6. No one is immune from the one-punch knockout.
As stated, Pacquiao carried with him into the ring a battle-tested and sturdy mandible. Yet a single blow separated him from his senses in as brutal a knockout as you’re ever likely to see. Watching him fall at the end of that sixth round was an experience bordering on the surreal. One instantly knew by the manner in which he collapsed that the great Filipino warrior was unconscious; he was not going to get up. But at the same time, one found it difficult to believe. This, after all, was Manny Pacquiao, conqueror of so many champions, a gladiator seemingly impervious to the punches of men much bigger and stronger. But, as Ray Arcel liked to say, God didn’t make the chin to be struck by fists encased in leather. And, as Manny said afterwards, “I got hit with a punch I didn’t see.” Those are always the ones that do it.
With precious few exceptions, all boxers, no matter how tough, are potentially susceptible to a one-punch knockout if the blow is delivered in such a way that it connects unexpectedly and with maximum velocity on the opponent’s chin. Everyone thought Roberto Duran could never be knocked out; the right hand of Thomas Hearns proved everyone wrong. No one was tougher than Gene Fullmer but a single left hook from Ray Robinson, 1957’s version of the “perfect punch,” rendered him unconscious. Conversely, everyone agreed that Wilfred Benitez, in the words of opponent Carlos Palomino, “couldn’t break an egg” with his punches. That didn’t stop him from knocking super-welterweight champion Maurice Hope out cold with a single right hand that landed on the perfect spot, at the perfect moment. Hope never saw it coming and couldn’t prepare himself for it. Same with Pacquiao.
7. Outside-the-ring distractions are taking their toll on Pacquiao.
Boxing at the championship level is a full-time job. The fact that Manny Pacquiao has been able to keep defeating champions and winning titles while also functioning as a game show host, congressman, and international celebrity is extraordinary, but seasoned observers of the fight game know it can’t last. Pacquiao, like Muhammad Ali before him, enjoys a hectic schedule and thrives on having a huge entourage, but it now seems evident that something is missing in terms of Manny’s mental focus.
Starting with the Shane Mosley fight, the fire and fury that were such essential elements in Pacquiao’s ring identity have been largely conspicuous by their absence, which made last Saturday’s performance a refreshing tonic. Fueled by the desire to finally knock Marquez out and settle the rivalry once and for all, Pacquiao showed more passion and drive on Saturday than he has in his last four or five outings put together. But it’s difficult to discount the idea that the mental sloppiness which led to him being so vulnerable to that one huge knockout shot stems in part from all the non-boxing distractions vying for his attention. Would such a lapse have happened three or four years ago? In order to make the most of the remainder of his career, something must be done to limit the outside-the-ring commitments. It’s time for Pacquiao, as he enters the twilight, to make some hard decisions. Is he a fighter, or a politician and entertainer?
8. Freddie Roach is not a genius.
Generally speaking, the significance of trainers to the outcomes of fights or the trajectory of careers is overblown. But every so often a trainer appears to have the magic touch, his boxers exhibiting excellent technique and scoring one big win after another. Roach emerged as the new training wizard of boxing after Manny Pacquiao surprised everyone with his one-sided wins over Oscar DeLaHoya and Ricky Hatton. It wasn’t just that Roach appeared to have added a whole new dimension to the Pacman’s game, but also that he kept correctly predicting the outcome of the fights.
But 2012 has made clear that Roach is a mere mortal and that in fact his training strategies may carry a fatal flaw. Roach understands offense but it’s clear his charges are not nearly as well-drilled in terms of defensive moves. Three big losses in 2012 with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Amir Khan and now Pacquiao all show that Roach is not the brilliant guru some thought he was. His misjudgments in terms of both strategy and evaluation of talent have led to a series of off-the-mark predictions and a series of bad losses. Is Roach a good trainer? Absolutely. Is he a genius? Evidently not.
9. Boxing needs to get rid of boring, pointless undercards.
Pacquiao-Marquez IV is far from the first and not the last PPV boxing telecast which tortures fans with literally hours of pointless undercard fights before the main event gets underway after midnight (EST), but we can dream, can’t we? The basic point that seems to escape most promoters, not to mention HBO, is that this these long, drawn-out undercards do the sport no good and might even be doing damage.
It defies logic to make people stay up until they are stupefied from lack of sleep and too much alcohol before finally staging the match they wanted to see in the first place. No other sport does this. Would the NBA force fans to watch a bunch of boring half-court games before the Mavericks and Lakers? Does the NHL make their fans sit through an AHL game before the opening face-off? Someday, a very smart promoter is going to package big fights very differently. There will be one or two solid, meaningful undercard matches, with no pop stars singing and no national anthems, and it will get underway at a reasonable time, say around 9:30 or so. And guess what? Casual sports fans and their wives and girlfriends will start watching boxing again.
10. Mayweather vs Pacquiao has lost both its appeal and its significance.
For over three full years, the sports world waited and waited for the match that didn’t happen. It would have been the richest fight in boxing history, a bout that transcended the sport, a global attraction, the most anticipated match since DeLaHoya vs. Mayweather back in 2007. Instead it will be remembered as yet another instance where the sport of boxing confounded logic and managed to shoot itself in the foot.
The match that two years ago would have been the mega-event of the century is now of little interest. But truthfully, this is all good news. Viewing the situation with 20/20 hindsight, one sees that a Mayweather-Paquiao fight likely would have been a dreadful style match-up, a snoozer, as Mayweather would have opted for safety-first, defensive boxing and Pacquiao, like in his third bout with Marquez, would be stymied by Floyd’s movement and counter-punching. But the bottom line is, when you have a rivalry like Pacquiao-Marquez, who needs Floyd? We’ll gladly take Pac-Marquez V, VI and VII over Pac-Mayweather or Marquez-Mayweather II and leave the rest to future speculation.