So yeah, Floyd Mayweather says he’s retired. Floyd’s arch rival Manny Pacquiao, however, is said to be coming back. Yes, Manny had a significant shoulder injury before, during and after the Floyd fight, but it looks like the guy is feeling well and is ready to get back in the ring soon enough.
But what then? Where can one of the greatest of his generation, if not of all time, go from here? He’s already fought, and lost, the biggest, if most certainly not the best, fight in history. What can the man possibly do for an encore?
Well, he could fight Floyd again, something that’s not out of the realm of possibility at this point. I know, I know. You don’t want to see the rematch. Nobody seems to. Except everyone is going to watch it if Floyd and Manny actually agree to do battle again.
Oh, a rematch wouldn’t be near the financial success the first bout was, but it would still do enormous business. What’s more, there might even be a bit more interest in a rematch now that it’s obvious that some odd stuff was going down at Chez Mayweather after the May 1st weigh in. Like it or not, #MayPac II would be a big deal.
Still, Floyd may – “may” being the operative word here – stay retired. Even if he doesn’t, it’s worth wondering if he’d actually end up in the ring with Manny again anyway. So, what happens if PacMan never gets his chance to avenge that loss?
Well, there’s certainly a plethora of boxers out there who would love to face the guy. One, of course, is Amir Khan, who appears to be nearly as eager to face Manny as he was to face Floyd not long ago. Manny, though, is no kid anymore. The guy’s nearing 40. Could he still beat a Khan? Or a Bud Crawford? Or a Kell Brook for that matter?
Frankly, these are questions well worth asking. For what happens if Manny loses again? The answer to that is quite simple, really. Manny will either retire immediately or just fade away, Douglass MacArthur style. There are worse things that could happen to the man, of course.
Joe Frazier, after all, is rightfully still seen as an icon, even if he came up short two out of three times against Ali. Frazier didn’t end up going out in epic fashion, he just quietly left the sport after a failed comeback in 1981. No one could take away Frazier’s accomplishments then however, just like no one can take away Manny’s accomplishments now. It must be pretty nice to have such massive achievements to fall back on, when you think of it.
But who out there is to definitively say Manny will fall apart in the ring from here on out? What if he comes back and wins early next year? And what if he keeps on winning after that? What if Manny actually does the extraordinary and starts beating far younger men who by right should handle him easily? What, in short, if Manny becomes the next Bernard Hopkins?
Is such a feat even possible? Perhaps, though it seems unlikely. Hopkins, after all, has been a defensive wizard while Manny has been a high speed human wrecking ball. And wrecking balls hit things. Hard. So hard that they unquestionably start to mark up after a while.
Pacquiao has taken some bruising shots in his time, most famously from Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth go round. That sort of thing leaves marks on a fighter – and not just on the outside. Hopkins may be grizzled, but it’s hard to argue that he’s taken nearly the punishment Manny has. An old car in prime condition is still a car in prime condition. It’s just older. But an older car with serious wear and tear on it is another story.
Regardless of what happens at this point, though, Pacquiao clearly does not want to go quietly into that good night. That sort of thing may have worked for a guy like Marvin Hagler, but it’s just not for Manny at this point. Plus, let’s face it, Hagler’s loss to Leonard was controversial. Manny, on the other hand, clearly got bested by Floyd. Hagler could still say Leonard never really beat him and roughly half the public would agree with him. Unless it comes out that Floyd was seriously doping before the May 2nd matchup, Manny will have no such luxury.
One luxury Manny does have, however, is the knowledge that people love him. And I mean, really love him. His fun fighting style, his unique demeanor, his seeming humility, it all just works with the general public. If there was one thing that was true in the insane hype leading up to Manny’s battle with Floyd it was this: the two men are completely different from one another.
People want (or, rather, wanted) to see Floyd be beat. Manny, on the other hand, was – and still is – a fighter people love to see in action. Floyd, let’s face it, is amazing to watch. Yet Pacquiao is fun. Unless you’re the guy on the receiving end, Manny at his best makes you smile and shake your head in a kind of awe.
That sort of thing hasn’t been common since the prime of Tyson and people aren’t going to be willing to see it go away so soon. In other words, the public, by and large, will be eager to see Manny return. Will he be as popular as he was? Of course not. He was bested by another fighter who was clearly more skilled (at least on that particular night, the only night that mattered). Still, the man can thrill when he’s on, and people like thrills when they tune into a prize fight.
In the end, Manny can probably stick around for as long as he can entertain an audience. And even when he’s unable to do so any more, the guy will remain in the public’s good graces. He may have lost to Mayweather, but there’s little doubt that, in many ways, Manny Pacquiao still rules the world. — Sean Crose