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23 APRIL 2014

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Pacquiao Is Right Back In The Mix




There was a moment in the twelfth round of Manny Pacquiao’s bout with Brandon Rios that was both indicative of the change in temperament of the fighter and, perhaps, a maturity that will allow him to prolong his career. He backed off.

 

For twelve rounds Manny Pacquiao beat Brandon Rios silly. But in those moments when it looked as though Rios may have been teetering on shaky pins, Pacquiao assessed the situation and decided to rely more on his boxing skills than leaping in for the quick kill.

 

And he’s being criticized in some quarters for that approach. It’s not vintage Manny Pacquiao read the complaints.

 

What I saw was an aging fighter realizing he has to refine his approach, use caution when necessary, but also remain true to form. That’s exactly what Manny Pacquiao did. He befuddled Rios with angles, good footwork and multiple combinations that always left Brandon on his back foot.

 

Ironically, Floyd Mayweather is criticized for just the type of fight Manny Pacquiao fought, most often by Pacquiao diehards. In retrospect both Floyd and Manny took apart their recent challengers, Saul Alvarez and Brandon Rios, in much the same fashion. And for those who say Pacquiao’s offense was still more impressive and conclusive than Floyd’s, be reminded that Mayweather has been staying in the pocket or on the ropes in his last several fights. Despite a reputation for relying only on defense Money Mayweather has been laying right in wait, inviting his opponents to hit him. And they still can’t, so his critics say he’s boring.

 

With Pacquiao it’s just the opposite, but equally frustrating. He hasn’t knocked out an opponent since 2009 when he took apart Miguel Cotto. But he beat fighters like Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley to pieces, regardless that they all heard the final bell. Another decision in his fight against Timothy Bradley, which inexplicably went against him, led many to believe his best days were in the rear view mirror.

 

And then came the knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last December. In that fight both men were intent on ending their seemingly unending rivalry. Pacquiao was taking over when he got concussed.

 

Suddenly he became one big question mark. It didn’t matter that he’d beaten all of those fighters, save for Marquez, conclusively. He didn’t knock them out, so he wasn’t as good anymore.

 

Mayweather boxes to perfection, he’s boring. Pacquiao doesn’t knock his opponent out, he’s over the hill.

 

Boxing is unforgiving in so many ways.

 

The fact of the matter is, both Pacquiao and Mayweather looked great against very good opposition who just weren’t on their rarefied level.

 

But Pacquiao shouldn’t be criticized, at least in this fight, for stepping off the gas pedal in those final moments. This was a comeback fight, after all. Expectations may have either been way too high or way too low for those on either side to appreciate just how good Manny looked against Rios.

 

He boxed beautifully. His footwork was quick and precise. He got in and out, sometimes landing four or five punch combinations. It was a win he needed and he won going away.


For those criticizing his performance I suggest you look back at your feelings and predictions before the opening bell.  There were plenty of people expecting either a really tough fight or a possible upset. 

 

Manny should be praised for mustering his courage after that  loss to Marquez and jumping back into the ring with a big strong guy who was also going to be charging after him round after round.  Once Manny shook out the nerves he dominated a fighter who has been in two fight of the year candidates.  No, Rios is not an upper echelon fighter but he was good enough for Manny to admit that he had hurt him in the middle rounds. 

 

And instead of jumping in recklessly, as he would have when hurt earlier in his career, experience told him to box smart. 

 

That’s what Manny Pacquiao did against Brandon Rios.  He took a potentially dangerous opponent apart round by round and proved, once again, that he’s more than just a puncher. 

 

Fighters get old.  And old fighters, great old fighters, find different ways to win.  They use their experience, their guile and every so often catch lightening in a bottle and turn back time.  Manny Pacquiao is at the tail end of his career, but it says here something truly dramatic happens before it’s all over.

 

At the post fight press conference Pacquiao seemed greatly subdued.  His mind was obviously on his countrymen affected by the typhoon in the Philippines but it’s been a long time since Manny smiled gregariously after a bout like he used to.  Perhaps he sees the end of his career approaching and he’s not comfortable with it.  Or, he really is worn to the bone after a sixteen year professional career.  His next fight, presumably against more formidable opposition, will give us even more answers.  But for now, Manny can at least relax and bask in the glow of a fine performance before he enters training camp yet again.

 

 

Matthew Hurley is a full time member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  His first book on boxing, Ringside Reflections, can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com.  He can be reached at hurley.matthew07@gmail.com



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