“THE ONE” BUT NOT THE ONLY – Many Septembers past, Muhammad Ali became the ghost that haunted boxing. Manny Pacquiao may become the ghost that haunts Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
The original “Pac-man” was a machine born in primal video game days when Pong machines could still be found scattered around US bowling alleys. The new video-game sensation arrived to usurp most of the attention and shiny quarters of a still small gaming nation.
In that tabletop scenario, comic graphics gobbled along a winding road to flee or pursue foes and featured noisy characters who, when defeated, withered away like deflated balloons. Decades later, another Pacman entered another gaming scene. This version was a boxer from the Philippines, who gobbled up his competition, won wagers for a growing bandwagon of sports book players, and put many fannies in the seats, either at huge arenas or before pay per view TV screens.
Pacquiao was a punching machine, and rose to the top of professional pugilism’s peak with his fierce attack inside the ring and gentle manner outside the strands
Then, like they always do, things changed. Class seemed to lose yardage to crass in the marketplace. After years as a global icon, Pacquiao showed increased vulnerability. In his most recent contests, he lost a questionable decision against Tim Bradley and the indisputable potentially career ending stoppage to Juan Manual Marquez. Pacquiao’s detractors tried to relegate him back to the small change ranks. Pocket money. His status as an equal, arguably superior, performer compared to the great Mayweather seemed to evaporate. The debate over relative dominance morphed to a bigger perception that Mayweather was the true, lasting superstar.
Manny’s popularity seemed to be in a free fall, amidst public squawking on his personal or political life. It looked like the latest Pacman would eventually be deflated like those little cartoon graphics that came before him. Mayweather’s listing as sports’ highest paid athlete, and the overwhelming hoopla and public response for the Alvarez fight has furthered “Money’s” alpha claims. Still, despite a shifting spotlight, as of today, Pacquiao has regained substantial ground on Mayweather without throwing a punch since Pacquiao’s last loss, ten months ago.
Sometimes the best way to avoid flaming out or crashing is just to delay take off. Simply by remaining Manny, Pacquiao’s personality and previous achievements have served him well. Obviously, whatever or whoever goes down in Macao versus Brandon Rios will have a lot to do with the future, but it looks like Pacquiao is on course to return to Mayweather’s echelon in public perception, if not paydays. Meanwhile, legacy-wise, Mayweather finds himself in that time-worn position of being tagged by his own success. These days it’s such a foregone conclusion he’ll be victorious when he fights it’s nearly a no-win situation if he doesn’t score a spectacular KO, something like Wladimir Klitschko sees. Imagine that odd couple being listed, with similarities, in same sentence.
Some things will change, like they always do. Some will remain, as usual.
Marquez may be more a more respected technician than Pacquiao, as is Bradley for that matter. But put Marquez and Bradley together, multiply it by two and they still only have a fraction of Pacquiao or Mayweather’s charisma. The odds, pound for pound status, or fans’ loyalties and perceptions will probably continue to change regarding Mayweather – Pacquiao before Money’s Showtime contract concludes its convoluted conking course.
By that time, with what may be Floyd’s ultimate promotional maneuver, we may have Mayweather – Pacquiao finally facing off. Floyd’s farewell, possibly 50-0 fight could make the Alvarez bout look like a four round prelim. Pacquiao will almost certainly not be in attendance at the MGM tonight, but his name will be heard more than a few times. A Mayweather – Pacquiao fight, whether it ever actually happens or not, will remain one of the hottest topics in this era of boxing. Don’t be surprised if it becomes a “pick ‘em” affair once again.
Manny Pacquiao, with or without Floyd Mayweather, will remain one of boxing’s biggest stars.