Rican made it clear that he wouldn’t fight below 150 pounds. Cotto has campaigned at 154 lbs. for his past three fights already, and Pacquiao wanted the fight at a lower weight. It seems that the weight played a huge factor in Cotto’s decision to choose Mayweather, especially since the latter agreed to move up in weight to challenge Cotto.

Timothy Bradley is young, undefeated, a good boxer with decent-enough skills, someone who has defeated quality opponents. But Bradley is not exactly a power puncher and is going up in weight to fight Pacquiao, a fighter who has been campaigning as a full-fledged welterweight for a total of five fights now. Pacquiao has dominated naturally bigger guys like Oscar De La Hoya, Cotto, Margarito, Joshua Clottey, and Shane Mosley and has only shown difficulties against defensive counterpunchers like Marquez. Bradley is not a defensive counterpuncher, is smaller, and will take the fight to Pacquiao. Problem is, Pacquiao tends to make mincemeat out of offensive-minded fighters who take the fight to him, especially someone smaller and who has no power punch.

Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto

A curious thing about this fight is that Mayweather has been avoiding Cotto for the longest time. This was when Cotto was still in his prime, when he was still undefeated, before he was beaten to a bloody pulp by Antonio Margarito and Pacquiao. Just recently, Mayweather dismissed Cotto as a potential opponent, saying he wouldn’t fight any of “Pacquiao’s leftovers.” Until now, that is.

Cotto may be the naturally bigger man, but he is not the same fighter many years ago that Mayweather had been ducking. Mayweather, being the shrewd, cagey boxer/businessman that he is, won’t risk his undefeated record. He took the fight because he knows that he can—and will—beat this version of Cotto.

So here’s the sad part: there is still no guarantee that Pacquiao and Mayweather will immediately fight each other after they beat each of their respective opponents. Who knows? Maybe they will eventually come to their senses many, many years from now, when they are both too old and too infirm and too shot. But will boxing fans still care?

Ah, to be passionate devotees of a niche sport whose two biggest attractions possess egos as huge as the fat paychecks that they command.

Pacquiao’s win over Marquez raises more questions than answers

(This piece appeared in InterAKTV on November 15, 2011.)

by Mark Lorenzana

“I clearly won the fight.”

It’s hard to tell if Manny Pacquiao said that with real conviction during the postfight interview after another grueling fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. After 36 brutal rounds, the only clear thing is that Pacquiao seems to have found the perfect foil in Marquez. “Marquez has Manny’s number,” Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said after the third fight. Not a lot of people will disagree with that assessment.

The trilogy has, so far, yielded one draw and two wins for Pacquiao. The third bout was supposed to be the most decisive of all three battles, but the outcome only managed to raise more questions than answers.

Did Juan Manuel Marquez hurt Pacquiao?

Does Juan Manuel Marquez, someone who has fought at the welterweight limit only a couple of times in his career, punch harder than full-fledged welterweights like Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto?

When Pacquiao fought Margarito and Cotto, he took both those guys’ best shots, even egging them on to punch him in the body so that he could taste their power. This drew the consternation of Freddie Roach, but it was all good because Pacquiao never really buckled under the onslaught. The Pacquiao against Cotto and Margarito was far more accurate than the one against Marquez because Manny seemed more confident and at ease when he fought those two bigger guys—he let his hands go freely and wasn’t afraid to engage.

Against Marquez, Pacquiao seemed nervous and tentative, he missed a lot, and most of his punches were short and didn’t connect because he wasn’t close enough to hit his target—Pacquiao seemed afraid to engage. Again, does Juan Manuel Marquez punch harder than naturally bigger men like Margarito and Cotto?

What was Pacquiaos game plan going into the fight?

Freddie Roach said part of the strategy was to avoid Marquez’s right hand. “Manny’s a left-hander and if you’re fighting a right-hander like Marquez, you don’t slide to his right because he’s going to hit you every time,” said Roach. But Pacquiao repeatedly slid right directly into Marquez’s straight hand, and naturally, he got hit every time.

Another plan, according to Roach, was to go to the body early, something that could have slowed the 38-year-old Marquez down. But Pacquiao went to the body sporadically and essentially headhunted most of the fight, with little success.

For some strange reason, Pacquiao deviated from the game plan. Did he do it on purpose, or were there other factors that kept him from doing what he needed to do to win the fight in more convincing fashion?

Did Pacquiao overthink Marquez?

Former heavyweight champion George Foreman, who also worked briefly as a boxing analyst for HBO, always said during broadcasts that a fighter shouldn’t overanalyze his opponent’s style. His advice? Just fight.

In the first two bouts against Marquez, that was what Pacquiao did— he just fought. And because of that he was able to knock down Marquez four times. In those instances, Pacquiao just let his hands go and peppered the Mexican with punches from weird angles. Marquez didn’t know where the punches were coming from, so he eventually got hit with solid shots and went down several times.

Also, Pacquiao has a wider repertoire of punches now, so why didn’t he throw more hooks and uppercuts instead of just throwing spartan 1-2 combinations all night? Before the fight, Evander Holyfield said that all Pacquiao needs to do to win is to be himself. Against Juan Manuel Marquez, does Pacquiao find it hard to be his explosive, unpredictable self?

After three close fights where Pacquiao was very, very lucky to escape with a draw and a couple of close wins, it certainly seems to appear that way.

What should Marquez do for him to win against Pacquiao?

The first couple of fights were very close and could have gone either way, but in the third one Marquez looked to be more in control and landed the more telling blows.

f course the Pacquiao aggression was there as usual, but it was not effective aggression. Against David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Joshua Clottey, and Sugar Shane Mosley, Pacquiao showed effective aggression; in this fight he seemed lost and out of sync. Perhaps this was the reason why, as Time Magazine’s Gary Andrew Poole said, “No one on press row had Pacquiao winning, and only a few had him stealing a draw.”

Marquez’s “problem” (if we can call it a problem) is that he is a counterpuncher, and a lot have argued that this is precisely why he can’t win in the eyes of the judges—in close fights, judges tend to favor (fairly or unfairly, you be the judge) the more aggressive fighter even if the more defensive fighter lands the cleaner shots. What’s ironic in this case is that it’s precisely this counterpunching style that has made Marquez very difficult to solve for Pacquiao.

Needless to say, if Marquez employed a more aggressive style against the Filipino, he would be playing right into Pacquiao’s hands and would be deposited in the canvas in no time. In this case, Marquez finds himself in a quandary: fight smart and lose in the eyes of the judges or fight aggressively and get knocked out.

It’s a no-win situation for him, and you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy and all the hard work he always puts in. This is a painful case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” for Juan Manuel Marquez.

Is Pacquiao slowing down?

Was Pacquiao’s less-than-stellar performance a sign that he is finally slowing down and that his skills are eroding, or is it just purely because of Marquez’s style, a style that has given Pacquiao fits for three fights now? Pacquiao has supposedly suffered cramps again, which may be a sign that his body is not what it used to be. At 32, Pacquiao is not exactly a spring chicken, and there are a lot of fighters (especially offensive pressure fighters) who have appeared to age overnight. The next fight against another opponent (preferably one who will take the fight to Pacquiao) will, hopefully, answer that question.

Will there be a fourth fight?

Yes, perhaps. That is, if Pacquiao is still up to it.

Fight Scribe Bullets: Pacquiao vs Marquez edition

(This piece appeared in InterAKTV on November 6, 2011.)

by Mark Lorenzana

The third bout between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez is just around the corner, and anticipation and excitement for the fight have just about reached fever pitch. As usual, cinemas, sports bars, and restaurants have been aggressively marketing their own pay-per-view coverage of the fight and in the case of the last two, with the customary free drinks and brunch thrown in.

In addition, in online boxing forums, discussions between fight fans have been heating up. And of course, sports gamblers, who have been meticulously studying the odds for the fight, have been taking a closer look at the betting lines—that is, before they ultimately decide which fighter to bet on and whether or not they think the fight will last the full distance.

I’m personally intrigued about how the fight will unfold and how both fighters’ divergent paths, since they last met in the ring three years ago, will affect the outcome of the bout. On to the bullets:

— The first fight between Marquez and Pacquiao happened when both fighters were still campaigning at featherweight. That was, amazingly, seven years ago. The rematch was a weight division higher, at 130 pounds, not really a substantial move up in weight.The third fight will be at welterweight, and Pacquiao has been undefeated so far against opponents weighing 140 pounds or more: he made the aging and shot Oscar De La Hoya quit on his stool and eventually retire from boxing, he flattened Ricky Hatton in two rounds, he stopped Miguel Cotto in twelve, he gave Antonio Margarito the worst beating of his boxing career, and he forced Joshua Clottey and Sugar Shane Mosley to lace up their running shoes.

While it seems to me that Pacquiao, at this point in his career, could still go down and fight at light welterweight if he wanted to, his natural speed, quickness, and power pose a lot of problems even for legitimate welterweights. This is why he is the WBO welterweight world champion.

On paper, this would seem to be the strongest argument against a Marquez win: at this stage of both boxers’ careers, Manny Pacquiao at welterweight might just be too much for the smaller Juan Manuel Marquez, a blown-up lightweight, to handle.

— After the second fight with Pacquiao, Marquez moved up to lightweight, and to every fight fan’s pleasant surprise, the Mexican boxer eschewed his somewhat cautious counterpunching tactics in favor of a more aggressive fan-friendly style.This resulted in more exciting fights for Marquez, fights that, in turn, helped pull in more paying fans to watch him ply his trade.

But I doubt if he will try to pull off something like that against Pacquiao. I believe Marquez will fight smart and revert to his tried-and-tested counterpunching style; that is, if he wants to survive the early rounds against the Filipino.

— While a lot of boxing fans are happy that this third fight will finally push through, there are people who feel that this fight was made a little too late to be competitive at all. Marquez is 38 years old and is at the twilight of his brilliant career while Pacquiao is six years younger and has yet to show signs of slowing down.Boxing pundits have been quick to zero in on Pacquiao’s otherworldly ability to carry his speed and power up to welterweight, but a lot have failed to point out something even more impressive—Pacquiao has been able to withstand heavier bombardment from stronger and more powerful foes. It’s as if his chin has gotten stronger for every weight class he has climbed. De La Hoya, Hatton, Cotto, Margarito, Clottey, and Mosley all pack dynamite in their fists, but Pacquiao took all their best shots and shrugged them off. Pacquiao took those guys’ best shots and was never in any danger of getting dropped.

In contrast, Marquez has been knocked down by Michael Katsidis and Floyd Mayweather Jr. and was hurt several times by Juan Diaz in their first fight. We all know that Pacquiao has felt Marquez’s power at featherweight and super featherweight, but an intriguing question that needs to be asked is this: will the Mexican’s punches still hurt Pacquiao at this weight class? In turn, can Marquez’s chin be able to hold up against, say, a Pacquiao punch that smashed the living daylights out of Ricky Hatton? We will see soon enough.

— While Marquez was able to reinvent himself into a more exciting fighter this late in his career, Pacquiao has gotten some flak for seemingly being too kind and showing too much compassion for his last three opponents. Some critics have even labeled him as getting soft and criticized him for allegedly losing his killer instinct. Clottey, Margarito, and Mosley have all managed to stay on their feet and hear the final bell, and a lot of bloodthirsty Pacquiao fans have been clamoring for a knockout win for a change.It remains to be seen whether Pacquiao will go at Marquez with the intent to destroy, but It’s safe to say that these fans won’t take too kindly to another Pacquiao performance characterized by the Filipino uncharacteristically pulling his punches and looking at the referee to stop the fight instead of actually pressing on to force the stoppage.

— The outcome of the fight largely hinges on the ability of Marquez to successfully fight at the same level he has been fighting in the lower weights but at twelve pounds north of his current comfortable weight. Marquez has had one fight at 147, against Floyd Mayweather Jr., and if that fight is any indication of how successful the Mexican will be against Pacquiao, then we should assume that there is going to be a massacre in the offing.In his fight against Mayweather, Marquez looked slow, sluggish, and bloated; hence, it was another easy day at the office for Floyd. And granting that Manny Pacquiao will come out with guns blazing and looking to make up for his last three seemingly lackluster performances, then the Marquez that looked as old as Methuselah and as slow as molasses against Floyd is going to be in big trouble come November 12.

— Marquez will get a guaranteed purse of $5 million, the biggest so far in his career, while Pacquiao will get $20 million guaranteed. Pacquiao said he will force his opponent “to bleed for every cent.” What he means by that, we will soon find out in a few days. I suspect Marquez doesn’t want to find out.

Fight Scribe Bullets: Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather edition

(This piece appeared in InterAKTV on October 14, 2011.)

by Mark Lorenzana

— Just for the heck of it, today I searched for “Manny Pacquiao training distractions,” and got the following headlines in the first page alone:”Manny Pacquiao Dismisses Distraction Talk Leading Into Cotto Training Camp”
“Distractions Continue to Hound Manny Pacquiao”
“Despite distractions during camp, Pacquiao ready for Margarito”
“Pacquiao says distractions at home won’t derail title quest”
“Roach: Distractions part of lucky charm”

Next, I went to to BoxRec.com and checked out Pacquiao’s last fifteen fights, dating back to his first fight with Erik Morales six years ago, until his last fight against Shane Mosley this year. The results are as follows: 14 wins, 1 loss, 8 wins by knockout. Not bad for a guy who supposedly can’t focus on training, huh?

This just goes to show that Pacquiao is really a cut above the rest: he can take it easy and goof off early in training, pick up the pace a few weeks before the fight, and still destroy his opponent come fight night. Can you imagine any other boxer today slacking off in training and then ending up knocking out his opponent?

Curiously, though, recent reports coming out of Pacquiao’s training camp for his upcoming fight with Juan Manuel Marquez next month seem to project the opposite: everything has been smooth sailing so far. Even the recent Baguio camp, which had been a wellspring of headaches for Freddie Roach in the past, seemed to yield positive results. Pacquiao, by the way, is already in the United States and even broke his tradition of taking it easy on his first day in L.A. by immediately jumping into the ring for sparring. He went eight rounds against sparmates Jorge Linares and Ray Beltran. With exactly a month to go before the fight, I’m pretty sure that Pacquiao fans are happy to hear that this training camp has been perfect so far.

— Still on Pacquiao, some sources say that his next opponent, should he beat Marquez, could possibly be Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley. This is not a knock on the guy, but Bradley is a small and relatively light-punching light welterweight who’s half an inch shorter than Pacquiao. There’s no arguing that Bradley is a talented boxer — he’s undefeated, he’s the reigning WBO light welterweight champion, and he is rated seventh in Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound list.But I don’t really see him giving Pacquiao a good fight. I mean, the guy ducked Amir Khan because he was obviously scared of the Brit, and now he’s going to fight Pacquiao who’s stronger, faster, and punches harder?Another possible opponent for Pacquiao is middleweight Sergio Martinez, but anyone can see that he’s too big for Pacquiao. He can dehydrate himself until he’s as dry as a raisin (or Kenny Florian) just to make the 147-pound limit, but what would that accomplish? If he beats Pacquiao, people will say that the size advantage was just too great; if Pacquiao beats him, people will claim that the weight cut was just too drastic and severely affected Martinez, leading to his loss. Really, it’s a no-win situation for either fighter. Which is why everyone is just wondering, why couldn’t Pacquiao’s most logical opponent at this point just sign on the dotted line and make the fight happen? Which brings us to…

— Floyd Mayweather Jr. won’t fight Manny Pacquiao. Ever. Well, unless Mayweather sees a significant decline in Pacquiao’s speed, that is, then maybe he’ll consider. Just maybe.If we’ve learned anything from Mayweather’s last fight against Victor Ortiz (aside from the fact that Floyd can’t play fair even if his life depended on it and the fact that Ortiz actually has had a man crush on Mayweather for the longest time), it’s that Mayweather isn’t the same fighter he once was. Although he was winning the fight against Ortiz up until the unfortunate ending, it was apparent that he had lost a step or two.Sure, one can attribute it to Mayweather’s inactivity; that perhaps he was just a bit rusty after a long layoff, but I really think he’s not as quick as he once was. Make no mistake: Pacquiao is fast, but Mayweather is no slouch in the speed department either. Floyd makes his living at being perhaps the most elusive fighter today (with the exception of a younger version of Ivan Calderon). Obviously the mark of an excellent defensive fighter is the ability to time his opponent’s punches, but speed also plays a big factor. Pacquiao is a monster on offense because he’s fast; Mayweather is a wizard on defense because, well, he’s also fast. And with Mayweather’s speed and quickness not what it was a couple of years ago, he’s going to have a huge problem against Pacquiao.

So even if promoters guarantee Mayweather the biggest payday of his life to fight Pacquiao right now, and even if Floyd badly needs the money for whatever reason, he won’t take the fight. It’s actually funny (and strange) to see a guy who attaches “Money” to his name walk away from a guaranteed $50-million payday. Contrary to what people think, for Floyd, it’s not actually all about the money. Believe it or not, he’s also thinking about his legacy.

The sad thing is, he honestly thinks that his undefeated record will place him atop the all-time greats. When in fact, it’s fighting the best that will do that for him. And right now, one of the best is Pacquiao. If Floyd can just forget about the zero record, he’ll see that by fighting Pacquiao, he can have his cake and eat it too.

The Pacquiao-Marquez IV Aftermath: Redefining Legacies

(This piece appeared in my now defunct fight blog, Pinoy Fight Scribe, in 2012.)

by Mark Lorenzana

No, Manny Pacquiao doesn’t owe anyone anything.

In his meteoric rise, from up-and-coming fighter who started his career in the now-defunct Blow by Blow boxing program to becoming one of the pound-for-pound greats while annihilating supposedly bigger and stronger opponents en route to becoming the first and only eight-division world champion so far, the Pacman hasn’t owed anyone anything.

Not to us, his proud and awe-inspired countrymen, who have never failed to tune in to any of his fights. Certainly not to the self-serving politicians—who plucked him away from the dangerous squared ring and introduced him to the even-more dangerous political arena—who only have their own and their family’s self-interests in mind. Not to the shameless leeches and hangers-on in his grossly overblown entourage who cling to him for dear life in fear of losing their one and only meal ticket. No, not even to his “god”—whoever he or she or it is right now, in whatever reincarnation or shape or form, rosaries or signs of the cross or other pre- or post-fight rituals notwithstanding—whom he had never failed to give praise to or thanks to in the course of his brilliant and illustrious career whether in a win, in a loss, or in a draw.

No, Manny Pacquiao doesn’t owe his success inside the ring and outside of it to anyone—or anything—in particular.

One can argue that perhaps the Pacman owes a lot of his success to his long-time trainer, Freddie Roach, who has helped shape Pacquiao from a gangly, left-hand-happy, whirling dervish of a dynamo that struck fear into the hearts of lower-weight fighters into a more calculated, two-fisted offensive machine with improved defense, a fighting machine that effectively chopped down bigger opponents campaigning in the higher weight divisions.

One can also argue that perhaps the Pacman owes a lot of his success to his once-unparalleled work ethic, which has had Roach beaming with pride not so long ago and which has had the five-time BWAA Trainer of the Year pull his prized pupil back at times during training lest his ward—champing at the bit—invest all his energy in the gym, punishing the punch mitts and the heavy bags and the speed bags and his sparring partners instead of unleashing all his bottled-up energy inside the squared ring in front of his opponent.

One can, perhaps, also argue that the Pacman owes a lot of his success to his pure love of the fight game. A love that has, until recent years, prompted Pacquiao to focus squarely on the task at hand and leave all the other non-boxing distractions out the door of the Wild Card gym and just buckle down to work. And by work we might actually mean real boxing-related training: genuine training that doesn’t include basketball with the gang and badminton and volleyball with the missus and dancing the Gangnam Style at the daughter’s birthday party. By work we might actually mean setting up camp early in Los Angeles and not shuttling to and fro from Baguio to Manila to the Wild Card or from Sarangani to General Santos to the Wild Card or wherever. By work we might actually mean taking care of the body by resting right and sleeping early during a training camp and not staying up all night in cockfights and drinking sessions and, more importantly, Bible studies because, really, isn’t it the body and not the “soul” that a boxer is putting to the test inside the squared ring against an opponent who has an equal love of the game and who has also put in the same amount of hard work, or even more so, for several months in a vow to take your damn head off?

One can argue that perhaps the Pacman owes a lot of his success to all three: a great trainer who has always had his ward’s welfare in mind, an excellent work ethic, and an unadulterated passion for boxing.  The trainer, of course, who will tell him when the time is right to hang up his gloves for good, which might not be very long from now. The work ethic that has since branched out from the gym and ring and enthusiastically parlayed into politics, TV, the movies, advertisements, and other pursuits. And the passion for boxing that burned and smoldered within him like a raging fire in his early years but has somewhat died down as of late, threatening to flicker into a dying flame.

Still, some would argue that, no, Manny Pacquiao doesn’t owe anyone anything.

One thing should be painfully apparent, however, after all the smoke has cleared: Manny Pacquiao owes it to himself at least to finally figure out who or what he really wants to be from now on—a full-time boxer or a full-time politician.  It’s about time, really. Because, as we all saw the other day when Juan Manuel Marquez—older, slower, less-physically gifted but a full-time boxer since 1993 until this very day—knocked Pacquiao out with a vicious and perfectly-timed counter right straight packed with dynamite, it never pays to be a part-time player in an extremely dangerous sport such as boxing (also known as the hurt business) where one fatal mistake could lead to potential life-threatening consequences.

Especially against an opponent, an Aztec warrior, who owed it to himself and to his countrymen to finally get that elusive win by dint of hard work and by doing what he really loved to do and, more importantly, by being just what he was until the time comes when he can’t be that person anymore—a fighter who respected the game enough to focus 100 percent on the task at hand.

No, the devastating knockout he suffered at the hands of Marquez will not erase Manny Pacquiao’s legacy as one of the greatest fighters of his era. Not at all, far from it. But it will, no doubt, redefine the legacy of one “Dinamita” Juan Manuel Marquez, one of the best counterpunchers the boxing world has ever seen and one of the most intelligent fighters the Pacman has ever faced.

I Know I Already Said I Won’t Blog About This Again, But What the Hell . . .

(This piece appeared in my now defunct fight blog, Pinoy Fight Scribe, in 2012.)

by Mark Lorenzana

WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao and WBC welterweight titlist Floyd Mayweather Jr. are, undoubtedly, the two biggest attractions in the sport of boxing today. Both fighters possess speed, power, ring smarts, and tough chins—attributes that have catapulted them to superstardom. Both boxers also possess varying fighting styles that, needless to say, promises an intriguing and mouthwatering matchup: Pacquiao’s relentless, unorthodox, and blitzkrieg offensive attack against Mayweather’s outstanding defensive skills and counterpunching prowess. This matchup is a boxing fan’s dream come true: one of the game’s best boxer-punchers in Pacquiao fighting one of the game’s best counterpunching stylists in Mayweather.

The problem, though, is that they aren’t fighting each other anytime soon.

It’s official: Pacquiao has signed to fight undefeated Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley on June 9. The report comes on the heels of the recent announcement by Mayweather that he will be facing Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto for the latter’s WBA super welterweight strap on Cinco de Mayo.

The news announcing both Pacquiao and Mayweather officially signing to fight different opponents signals the end of the much-heralded fight of the century for the time being and is, certainly, bad news. But on the flipside, this also signals the start of a moving-on phase that can only be good for boxing and for countless boxing fans who have been reduced to helpless pawns amid all the taunting and posturing by both camps the past several months.

That said, both boxers’ choice of opponents deserves a cursory glance, if only to make sense of the madness of it all.

Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley

– After Pacquiao struggled against Juan Manuel Marquez in their third fight, a close fight that Pacquiao won by majority decision and a fight that not a few boxing pundits believed should have been awarded to Marquez, the consensus—both spoken and unspoken—around Boxlandia was that Mayweather was next for Pacquiao. But when feeble attempts at negotiations to make the dream fight fizzled out, several prospective opponents for Pacquiao cropped up overnight: Marquez, Cotto, Bradley, and even Lamont Peterson.

– Marquez was out of the running as a potential opponent for Pacquiao soon after he voiced out several demands before a fourth fight could happen, demands that Top Rank head honcho Bob Arum deemed too unreasonable, even crazy: a venue other than Las Vegas, neutral judges, and a bigger purse. (But Marquez was probably out of the running as a potential opponent for Pacquiao as early as the end of the third fight when everyone realized that the Mexican was the perfect foil for Pacquiao.) Marquez will, most probably, fight another rumored Pacquiao opponent, Lamont Peterson in mid July.

– Cotto was the initial pick by Pacquiao, but the Puerto Rican made it clear that he wouldn’t fight below 150 pounds. Cotto has been campaigning at 154 for his past three fights already, and Pacquiao wanted the fight at a catchweight of 145. It seems that the weight played a huge factor in Cotto’s decision to choose Mayweather, especially since the latter agreed to move up in weight to challenge Cotto.

– Timothy Bradley is young, undefeated, a good boxer with decent-enough skills, someone who has defeated quality opponents. But Bradley is not exactly a power puncher and is going up in weight to fight Pacquiao, a fighter who has been campaigning as a full-fledged welterweight for a total of five fights now. Pacquiao has dominated naturally bigger guys like Oscar De La Hoya, Cotto, Margarito, Joshua Clottey, and Shane Mosley and has only shown difficulties against defensive counterpunchers like Marquez. Bradley is not a defensive counterpuncher, is smaller, and will take the fight to Pacquiao. Problem is, Pacquiao tends to make mincemeat out of offensive-minded fighters who take the fight to him, especially someone smaller and who has no power punch.

Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto

A curious thing about this fight is that Mayweather has been avoiding Cotto for the longest time. This was when Cotto was still in his prime, when he was still undefeated, before he was beaten to a bloody pulp by Antonio Margarito and Pacquiao. Just recently, Mayweather dismissed Cotto as a potential opponent, saying he wouldn’t fight any of “Pacquiao’s leftovers.” Until now, that is.

– Cotto may be the naturally bigger man, but he is not the same fighter many years ago that Mayweather had been ducking. Mayweather, being the shrewd, cagey boxer/businessman that he is, won’t risk his undefeated record. He took the fight because he knows that he can—and will—beat this version of Cotto.

So here’s the sad part: there is still no guarantee that Pacquiao and Mayweather will immediately fight each other after they beat each of their respective opponents. Who knows? Maybe they will eventually come to their senses many, many years from now, when they are both too old and too infirm and too shot. But will boxing fans still care?