One day, in the not-too-distant future, Manny Pacquiao will be fighting in an entirely different ring. Whether it’s in politics, business, or any kind of arena he steps in, it won’t be same ring that he’s called home for the past 21 years. But for one last time on Sunday, Pacquiao entered a boxing ring and treated his fans to a vintage performance, knocking down Timothy Bradley twice en route to a resounding unanimous decision victory.
Most people who saw the fight saw flashes of the devastating buzzsaw that ran roughshod over boxing in the past decade. It was, by all accounts, his most impressive fight in the past five years. He scored his first knockdown in the seventh, hitting Bradley with a short left that caused Desert Storm to lose his balance, forcing his gloves to touch the canvas and resulting in a standing count. It was a flash knockdown, but a knockdown nonetheless; a 10-8 round, as the judges called it.
The second knockdown happened two rounds later in the ninth. That one came from a short left hook that sent Bradley tumbling to the canvas. He got up again, but it was clear after that second 10-8 round that Bradley was fighting a losing battle. The fight ended up going the whole distance, but by the time the fans at the MGM Grand Arena started chanting “Manny!” Manny!” Manny!” in the dying seconds of the 12th, everybody knew who was getting his hand raised.
Pacquiao’s win over Bradley closes what might as well be the most lopsided trilogy in boxing history. Nobody needs to be reminded of what happened in the first fight, but PacMan left little doubt on who had who’s number in the second and third fights.
The euphoria of his latest conquest wasn’t lost on the fans of Pacquiao, and yet, there was a bittersweet atmosphere during the fight that nobody could escape. It didn’t matter if those who saw the fight watched it live, or in television sets halfway across the world. Everyone knew that once the fight was done, it would be the last time they’d see Manny Pacquiao the prizefighter. He’s been steadfast with his plan to retire after the fight and with the exception of one post-fight interview, he’s stuck to his stance the whole way through.
Granted, boxers are just like every athlete in every other sport, maybe even more so. As much as their pride has been the source of their strengths in the past, it also keeps them from coming to terms with the present and the future. We’ve seen it happen with some of the greatest boxers in the past. Muhammad Ali. Oscar Dela Hoya. Julio Cesar Chavez. They fought longer than they should have because their pride told them they could still go on. Those old enough to have seen Ali getting pummeled from pillar to post by Larry Holmes all remember how Ali fought like a man on his death bed. It may not have ruined his legacy, but it did lead questions on whether it contributed to him getting diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome, a disease that he still battles today.
Manny Pacquiao now finds himself in a similar crossroad. Clearly, he still has the tools to be a world-class fighter. But how much longer will he still have it? That’s a question only Pacquiao can answer. If he’s smart, he’s not going to wait to answer that question, or worse, have others answer that question for him.
His unanimous decision victory over Timothy Bradley was the perfect way to end a Hall-of-Fame career. He wasn’t infallible by any means, but he is without question the most exciting and riveting fighter boxing has had in the past decade. But now that door is closing, and if PacMan really wants to go out on his terms, he’s not going to try to keep that door open.
Let it close, Manny. You’ve had an incredible career. You have nothing else to prove in the boxing ring. Whether your next endeavors materialize or not, those are the fights that you should be training for. Who knows, one day, in the not-too-distant future, you might end up being as good in your new line of work as you were in your last.
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