For a boxer, is it better to burn out or fade away? For Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao, the answer may have landed with a thud Saturday night in Australia.
It's a sad sight for this fight fan to witness-and the answer is simple. Pacquiao got me back into boxing back in 2008 when he battered Oscar De La Hoya in a technical stoppage that bordered on assault, spelling the end of The Golden Boy's career as a top flight fighter. Pacquiao was an action packed boxer, a short yet potent stack of dynamite who could strike opponents from multiple angles. He was more entertaining than Floyd Mayweather Jr. and promised a good time every time he stepped into a ring.
Unfortunately, father time catches up to all fighters. As the fictional champ Rocky Balboa once said, it is undefeated during its run-in's with fighters. After Saturday's controversial yet telling defeat at the hands of Jeff Horn, Pacquiao needs to hang up his gloves before he risks supreme embarrassment, because it's coming soon.
Pacquiao is no longer an action packed fighter, yet merely one hanging onto a style of fighting that eluded him a long time ago. He hasn't knocked anyone out in nine years, and has lost four times in his last ten fights. Approaching the age of 39 this December, the 11 time champion and future Hall of Famer is in decline, and his fights are increasingly mundane.
Pacquiao lost his welterweight belt Saturday night, a prize he won in a snooze-inducing win over Jesse Vargas last November. For a guy with a foot inside the political forum-he's a Senator in his native country, The Philippines-boxing is no longer his identity, but merely a hobby. Ever since he started dabbling in politics, Pacquiao's fight game has suffered. Perhaps it's more than that, though.
Pacquiao's style of fighting isn't one that easily endures in boxing. Mayweather Jr. on the other hand is a defensive tactician who can make another fighter's aggression work against him, and that allows him to take on top flight opponents into his late 30's. That is the reason he easily handled Pacquiao in their 2015 "mega-fight". Manny's combination of power and speed expired a long time ago.
The younger Pacquiao would have annihilated Horn, stopping him in less than eight rounds. Horn connected on too many clean shots and looked good against Pacquiao, even if he didn't deserve the decision over Pacquiao. Win or lose, the writing is on the wall for the former dominant fighter. It's time to quit. When you are taking on opponents like Vargas and Horn and failing to pound them, get out while your head and dignity is intact.
If he continues to fight, Pacquiao is on the road to embarrassment. While a free fight on ESPN is great for boxing fans who can't afford the 60 dollar expense of Pay Per View, Pacquiao needs to take on better opponents to make the fight exciting, or quit. If he wants to truly go out on his sword, take on Keith Thurman or Danny Garcia. If you win, it's an immortal wakeup from the sport. If you lose, at least you took on a fierce opponent.
Pacquiao is merely trying to hang onto something he gets a joy out of, but he doesn't look good anymore. When he beat Timothy Bradley in April of 2016, he looked like a guy who could still create fireworks. Saturday's fight may have revealed what a year's worth of time can do to an aging boxer.
Could Pacquiao avenge the loss to Horn in November? Sure, but what good would that do? If he decided to go out on that win, it wouldn't be impressive. No one in the sport of boxing knew who Jeff Horn was before the Pacquiao fight this year. He was teaching class in Australia not too long ago, and now he has a victory over Pac Man on his resume. That's disgusting. And a telling sign.
In 2012, Pacquiao was robbed of a victory against Timothy Bradley. It was a disgraceful decision by the judges. While Saturday's loss may have carried some hometown swag, it wasn't as distasteful as the Bradley win.
Boxing without Pacquiao won't be as entertaining, even with young studs like Canelo Alvarez and Vasyl Lomachenko rising fast. But for boxers, it's better to fade away with dignity than burn out in embarrassment. Nobody wants to see Pacquiao enter the arena of the latter, a place that consumed former greats like Muhammad Ali and coninues with Evander Holyfield and Roy Jones Jr.
Pacquiao isn't what he used to be, not even close. With Saturday's decision showing a not as fast or entertaining Pacquiao, it may be time to hang up the gloves up.
Thanks for reading,