Like often in the past, in his great rise from an unknown 122-pounder in his debut against Ledwaba to storied wins over bigger foes like Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito, Manny Pacquiao, when hurt, would punch his gloves, snarl and soldier on.
We saw that again on Sunday, against Yordenis Ugas, who took the fight on less than two weeks notice.
Ugas tagged him and Pacquiao, momentarily caught back, punched him gloves and snarled. I’m still here.
But the man behind the snarl no longer belonged to a spry 25-year-old who shocked Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003; and the hands that held the gloves no longer had the accuracy of the 31-year-old Pacman who sent Ricky Hatton to retirement.
At 42 and 25 months removed from his last fight, Ugas made it obvious for us all — fans and critics of the Pacman alike — it’s time for the legend to retire.
To be honest, there were moments in the fight when I thought Pacman would go down. What a sad way to end a career I thought. I was glad when he was still standing after the 12th round. Boboy Fernandez, as usual, carried him but I thought if the decision would be unanimous, then surely the Cuban got it.
And so he did.
But unlike in 2017, during that controversial loss to Jeff Horn or even that split decision loss to Timothy Bradley in 2012, there was no universal outrage from Filipinos. The reactions, to put it mildly, was mixed. While there were a few “you’re still our champ” or “you fought a good fight,” there were also a few “I told you so,” and a few gleefully celebrated the defeat. One, and this I think takes the cake, even equated the loss to Manny criticizing the government and used a Bible passage to make a point of how one never prospers if he criticizes the government. Imagine that.
We all know the reason for that. And we all know, before this month comes next year, Manny and his many fans will have a parting of ways.
But before we come to that. Let’s appreciate Manny for what he has done in the ring, for he has done many. The Mexecutioner who gobbled the best Mexico could offer; the little guy who sent Golden Boy to his retirement; the former 112-champion who set history when he dared and beat Margarito to win the 154-pound division and, of course, who couldn’t forget that Old Man Manny who suddenly looked young against Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman?
And he did it all with his signature smile.
The smile was still there after the loss, but behind it perhaps, and I hope, the knowledge that even a Manny Pacquiao can’t beat Father Time. He may be the baddest 42-year-old in the world or the meanest among all senators globally, but against the elite of the sport, he’s just another guy trying to hold on to his career.
For Pacman there’s nothing left to prove and there’s nothing left to give. And like most boxers, he won’t get to choose how he retires.
Father Time has made the choice for him and that’s one foe no boxer can beat.
Thanks for the memories Manny and godspeed in your battle away from the ring.