by Todd Jackson
This isn’t a Rocky movie, it’s real life, and in real life Manny Pacquiao should retire. An exit now would be a graceful exit which would preserve his legacy.
Those who disagree with this thesis should be asked to name two boxers who got better after 33 – and Pacquiao is about to turn 34. This isn’t pitching in baseball, where an aging veteran can pick up a new pitch once he’s lost a few miles per hour off his fastball, lasting as an effective pitcher past the age of forty.
I said “two fighters” because of all you just shouted “Juan Manuel Marquez.” But there are those lingering questions about that big new body Marquez was sporting. Still, any improvement may have less to do with Marquez than with Marquez’ more storied opponent.
Most of the discussion about Pac-Man has been haunted by the memory of The Greatest of them all – Muhammed Ali. No one wants to see Pacquiao suffer anything resembling the Parkinson’s Disease the afflicts Ali should he take one punch too many, whether from a fifth bout with Juan Manuel Marquez, from Floyd Mayweather, Jr., or from anyone else.
The greater issue, however, isn’t about the prospect of injury. We’ve already seen the best of Pac-Man. Why now see the rest?
Every fight fan has wanted to see Pacquiao-Mayweather. If we saw it now, it would forever be haunted by the fight that could have been, had it only been several years earlier. If we never see it, we go forward certain that it was Mayweather and his camp who never let the fight materialize. It becomes a “would have should have” that will forever favor Pacquiao. It would join a long roster of such fights that never word, beginning – for this fight fan – with Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Aaron Pryor. I will always wonder what would have happened had Leonard, with his awesome handspeed and champion’s heart, had gone up against the no-retreat-no-surrender, nonstop three minutes of punching approach of “Hawk-Time.” And I’m perfectly willing to consign Pacquiao-Mayweather to the same bin; maybe not the dustbin of history, but surely the fantasy bin of history.
There’s a much better reason, though. That reason is called “Juan Manuel Marquez.” Pacquiao’s defeat, plus a clean lab report on Marquez, would give Marquez his proper share of boxing glory. He would always be remembered as he should be – as Pacquiao’s great opponent. Why should Mayweather steal his thunder?
As for the prospect of Pacquiao-Marquez V, which is probably being inked as we speak…all I’ll say is that if he takes this fight, Pac-Man better schedule it before August 23. If he doesn’t, even if he wins it’ll be against “Forty Year Old Juan Manuel Marquez.” It just won’t be the same.
Sports, once the event is over, once the careers are past, is about an eternity of friendly-fierce arguments. Right now, the arguments are in a perfect spot. Let us be able to say “Pacquiao” with an image of the fresh young ring genius, unsullied by further defeats – but just as much, unsullied by unconvincing, or simply boring, victories. Let us be able to argue that in their final fight, Marquez was juicing, if that’s how we care to argue. Let’s imagine Pacquiao-Mayweather in both men’s prime, instead of letting it be diminished by Father Time. Above all, let’s have a sharp-witted Congressman Pacquiao – President Pacquiao? – to talk about it with us.
Of course, we all know it’ll never happen this way. Pacquiao wants to get back in the ring.