You may abhor Manny Pacquiao as a politician but surely you adored him as a boxer.
For so long, he was a main source of unbridled joy whenever he stepped inside the ring. But it's time to accept that Manny's getting old. He's on his way retirement, and those fists that generated unparalleled excitement for so many years are no longer as spectacular.
From this point forward, we should look at the other guys to keep things lit for Philippine boxing. Who are the "other guys," exactly? Well, none of them is the next Pacquiao, but each one has what it takes to be the next great Filipino boxer.
That said, meet the (likely) heirs to Pacman's throne:
41W – 1L – 4D – 23KOs
Recent fight history: Nietes defended his light flyweight world crown twice and became a three-division world champion, as he went unscathed in his last five bouts. In those outings, he scored two stoppages and grinded out three decisive decision wins against opposition considered to be just a notch below boxing's top tier.
How close is he to the throne: The 35-year-old has been a champion for 11 years (not a typo). Nietes, the reigning IBF world flyweight champion, fights like a machine. With a résumé like that, you'd think he should be endorsing Nike apparel by now. But that's not the case, with Nietes taking too long to break through the Western market. It's a good thing, though, that he finished off his most recent challenger Juan Carlos Reveco in style, because the match was his PPV debut—and handled by HBO at that. With the milestone victory, Nietes now has the foundation to achieve global recognition. We say win two more high-profile fights in the US and he's got it.
29W – 1L – 1D – 20KOs
Recent fight history: Philippine boxing's new golden boy Jerwin Ancajas is looking unstoppable. After suffering his lone career loss six years ago (via majority decision), "Pretty Boy" has won 16 fights in a row, including 15 stoppages. After outpointing highly regarded Puerto Rican boxer McJoe Arroyo to win the IBF 115-pound championship in 2016, he now has four successful title defenses under his belt, all ended inside the distance.
How close is he to the throne: Ancajas, 26, is at his physical peak. He's a world champion, whom Top Rank is pushing to be one of its banner fighters. Most importantly, he's a very talented and exciting pugilist with those pinpoint counters and ferocious combos. Ancajas is primed for takeoff. He's a knockout win over a well-known champion away from superstardom.
The dancing partner he needs may come in the form of WBC super flyweight titleholder Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, aka the guy who destroyed Chocolatito Gonzalez. But before facing someone as tough as Rungvisai, we'd like Jerwin to have at least three "tune-up" bouts against quality opponents just to make sure he's ready for war under the bright lights. If he and his handlers play their cards right, Ancajas should blow up by late 2019.
Mark 'Magnifico' Magsayo
18W – 0L – 0D – 13KOs
Recent fight history: Magsayo TKO'd two of his last five opponents. The other three, he beat out by points. He is definitely not fighting the best boxers in the world, but is beginning to face better competition at this point in his career. Pegged as a knockout artist, Magsayo must realize he needs to be armed with more than just power if he wants to go far. We'd like to see him work diligently on his conditioning and technique.
How close is he to the throne: "Magnifico" has the makings of a box-office draw because he's got that crushing power. As awesome as that sounds, however, the 22-year-old slugger has a long way to go before he gains respect in the international boxing scene. Continuing to knock people's heads off as the caliber of opposition increases will surely fast-track Magsayo's rise, but for now, he has three things to worry about: (a) improving his fundamentals, (b) improving his cardio, and (c) acquiring valuable experience against boxers of different styles. Those factors will help him a great deal, as he works his way to a first world title shot.
Genesis 'Asukal' Servania
30W – 1L – 13KOs
Recent fight history: Servania's promising career was once derailed by bad habits, but as soon as he regained focus, "Asukal" came storming back to relevance. His last five fights consisted of four wins, two by KO, and one defeat. That one loss, though, may be Servania's best showing yet. In September 2017, he fought pound-for-pound mainstay Oscar Valdez for the WBO featherweight title. Servania, then an unknown underdog in the US, gave the undefeated Mexican the business. Ultimately, the Filipino warrior lost by decision, but put on a show to remember. We bet that it was that fight that essentially landed Servania a multi-year deal with Top Rank.
How close is he to the throne: Now that the 26-year-old Bacolod native is with Top Rank, exposure is no longer a problem. Actually, he could get set up for a huge bout at any given moment. Getting booked against champions or hot prospects looking to pad their résumés, and being called up to replace injured headliners are now real possibilities. For his part, he must stay in shape, keep that underdog mindset, and pounce on every opportunity. Start by upsetting the next big name Top Rank throws at him, and he could be on his way to greatness. He's slick and tough as nails at the same time—a fighter gifted enough to get the job done.
29W – 1L – 20KOs
Recent fight history: Before "Prince" won his last three fights (two by KO), he suffered a brutal knockout loss against highly durable brawler Cesar Juarez. Prior to that, Pagara was a fast-rising star, who was actually nearing a crack at a world title, until he ran into a brick wall disguised as Juarez. Despite bagging three wins since then, his road to redemption is going to be a long one. But at 24, and still approaching his prime, we're giving him more than a puncher's chance to once again rise above the ranks.
How close is he to taking the throne: Despite coming off three convincing victories, many will still say Pagara's window of opportunity to level up is already shut. What those naysayers should not forget, though, is that bouncing back from a KO loss is not an impossible task. Legendary names such as George Foreman, Roberto Duran, Evander Holyfield, Manny Pacquiao, and Marco Antonio Barrera have been able to return to the top after getting their butts kicked. What matters is Pagara still possesses the skills that would enable him to compete at the highest level. When he completely gets his rhythm and confidence back (perhaps after winning his next five fights), he and his managers should take risks and go for the best fighters in his weight category. It'll be the best way he can get inside the circle of true boxing royalty.