You can imagine the response when, on the day a certain Filipino fighter made the transition from good to great, a story appeared on The Sweet Science with the headline, “Manny Pacquiao running out of time.”
The story went on and on about how Pacquiao had failed to live up to the promise of the Marco Antonio Barrera fight in 2003, how he hadn't looked good since, how his career was destined to flame out like great punchers of the past, etc., etc., etc., blah, blah, blah.
It read: “Whatever the case, it appears that the legend of Manny Pacquiao, in boxing circles anyway, is starting to fade….For a time, Manny Pacquiao was the most exciting thing going. Unfortunately for Pac-Man, that time might soon be up.”
Sometimes writers are so off the mark, it's hard not to giggle at their ridiculous judgment. Sometimes, they're so out-of-sync with reality, that it is almost impossible not to reply to that writer and tell him what a dope he is.
This is one of those times. And the replies were overwhelming.
Watching Pacquiao dismantle Erik Morales Saturday, you could almost see the Aguilar email inbox expand like the welts on Morales' face.
Not only did Pacquiao exceed expectations and put himself firmly back on the road to Canastota, there may not be another fighter within a couple of weight divisions that has a chance to beat him.
Pacquiao was utterly sensational. “El Terrible” was effective enough to be winning through the first five rounds, and it was not inconceivable at that point to picture Morales repeating the victory he slugged out back in March.
But, then the power and strength of Pacquiao took over, and it turned a tremendous, close fight into a massacre. Every time Pacquiao connected with that vicious left hand, Morales shook.
By the 10th round, you were hoping Morales would just fall. The punishment he was absorbing was frightening, and it rekindled memories of all the leather he has soaked up through the years.
The punches he took from Barrera and Daniel Zaragoza and Wayne McCullough and Jesus Chavez and Carlos Hernandez and Pacquiao in the first fight.
You were wishing he would go down.
And, he finally did. Twice.
His face was completely deformed by the brutal Pacquiao attack. He was hardly recognizable.
Never had Erik Morales been dismantled so completely. Not against Barrera, not against Zahir Raheem four months ago in a mild upset.
It may soon bring a retirement announcement by one of the greatest Mexican fighters of all time.
But this wasn't a night to mourn Morales. It was a night to celebrate the power of Pacquiao. And how, at 27, he might be the most exciting fighter in boxing.
Further, he may be the fighter to change boxing. Pac-Man's victory got a mention on “Around the Horn”, an ESPN talk show.
Perhaps Pacquiao's popularity will convince mainstream sports fans to watch the sport?
But that's another topic for another column. Back to the fight.
Not only did Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach make the necessary adjustments, but it also appeared as though Pac-Man grew into the junior lightweight division. Back in March, it seemed like Morales was the bigger, stronger fighter. Saturday, Morales was dominated physically.
Now, with Pacquiao crashing his way through the pound-for-pound ratings, his popularity will only grow. Which is unfathomable, since his backing is already immense. So immense that this writer is stunned — stunned! — at the volume of emails responding to his dead-wrong pre-fight analysis.
A sampling of the punishment dished out by the Manny Pacquiao fan club over the last few days.
•”So Pacquiao did KO Morales, and you said that likely wouldn't happen. What's your next prediction now?”
Aguilar's response: That my computer will blow up if Pac-Man fans continue this relentless assault.
• “I just read ur column about Manny running out of time. It was a good view on things. By the way, I'm from the Philippines, so I may be cheering for Manny but any thoughts on the results of the “The Battle”?
“If ever a rematch w/ Barrera and Marquez comes up could you any give insights? Hey thanks a bunch for reading. More power to your website.”
Aguilar's response: One of dozens of responses that were way too kind. For what it's worth (not much): Pacquiao looked awesome, and, if he fights like that, neither Barrera nor Marquez have a chance.
• “He'll be washed up soon, but before that time, he'll defeat every great Mexican fighter there ever was. It's too bad Julio Cesar is retired.”
Aguilar's response: He might, and yes it is.
• “Hey Matthew, you want fries or mashed potato with that humble pie!!!! I must admit, I was much of the same opinion, but hey, that's boxing. It was some fight eh? And Morales went out like a champion. But you're probably right in the long run. Pac-Man's flame will burn bright and fast…let's enjoy the ride eh??”
Aguilar's response: Actually, I love decaf coffee with my humble pie. Yes, it was some fight, and El Terrible went out like the great fighter that he is. Not so sure how long it will last but, yes, let's appreciate and savor the prime of Pac-Man.
• “Ha ha ha!”
Aguilar's response: Ha ha ha.
• “Hey, Matt! You now eat your own words. With the way you did your awful predictions, you're now like a doormat being stepped on so hard, and just like what Morales suffered. Har! har! har!
Aguilar's response: Actually, not nearly as bad as what Morales suffered.
• “The unlikely happened in the Morales rematch. I wonder how many emails you have right now.”
Aguilar's response: More than at any point in a 12-year journalism career. One-hundred plus and counting.
• “Nice write-up on Manny running out of time. Ha ha. You analysts are pathetic.”
Aguilar's response: Only some of us are pathetic.
• “I'd love to read your next article on Pacquiao's 'fading' career. You seem to know a lot about boxing.”
Aguilar's response: The smart-aleck replies are the most enjoyable.
• “How do you like Manny now?”
Aguilar's response: Quite a bit.
• “Pac-Man just knocked out Morales in the 10th round of their monumental rematch. Please re-read your article and maybe, just maybe, you won't be doing baseless judgments the next time around.”
Aguilar's response: Doubtful. I've made a career of baseless judgments.
• “Hey Matt, I had a hunch that you belong to the same regional affinity as Morales, (Barrera) and Marquez, and you're (sic) articles in your column attests to that. You're right that Morales is washed up and it began to show on his first bout with Pacquiao. Contrary to what you think, Pacquiao is still peaking and he's right when he said that he's a thorn for Mexican fighters. You have to face the inevitable: Pac will whip (Barrera) and stay at top of the featherweights for quite some time.”
Aguilar's response: The same ethnicity (Mexican-American) had little to do with the analysis. But you might be right about the thorn in the side.
• “So what now? You say Pac-Man is gone? Hahahaha. Eat up your words.”
Aguilar's response: I eat any more and I'll throw up.
• “So how about the KO? Would they say Morales was just washed (up)? I think your article is a little bit biased. If it was a boxer from the West, I think you could have had a different opinion. Too much discrimination, I guess. Oh well, no hard feelings. God bless you.”
Aguilar's response: And you, too.
• “Hahahaha… His time is up? Or is your prediction flawed?”
Aguilar's response: The prediction flawed.
• “So now, who's your daddy?! Have you eaten all your sweet nothings for Pacman?! I'm sure you couldn't believe yourself when you saw El Terrible all bloodied up by Pacman's fists! Oh yes…I too saw Erik's face…It's terrible. Now, I think it's your time (that is up).”
Aguilar's response: Possibly.
• “I can almost feel the foot being jammed in your mouth right now. But I still can't understand why your article remained on your website the day after Manny Pacquiao won? Must be downright embarrassing.”
Aguilar's response: It is.
• “So? What's up now? Who's the better fighter?”
Aguilar's response: Pacquiao.
•”Dust off your article in a few years, because it was a bit premature. PacMan rules!”
Aguilar's response: A bit premature, yes.
• “Do you still think that Pacquiao beating Morales was nothing more than him beating a washed-up fighter? It seems to me that Pacquiao still has a lot of things to achieve in the sport.”
Aguilar's response: Morales did look old at the end, yes. And he may not be the fighter he was even 10 months ago. But it took a special fighter to knock him out like that. Pac is here to stay.
• “So Manny Pacquiao is all washed-up, huh? I am glad that you did not promise to eat your column if Erik Morales did not win. You would be needing a lot of ketchup.”
Aguilar's response: A bowl of it.
• “I think Manny deserves some respect now. Nice fight!”
Aguilar's response: No disrespect was intended. But he has it now, regardless.
• “Please come up with an honest to goodness admittance about your wrong impression about Manny. Make it soon, please. Or else you're the one running out of time in your profession as a writer. Again, make no excuses.”
Aguilar's response: No excuses. Pacquaio is an amazing fighter. Much better than some of us originally thought.
• “What do you say now? Maybe you should get in the ring with Pacquiao to see if his time is indeed up.”
Aguilar's response: Um, no thanks.
• “What happened? What a loser. Like you, Matthew.”
Aguilar's response: No response.
• “His time might be up??? You suck in making predictions! I'm glad Manny won! How I wish it was you in the ring, not Morales.”
Aguilar's response: I'm glad it wasn't.
• “So, Mr. Expert, are you going to eat your words? He who laughs last, laughs the best! Ho, ho, ho, ho.”
Aguilar's response: Ho, ho, ho, ho.
• “Blah blah blah. You were wrong about Manny Pacquiao, you don't even know what you're writing. A very poor critic. Manny won, so don't write up anything against him because you are not that good in predicting a fight. Sorry.”
Aguilar's response: Me too.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the emails — mostly from the Filipino community — was that they were so polite. There were dozens that, despite being riled up about the article, signed off on a positive note.
Even a happy note.
“More power to you; thanks for your opinion; good luck; God bless; no hard feelings; better luck next time; nice try.”
Also, out of more than 100 emails, there were two — literally two! — that contained curse words or ultra-inflammatory insults. And even those weren't all that bad.
The American fight fans, so often needlessly crude, can certainly learn something in the form of class and maturity.
I'm not sure how Manny Pacquiao's career will end up.
But, for the amazingly charming people of the Philippines, I hope he continues on his road to becoming one of the greatest fighters in boxing history.