Boxing

Brendan Crossan: Time for the great Manny Pacquiao to say goodbye

Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines is running out of encores
Brendan Crossan - The Boot Room (brendancrossan@yahoo.com)

IT was quite a stark video Manny Pacquiao posted on social media of his wife spoon-feeding him a couple of days after his 12-round loss to clever Cuban Yordenis Ugas last weekend.

Eyes half open, he looked like a man who could barely lift his head or arms unaided – the after-effects of eating up Ugas’s poker jab all night.

You’d like to say the eight-division world champion is still going strong at 42 but, unfortunately, that’s not the case.

In a cryptic Twitter post in the early hours of Thursday morning, the legendary champion appeared to suggest the end of his illustrious career was near. But there was still enough wriggle room in the tweet to come back for one last hurrah.

The 40-second video illustrated just how ravaging the sport of boxing is if you hang around long enough.

Sadly, it’s an all too familiar narrative in the toughest sport of them all where great champions can’t say no to one more fight under the blinding bright lights and one more pay-day that is supposed to guarantee their future.

Watching the smiling Filipino be broken down by Ugas was a far-cry from the man who stormed the lighter divisions back in the previous two decades.

During those halcyon days, Pacquiao carried tremendous power in both hands and freakish fitness levels. He would give away serious height and weight advantages – and would invariably overpower each opponent.

He still carried respectable power in his latter bouts but he was no longer that awesome, blistering three-minute round fighter. It didn’t matter that he had short arms. He would eventually overwhelm his opponents by sheer force of will.

Why depend on cuteness when you could throw several dozen power punches per round.

Pacquiao was always a cute boxer – but not cute enough to out-work or out-think fighters like Ugas or average Australian Jeff Horn.

Around the time of his mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather the dynamite had fizzled out and often failed to detonate.

And if we needed more evidence of slippage, there was plenty after that points defeat to Mayweather.

He was already a world champion in his own right by the time he bullied Mexican warrior Marco Antonio Barrera into submission in 2003. Despite threatening to stop Juan Manuel Marquez in a spectacular opening round a year later (the first of four fights between the pair), his opponent recovered and boxed his way to a draw.

His two tear-ups with Erik Morales in 2005 and ’06 will live long in the memory too. He beat up on the great Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto - the latter probably not getting the credit he deserved in an incredible era for the welterweight division.

Of course, there was always a performance-enhancing whiff around the Filipino's camp - a reason Mayweather always gave for his reluctance to share the ring earlier in their respective careers.

By the time they did exchange leather in 2015, both were past their best.

Although Mayweather skated to a comfortable points win, with Pacquiao citing a shoulder injury afterwards, it was intriguing to watch how Mayweather’s punch resistance had declined when Pac Man landed two decent shots in the fourth and sixth rounds.

Mayweather did brilliantly to disguise just how rocked he was by those two punches, but this wasn’t the hell-raising fighter who bullied Margarito and Cotto or who walked through Hatton like he wasn’t there.

The Mayweather fight should have been the time when south paw Pacquiao walked away from the sport and concentrated on his burgeoning political career back in his native Philippines.

Few imagined the great man would still be punching his gloves together in 2021, smiling at his opponent ready to take three punches to land one, and bathing under the bright lights of Vegas.

Undaunted, but battered, bruised and bloodied.

And then you see a glimpse of the aftermath: being spoon-fed and barely able to open his eyes or lift his head.

With his status in the boxing world assured a long time ago, his 12 rounds with Yordenis Ugas should be his last encore of a quite astonishing career.

******

Words to the wise from GAA star Caroline O'Hanlon

FEW can dispute the positive, proactive role the GAA has played in trying to aid the fight against COVID19 since its true awfulness hit our shores back in March 2020.

From allowing its facilities to be used for vaccination centres to the incredible volunteering spirit of its members in every parish around the country in supporting vulnerable people in the most practical ways will never be forgotten.

You often visit Croke Park and emblazoned across the big screens at half-time are player-driven campaigns.

Sadly, a player-driven campaign encouraging vaccination among younger people is conspicuous by its absence.

While it has issued plenty of reminders during recent big games at Croke Park about looking after each other and following the public health advice, the GAA may feel it has to tread carefully in this regard.

Perhaps they think they’d be over-reaching themselves to ask players to promote the vaccination message.

Of course, the Association doesn’t have to co-ordinate everything – as Armagh footballer Caroline O’Hanlon illustrated in her powerful message in yesterday’s interview in The Irish News.

Fresh from winning an Ulster title with her county, the Newry-based GP has been at the coal-face of fighting the ravaging effects of this virus, urging young people to get vaccinated and for the government to introduce incentives.

“We've just seen a massive spike locally,” Dr O’Hanlon said, “and it is predominantly younger people. We in general practice are not just seeing the acute cases but the aftermath - the Long Covid cases.

“It's been talked about but I don't think people realise the impact this condition has and the fact there is no treatment for it as such.

“We are seeing people in their 50s and 40s and younger with chronic fatigue and shortness of breath. We're talking about people with no underlying health conditions who are really debilitated and not able to get back to work or their full fitness.”

Caroline O’Hanlon’s comments were matter-of-fact, measured and rooted in first-hand experience.

It is hugely important that a GAA person of her standing with clinical expertise has made her voice heard in the hope our vulnerable continue to be protected and that our children enjoy the childhoods they so desperately deserve.

Is there anything more important than that?

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Boxing