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The Hauser Report: The End Game for Manny Pacquiao

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  • The Hauser Report: The End Game for Manny Pacquiao

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    By Thomas Hauser

    Who would have thought that there would be a Manny Pacquiao fight and many people in boxing wouldn't care? That was the case on August 21 when Pacquiao fought Cuban expatriate Yordenis Ugas at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for one of the WBA's many 147-pound belts.

    Pacquiao (now 62-8-2, 39 KOs, 3 KOs by) is one of the most storied fighters in ring history. Two years ago, at age forty, he surprised a lot of people by outpointing Keith Thurman.

    "It was a thrilling fight," Tris Dixon wrote afterward. "But Pacquiao goes beyond just that. Sure, the excitement is wonderful but watching an icon extending an already extraordinary legacy is something else. You feel like you’re witnessing history and that you’re a small part of it. That you are of the same era as one of these fighters allows you to feel a certain type of privilege. You were there."

    But in truth, it's hard to know whether Pacquiao looked good against Thurman or Keith (who has won one fight in the past 53 months) looked bad. Either way, Manny's victory guaranteed that he would fight again.

    Errol Spence (27-0, 21 KOs) was chosen as the opponent. Give Pacquiao credit. He has always been willing to go in tough. In this instance, most people in boxing believed, too tough. Spence, age 31, is high on most pound-for-pound lists with a solid resume highlighted by victories over Mikey Garcia, Shawn Porter, and Danny Garcia in his three most recent outings. Pacquiao, now 42, had been inactive for 25 months and scored one knockout in the preceding 11-1/2 years.

    Spence opened as a 4-to-1 betting favorite. Then the hype machine went into high gear.

    “Manny has been training for his greatest victory," Freddie Roach (Pacquiao's trainer) said. "I’ve been studying Spence’s tapes and going through what he does well and what he doesn’t do well, And I think it’s a good fight for Manny. I like the fight a lot."

    Teddy Atlas, who speaks his mind candidly, declared, "It doesn't seem like a good idea for Manny. But you know what? That's part of the magic of Manny. He turns a lot of things that don't seem like good ideas into good ideas."

    By late July, the odds had dropped to 2-to-1 in Spence's favor.

    Then there was a problem. A big one.

    On August 10, it was announced that Spence had suffered a torn retina in his left eye and would be replaced by Ugas, a 35-year-old Cuban expatriate with a 26-4 (12 KOs) ring record. Ugas would enter the ring to face Pacquiao with an advantage in size. He was the naturally bigger man, having turned pro at 146 pounds compared to Pacquiao's 106. And at five-feet-nine-inches tall, he was 3-1/2 inches taller than Manny. But Yordenis was best known, not for any win but for losing a close decision to Shawn Porter 29 months ago. Pacquiao was a 7-to-2 betting favorite.

    When fight night came, the crowd for Pacquiao-Ugas was announced as 17,438, although in today's world those figures tend to be inflated. By way of example, the announced attendance for Pacquiao-Thurman was 14,256. But according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, only 11,436 tickets were sold that night with 1,675 comps on top of that total.

    The first two televised fights on the Pacquiao-Ugas undercard featured spirited efforts by underdogs Oscar Escandon and Julio Ceja that ended in a knockout victories for favorites Carlos Castro and Mark Magsayo. Next, Robert Guerrero prevailed over Victor Ortiz by a 96-94 margin on each judge's scorecard in a fight that got dreary in a hurry.

    Then it was time for the main event.

    Prior to Pacquiao-Ugas, there was talk of Pacquiao being "the Tom Brady of boxing." But when the 44-year-old Brady takes the field, an offensive line averaging 300 pounds per man is protecting him. Half of the time that the game is in progress, Brady is sitting on the bench. And the average play isn't three minutes long.

    Against Pacquiao, Ugas fought a cautious fight. And Manny can't do what he once did anymore. His feet have slowed. He's no longer a pressure fighter. He can't dart in and out and frustrate (let alone brutalize) opponents by instantaneously recalibrating angles and following up with lightning-fast blows. He's no longer the destructive force that he once was.

    It was a competitive fight and - because Pacquiao was involved - a moderately interesting one. But it wasn't a good fight. Pacquiao did nothing much. Ugas did nothing much a little better. The judges were on the mark with a 116-112, 116-112, 115-113 verdict in Ugas's favor. In truth, Abel Ramos put in a better effort against Yordenis last September than Manny did.

    A lot of people are happy that it was Ugas and not Errol Spence who was in the ring with Pacquiao on Saturday night. No doubt, Premier Boxing Champions (Spence's promoter) and Errol feel differently about the matter.

    As for the future; Pacquiao likes to fight. But he's now an ordinary fighter. Ugas was the eighth man to beat him. If Manny keeps fighting, there will be more.

    Why is Pacquiao still boxing? Does he need the money? If so, one more fight won't right a sinking financial ship.

    Does he think he needs ongoing exposure in the ring as a platform for his political career? Perhaps. After all, Pacquiao is a senator in the Philippines and is expected to run for president in the May 2022 election. But he's now at odds with Filipino strongman President Rodrigo Duterte (his former patron). Indeed, on July 17, while Manny was training in Los Angeles, he received word that he'd been ousted from his leadership position with Duterte's ruling party after criticizing Duterte for a "soft" stance with regard to China and failure to combat corruption in government. That makes Pacquiao a decided underdog in the forthcoming election. And in any event, it would be better if voters think of him as the fighter he once was rather than the fighter he is now.

    Pacquiao's days as an elite fighter are gone. And night is coming on.

    Photo credit: Ryan Hafey / Premier Boxing Champions

    Thomas Hauser's email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His next book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – will be published by the University of Arkansas Press this autumn. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing's highest honor - induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

  • #2
    Manny gave a lot to the fans in the ring and a lot to his people outside the ring. No reason to kick him not that the writer did but others have already. Will he fight again ? And why ? I believe he will fight again, in time he will hope for one more fight just one to go out with a win. I hope I am wrong on that count, and the why is always the same just one more fight I know what I did wrong last time, this guy they got lined up will not have what I have. Fighters have short memories, they have to to keep climbing back in the ring after losses or hard fights I get that. But Manny could walk away and still have respect from his fans, money enough, and his health intact. Yet I see it playing out as that one more with a win this time. Ah what do I know I just watch fights. Thanks Manny.....

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