Is Manny Pacquiao’s Legend Gone For Good?

Entering his fourth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao looks more vulnerable than ever

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Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Juan Manuel Marquez (L) and Manny Pacquiao battle in the 10th round of their WBO world welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena November 12, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Boxing’s combatants are so often molded by poverty, struggle, and a penchant for vice, it’s hard for a single story to float above a canvas of so many hard-luck tales.  But once every generation or so, a fighter’s tale — both inside and outside the ring — becomes transcendent.

Manny Pacquiao has been such a boxer. But as he prepares to face rival Juan Manuel Marquez a fourth time on Saturday night, in Las Vegas, the boxing world wonders aloud: can Manny Pacquiao still throw punches like Manny Pacquiao?

(MORE: The Meaning and Mythos of Manny Pacquiao)

The tale is now familiar: while growing up near General Santos City, Pacquiao hawked sugar doughnuts and cigarettes. He pinched what few pesos he made so his mother could buy more of the soupy rice porridge they survived on. He protected his small stake in the world with his fists.

At 16, he lied; too young to fight on a nationally televised boxing program, he told the producers he was old enough to turn pro. He was too skinny so he stashed weights in his pockets to make the 105 pound limit. He won his January 1995 debut on points. It was the first of many victories.

(MORE: No More Mr. Nice Boxer — Pacquiao’s Aura and Allure Take A Battering)

In 2001, he took an injured Enrique Sanchez’s spot in a bout for Lehlohonolo Ledwaba’s super bantamweight title with only two weeks to prepare for the fight. Pacquiao overwhelmed the South African champion.  That January night was the start of a familiar pattern. By 2008, when Pacquiao defeated Juan Manuel Marquez in the pair’s second contest — one many boxing observers thought should have went the other way — he truly arrived.

(PHOTOSThe Rise of Manny Pacquiao)

Then, he kept rising. Over his next four fights, Pacquiao mauled David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto. With 8 seconds left in the second round against Hatton, Pacquiao looped his left hand. He had driven it, like a javelin, through the Brit’s right cheek.

Despite swelling expectations, Pacquiao answered every bell. Pacquiao became ubiquitous in the Philippines, the omnipresent and omnipotent native son. He remains a sainted champion to a nation.

Still, something changed. Pacquiao beat his next three (inferior) opponents, but his untamed fury slipped. The inevitable knockouts everyone expected never came. Pacquiao rested and measured his output. He picked spots; before, his persistence ground the other man into a bloodied rind.

And then, on November 12, 2011, Juan Manuel Marquez first cracked the Pacquiao mythos. Against Marquez, the failures came quickly and rhythmically. It was not the Filipino’s left but the older fighter’s right that did the staggering, routinely catching Pacquiao’s chin. Marquez weaved under Pacquiao’s right hooks, and spun away from the potentially lethal power shots.  Abandoning reason for madness, two judges mucked up the result and gifted Pacquiao with a majority decision win. But the damage was done.

While he did perform better in his truly absurd loss to Timothy Bradley, a poll of boxing writers, trainers, and fighters by The Ring Magazine shows Pacquiao is no longer the undisputed champion of media consensus. ESPN.com’s boxing writers — Dan Rafael, Kiernan Mulvaney, and Bernardo Pilatti — all predict a Marquez win on the scorecards. Pacquiao is still favored in the soon-to-be-tetrology but the questions are more amplified than ever before. Some seem primed to turn a potential Pacquiao defeat into a referendum on whether he should retire. But even a decisive win over his chief rival won’t restore the fable. Once a legend loses some of its luster, it’s gone for good.

(MORE: What Defeat Means for Manny — And His Newfound Faith)

5 comments
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FelixCastro
FelixCastro

This is silly, there's no shame in losing to Marquez, Marquez is an all time great and will be a first ballot hall of famer.

ponpon
ponpon

It's a disaster waiting to happen and it happened...Marquez studied pacquiao, trained in hell for pacquiao FOCUSED on PACMAN for his graceful exit. And all of JMM's hardwork gave him the ultimate reward A KICKASS KNOCKOUT to hisnumber 1 nemesis.While our peoples champ had been LOST because of fame and wealth...blinded by his skills...took marquez lightly... HOPE PACMAN HAD LEARN HIS LESSON AFTER THIS....

beautifymyhomeph
beautifymyhomeph

This is absolutely thrash.  Manny still is absolutely the best boxer in the planet.  This despite this sad unexpected knockdown by the lucky punch to a boxer who just got overconfident, who was clearly the leader all throughout the rounds (his knockdown in 3rd was a wash with his own to Marquez in the 5th) who got Marquez all bloodied and in wobbly legs.  In his last fight before this (which he lost on scorecards) with Bradley, I find it surprising most conveniently is forgetting that almost everybody was calling it a fraud as he was clearly the winner in all judges' scores which most have turned in a blind eye.  I bet our Pacquiao, after a few months of rest and medical testing, will come back strong.  Take a lighter fighter to help him get back and call Marquez for a last 5th dance.  I refuse to believe that a proud Pacquiao will just leave his legacy with his mat kissing on his face.

DonTaylor
DonTaylor

AmeerHamzahHakim Your inference in "infamous 'test'" is misleading. Pacquiao has been tested ALL THE TIME everytime there is a fight according to the rules of the professional game he is in. Somebody invoked the random test anytime close to the fight AFTER Pacquiao mentioned that a test during the first Morales fight so close to the fight psychologically or otherwise weakened him. And why not? try taking a liter of blood from your system and you will see. Of course its not one liter, but you should be able to discern what I mean. Pacquiao was willing to have the test right after the fight, as in even if it would mean taking it on the ring. Again no use explaining what that is suppose to mean. Unless steroids grow on you like appendages grow on that monster reptile in Amazing Spiderman.

AmeerHamzahHakim
AmeerHamzahHakim like.author.displayName 1 Like

A great read... the article is well written and well put-to-together but it has the aura of the bandwagon about it, in fact I think he ''truly'' arrived when he avenged hi defeat at the hands of Morales once and for all in the 3rd round knockout... as for the legend, the word is often misused by today's media to the extent that it is severely abused by journalists, just because a fighter is good it does not mean that he is instantly a legend... the pages of history truly decide who deserves the status of legend and the legend of Pacquiao will be spoken of once he retires and boxing finally goes through the era that will leave it for dead where Floyd and PacMan retire, the Klitschko's go, and there is no once of interest (the former two) or intrigue (the latter two) left to think about and the barbarian sporting franchise of ''UFC'' wipes off the fine art of boxing off our TVs. Manny's  power will still be what young boxers will dream of having, the only thing possibly tainting the the doubt. Why he refuses to take the infamous 'Test'.

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