Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Don't count out Manny Pacquiao, says Henson

There’s a lot more at stake than just the WBO International welterweight title when Manny Pacquiao battles Brandon Rios in Macau on Nov. 23. Pacquiao is fighting for redemption, vindication and national pride. That’s why it’s a must-win situation for the Filipino ring icon who’s coming off back-to-back losses to Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Those who are quick to write off Pacquiao, like Floyd Mayweather who called him a “has-been,” should think twice. Now more than ever, Philippine boxing needs a shot in the arm after bitter losses suffered by Pacquiao, Brian Viloria, Nonito Donaire, Denver Cuello, Malcolm Tunacao, A. J. Banal and Ana Julaton.

If there’s anyone who can lead the charge to bring Philippine boxing back on track, it’s Pacquiao. After all, he brought it on track in the first place. No Filipino fighter or athlete for that matter has achieved what Pacquiao has on a global scale. For fans to now turn their backs on Pacquiao would be treachery. Pacquiao has done so much to uplift the Filipino spirit – now it’s the fans’ turn to uplift his.

Pacquiao needs encouragement from fans who reveled in his triumphs of the past. If they believe, then he’ll believe. Pacquiao isn’t perfect, no human is. He’s made mistakes, like everyone else, and he’ll continue to make mistakes, like everyone will. But at this stage of his career, Pacquiao has to be extremely motivated to work back into shape, to fight like he used to before when no mortal could stand in his way to victory. It’s a lonely, empty feeling when a fighter loses the adulation of the crowd. Pacquiao realizes his career is close to coming to an end. How soon the curtains will fall depends on his performance against Rios.

Even his most loyal fans will insist on Pacquiao hanging up his gloves if he no longer has the hunger to fight. It’s dangerous for a fighter to risk life and limb in the ring without proper training. For the moment, Pacquiao isn’t thinking of retirement. Right now, his focus is just one fight, the fight that will reveal how much gas is left in his tank, how much desire is left in his heart. In a sense, it’s the fight of his life. A devastating or convincing loss will end Pacquiao’s boxing career once and for all. A big win will line him up for possibly, a showdown against the winner of the Oct. 12 duel between Bradley and Marquez and ultimately, a multi-million dollar appointment with Mayweather.

The challenge facing Pacquiao is daunting. Rios is 27 and Pacquiao hasn’t faced anyone as young since Emmanuel Lucero who was 24 in losing by knockout in Los Angeles in 2003. Rios is seven years younger than Pacquiao – that age difference is the widest he’s ever encountered. Rios is determined to win. He lost his last fight to Mike Alvarado on points and it’s the only stain in his career so far. If Rios beats Pacquiao, it’ll open doors for him – something no other opponent is able to do.

As for Pacquiao, boxing experts haven’t given up on him. The Ring Magazine continues to list Pacquiao in its top 10 pound-for-pound ratings. Mayweather is No. 1 in the ladder followed by Andre Ward, Marquez, Wladimir Klitschko, Abner Mares (he was knocked out by Gerry PeƱalosa victim Jhonny Gonzalez in one round last weekend so demotion is imminent), Sergio Martinez, Pacquiao (at No. 7), Adrien Broner, Bradley and Saul Alvarez in that order. Although Pacquiao hasn’t fought since losing to Marquez last December, it can’t be denied that he’s still a force to reckon with. Besides, wasn’t Marquez on the verge of collapse when he sneaked in that right straight to snatch the win with a second left in the sixth round?
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In the 2013 list of the fight game’s most influential people, the London weekly magazine Boxing Newsranked Pacquiao No. 8 behind Top Rank president Todd duBoef, Mayweather’s adviser Al Haymon, Bob Arum, HBO director of boxing Ken Hershman, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, Mayweather and Showtime head Stephen Espinoza. The year before, the power list named Mayweather No. 1, followed by Hershman, Arum, Schaefer and Pacquiao.

Justifying its ranking, Boxing News said, “Since last year’s list, the Filipino’s only activity in boxing was losing to Marquez…the fact that he’s still in the top 10, after being flattened in six rounds by his biggest rival, is testament to his pulling power … if Pacquiao impressively wins his comeback fight against Rios, he remains a superpower.”

When Pacquiao was ranked No. 5 in the 2012 power list, Boxing News said, “An idol to millions around the world, a congressman in the Philippines and he’s one of the two biggest draws in boxing…seemingly less independent or business-like than his big rival Mayweather, Pacquiao is nonetheless endorsed by Nike, was due to make up to $30 million against Bradley and carries a tremendous amount of sway in sporting, political and commercial arenas…even in controversial defeat to Bradley, he remains an enormously significant player in boxing.”

Boxing writer, historian and former Ring Magazine editor Nigel Collins said Pacquiao has mellowed in his approach to fights and “is no longer the menacing whirlwind that has captivated the boxing world since he savaged Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003.” Collins continued, “Unimaginable fame and fortune, advancing age and a profusion of tough fights have all played major roles in taming the primeval instincts that were at the root of his mind-blowing success … I doubt we will ever see the primetime PacMan again and that’s a bummer…at his best, he transformed naked aggression into an art form and became a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon.”

In the Rios fight, will Pacquiao relive the primetime PacMan character that Collins wrote about? Will Pacquiao turn into the dervish that bedeviled Barrera, Erik Morales, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito and Oscar de la Hoya? Will he bring Philippine boxing back on the road to glory where it belongs?

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