Manny Pacquiao falls, questions arise


With a single, thunderous right hand at the end of round six Juan Manuel Marquez sent the legend of Manny Pacquiao crashing face-first to the canvas.

With his nose broken and his left leg seemingly injured, Marquez delivered a knockout so definitive referee Kenny Bayless didn’t even bother to count. And with the entire boxing world watching, the 39-year-old Marquez provided an unambiguous answer to any lingering doubts about whether he really is better than Pacquiao.

MarquezManny

For him the win must have felt like an exorcism. Before this weekend Marquez risked retiring as a world-class boxer and Mexican legend whose Hall-of-Fame credential were overshadowed by the fights he didn’t win — a draw and two razor-thin decisions against Pacquiao.

But Saturday night Marquez calmly adjusted to Pacquiao’s early head movement, weathered a barrage of power shots after Pacquiao stunned him, and coldly capitalized on Pacquiao’s penchant for running face-first into right hands. After 42 of the most closely contested and hotly debated rounds in recent boxing history, Marquez ended plenty of discussions with the perfect overhand right.

But in settling that question, Marquez’ spectacular win raised a ton of others.

The most urgent include…

1. WHEN WILL BOXING GET SERIOUS ABOUT P.E.D. TESTING?

This isn’t to suggest Marquez is doping. As we discussed last time, there are plenty of holes in the Maquez-is-on-steroids theory, and anybody willing to convict Marquez based on circumstantial evidence and leaps in logic better reach the same conclusion about Pacquiao, Zab Judah, Andre Ward and any number of other fighters.

So far I’m willing to give Marquez the benefit of the doubt, same as I did when similar allegations surfaced about Pacquiao, and Saturday’s one-punch knockout doesn’t change my opinion.

No, Marquez wasn’t a one-punch kayo artist before Saturday, but neither was Pacquiao before he flattened Ricky Hatton. And neither was Sergio Martinez before he crushed Paul Williams.

Sometimes a guy just hits a home run.

If Marco Scutaro goes yard in the Giants’ 2013 home opener it doesn’t mean he juiced up over the winter. It just means he put the right swing on the right pitch.

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Still, we can’t ignore the performance enhancing drug issue, especially with reformed (as far as we know) steroid gurus like Angel “Memo” Hernandez and Victor Conte overseeing the training and nutrition of a long list of world-class fighters.

When Floyd Mayweather began insisting on Olympic-style random testing during lead-ins to his fights, people criticized the move as a dodge he concocted to avoid facing Pacquiao. But as random, pre-fight drug screenings have become more common so have positive tests.

As Lamont Peterson learned when he got popped for testosterone while training for his rematch with Amir Khan.

And as Conte protege Andre Berto discovered after he tested positive for nandrolone ahead of his scheduled rematch with Victor Ortiz.

And as Erik Morales found out before challenging Danny Garcia. Morales’ pre-fight drug test came back positive for a P.E.D. but — amazingly — that fight still went on, highlighting an even bigger drug problem in boxing.

If sanctioning bodies and state commissions only test after fights they might as well not test at all. Any steroid guru worth his syringe knows how to beat a test when the screening date is circled on his calendar. And if outside agencies uncover drug use through pre-fight testing, commissions and sanctioning bodies can’t undermine the process by allowing fights to proceed.

And if the folks running boxing are unwilling to back up stringent pre-fight testing with stiff penalties they can’t complain when fans look skeptically at the achievements of all fighters, innocent or guilty.

If  I want to watch a bunch of drugged up athletes flout toothless doping controls I’ll watch cycling.

This is the Sweet Science, so let’s get samples to the laboratory and get on with the sport.

2. WHAT’S NEXT FOR PACQUIAO?

In the minutes after Saturday’s bout, while Pacquiao was still under observation by medical staff, promoter Bob Arum took to the podium at the post-fight news conferenced and told anyone who would listen that one loss means nothing, and that absorbing a crushing kayo didn’t have to affect Pacquiao’s career any more than losing one game affected Sandy Koufax’.

Which makes for sense for Arum, considering how much money he has made as a result of Pacquiao’s stardom, and how much he stands to make should Pacquiao continue fighting.

Manny Pacquiao v Juan Manuel Marquez

But not all losses are created equal, and neither are all losers.

Pacquiao has a disturbing habit of walking in to right hands, accepting the blows as the price of getting close enough to engage in the exchanges where he does his damage. Saturday night the cost proved way too steep, and the result places Pacquiao in an awkward position.

He can continue fighting, altering his aggressive style to protect a chin that is now a liability, or he can continue as he always has, hoping his beard will hold up against opponents now empowered by his vulnerability. Or he can choose a lower calibre of opponent, reducing the chances that flaws in his defense or strategy will be exposed.

None of those options are appealing for a fighter whose multimillion-dollar brand is built on winning convincingly over big-name foes.

A fourth choice is to walk away altogether. After 17 years, 61 pro fights and world titles in eight divisions Pacquiao has certainly earned that right.

I’m just not sure circumstances will afford him that luxury.

As Arum has already made clear, he has too much money and hope tied up in Pacquiao remaining active to let his cash cow head to pasture. A fifth fight with Marquez would take a brutal toll on the bodies and souls of both men but would generate north of a million pay per view buys. This is a numbers game, so we know which consideration will win out.

Besides, for all of his eight-figure paydays Pacquiao may just need the cash.

His entourage numbers more than 100, and he provided more than $1 million worth of tickets to the Marquez bout to various friends and associates.  They weren’t freebies, either. The cost came out of Pacquiao’s guarantee.

It’s an amazingly generous move by a guy who doesn’t mind sharing his incredible wealth. But it’s also the kind of gesture that, repeated often enough, leads fighters who should be retired right back to the ring.

3. DOES THIS MEAN WE’LL NEVER SEE MAYWEATHER-PACQUIAO?

Not necessarily.

It just means the price went down.

Way down.

Although boxing seems like a giant single-elimination tournament — lose once and go to the end of a long line to wait for your next payday — truth is promoters decide who fights whom. Losing your previous bout might make you less marketable, but if you’ll accept the purse the promoter offers then the fight can, and will, go on.

That’s why Pacquiao and Marquez will take home at least $35 million between them while Tim Bradley, the guy who defeated Pacquiao in June, is at home in Palm Springs, Calif., training, seething, and waiting for a date and an opponent.

In falling to Marquez, Pacquiao didn’t lose a chance at a Mayweather payday, but he fumbled away a ton of bargaining power.

Earlier this year Mayweather told the world he had offered Pacquiao a $40 million guarantee, only to have Pacquiao turn it down in favour of a 50-50 split of total revenue. If a new conversation on a purse split were to take place in the near future I’d expect Mayweather’s end of it to sound like this:

“Hi, Manny. Remember the $40 million guarantee I offered you before? Well I don’t. But if you want to get it on I can give you $5 million. Sound good?”

And in six months, it might.

For whatever Pacquiao lost on Saturday night, he remains one of the two biggest names in boxing and the most lucrative B-side Mayweather could hope for in a pay-per-view partner. Mayweather can still use Pacquiao to generate a massive payday, even if he no longer needs him to burnish his Hall-of-Fame legacy.

Unless, of course, Mayweather loses his next time out.

Then the price of “the fight” takes another precipitous drop and the two boxers, rallying around their shared need to stay relevant, will suddenly find common ground on every issue from money to drug testing to ring size.

So if you’re that committed to seeing Mayweather-Pacquiao, make sure you pull for Robert Guerrero May 4.

But if you’re over the idea of that fight I can’t blame you.

Follow Morgan Campbell on Twitter

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Comments
7 Responses to “Manny Pacquiao falls, questions arise”
  1. Great story as usual. And I do think Marquez was juiced, but that’s just me. But I still think people want to see a Money May vs. Pacman showdown. And I still think it will generate massive numbers. However, in the near future, Marquez will offer a rematch to Pacman. Why? Because Pacman offers him his biggest and best payday. Just as you said, Bradley is a farce, and the others don’t have the cache needed to generate the numbers. Money May will beat Guerrero and think long and hard about fighting Canelo. Canelo is a young, tough and rugged fighter, with the natural size and power which could give Money May a headache. Pacman seems like a much easier opponent, with an equally good payday and he’d still have leverage….

  2. Ivan Montiel says:

    Another great blog!

    Love the way you put it with Floyd offering only $5 million to Pacquiao then again who can blame Mayweather if he does that kind of offer. Pacquiao did the same thing this past weekend as Marquez only got $6 million compared to over $20 million that Pacquiao was making.

    I say and I’ve always said this if it ain’t Pacquiao let it be Sergio “MARAVILLA” Martinez vs Floyd “MONEY” Mayweather next!

    Now that Pacquiao is pretty much finished because c’mon let’s be real what’s the chance of Pacquiao recovering from such a devastating KO loss? I say he has a slim chance of ever being the once good fighter he once was.

    Martinez is slick, smart and strong which would give Floyd the toughest challenge ever!

  3. steve says:

    WOW, your logic is amazing, but then you wear classes so you must be smart. Here I’ve spent two to three hours a day at the gym, NOW I find out all I needed to do was switch to hemp protein and steel-cut oats to pack on pounds and pounds of muscle. Thank you for solving the mystery of why my body doesn’t respond the way it used to exercise, I thought I was just getting older. I also agree that if you’re going to consider Marquez’s miraculous one year transformation at the age of 39 to steroid use, then you must also consider Pacquiao’s rapid ascent form flyweight to welterweight over a thirteen year period to steroid use as well. After all the man was 29 years old when he first fought at welterweight. Who was he trying to fool? Every idiot knows there is no physical difference between 29 and 39. Floyd Mayweather Jr. knew the truth about Manny Pacquiao, and his accusations were nothing like the pretty girl at the prom who gets jealous, then spreads rumors about the other pretty girl who is getting all the attention. I do like your line about circumstantial evidence and leaps in logic, again, everyone knows if I say, “I don’t mean to insult you.” And then I insult you, I’m not really insulting you. I’m just being honest and unbiased under those circumstances.

  4. steve says:

    I apologize for my original post, not that I think it really matters to a professional writer like yourself. I’m sure you have developed thick skin to random idiots like myself. I think it takes a lot of courage to be writer and to put yourself out there like you do, I didn’t mean you any disrespect. I don’t agree with you of course, because I don’t think the two accusations are comparable, but your right. An accusation is just an accusation and boxing should be taking testing for PEDS seriously. If for no other reason, than to simply to keep morons like me from jumping to conclusions, as I watch a sport I love destroy itself, becoming more and more irrelevant.

    • Hey Steve it’s all good. I moderate all the comments here, so if I thought you were that far out of line i would have just spiked your first comment. I really don’t take any of it personally, even when people get personal. I’d rather encourage dialogue than extinguish it… But to your point — if Marquez and Pac aren’t comparable, how about Marquez and Hopkins? The mid-40s B-Hop who beat Jean Pascal had significantly more lean muscle than the late 30s B-Hop who beat Oscar. When people ask Hopkins his secret he attributes it to hard work, discipline and clean living, and people accept it. This isn’t to say either guy is on steroids. Just saying Marquez isn’t the only old guy to undergo a physique makeover… Either way, we’re very much on the same page about PED testing in boxing. I might not agree with accusing people like Marquez of doping, but until commissions and sanctioning bodies get serious about random testing I can’t blame anybody for asking questions. And don’t even get me started on the UFC’s doping protocols… Anyway, thanks for your comment

  5. Ivan Montiel says:

    Forget Floyd vs Pacquiao I’d rather see Floyd vs MARAVILLA!
    I doubt Pacquiao will be able to rebound from a crushing loss. I strongly believe Martinez would give Floyd his toughest challenge! Martinez is a smart boxer just like Floyd. Martinez is fast maybe not as fast as Floyd but still has both good speed both hands and feet. Martinez can punch probably harder than Floyd. Hopefully sometime next year we can see this interesting match up! If Floyd beats Martinez he will then need nothing else to prove. If Floyd can beat Martinez he can than retire as the GOAT.

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