LAS VEGAS—In boxing, there’s that thing called “The End.” It always seems like a good idea—until the next fight.
On the morning of his fight, after the Bible study, we caught up with the champ just before he was led into his waiting vehicle. He told us, “After this fight, win, lose or draw, I am going to retire and hang up my gloves to focus on my other big responsibility in my life as congressman and senatorial candidate in the Philippines—to help our people.”
He said it with such insistence, there appeared to be little or no chance the champ might change his mind.
But we already know that boxing retirements are usually written in wet sand, not fast drying concrete. There are a dozen of good to exceptional fighters who continue to hear their siren call of their once glorious past. They are hesitant to trade for the uncertainty of a future without boxing, so they hang around past their career expiration date, that even recalcitrant boxing legends are eventually obliged to acknowledge.
Every now and then a fighter comes along, almost out of nowhere, who seizes the public’s imagination. It just might be, that the Pacquiao of our fondest memories—the one who destroyed, among other such special fighters as Marcos Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Oscar de la Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto—has already left the building. He is just 3-3 in his last six bouts. The one glorified as the southpaw wrecking machine has gone 10 straight fights without winning the distance. His last knockout victory came on November 14, 2009, against Cotto, and even then this one emphatic finisher in boxing history had to wait until 12th and final round to put an exclamation point to a bout that seemed headed to the scoreboards.
At the Media Center Studio during the dinner for the media, Mr. Bob Arum said, that he “doubts that the Filipino national hero would stick to this retirement announcement, especially if he won and looked good doing so against the very capable Bradley. He says is it is his last fight, you can take that with a grain of salt, though. I’ve had a lot of fighters tell me this is their last fight and six months later, they’re back in the ring. These top fighters have a hard time giving it up, and if Manny’s performance is an outstanding one, against Bradley, he’ll want to continue.”
Pacman’s goodbye to boxing (if anyone from here to General Santos City believes it) after facing Bradley for the third and final time last Saturday night at the MGM Garden Arena, ended in a convincing fashion with a 12-round unanimous decision.
He remains one of the all time greats, one of sports’ most thrilling fighters in history. He told us, “As of now, I am retired. I want to go home and think about it and be with my family and serve my people.“ Could this really be goodbye?
For me, he’s the best fighter I’ve ever written about!