By Frank Lotierzo
He's said it; his longtime promoter has said it and the fans believe it. And that is that Manny Pacquiao's upcoming welterweight bout with Timothy Bradley on April 9th will be his last. And that’s because the eight division title holder is running for a Senate seat in his native Philippines where his poll numbers are declining. Some believe Pacquiao's dip in the polls is a result of his anti-gay comments which he later retracted.
Other pundits have inferred that due to Pacquiao's chances for a Senate seat being up in the air, he might decide to continue his stellar boxing career based on his recent statements.
“I don’t know,” Pacquiao said at a press conference. “at that time, God willing, I’ll be a senator in the Philippines and I’ll ask the people of the Philippines if they’ll allow it. My attention and focus is to serve the people. I’ll ask the people if they agree to that.”
Since making that statement it’s been repeated why Pacquiao has plenty of reasons to retire even if he doesn't become a senator, such as….”he’s taken plenty of punishment over the years, having 65 fights since he turned pro in 1995. Having won titles in eight different weight classes, there isn’t much more for him to accomplish.”
Yes, the above is true, but what was left out is the little fact that Manny Pacquiao is a fighter first above all else. Some analysts don’t grasp how deep that runs. Regardless of his words, Manny Pacquiao is a fighter down to his core and still a relatively great one who still attracts millions of spectators when he fights while being paid millions of dollars when he steps into the ring. Pacquiao may be a gracious man and truly wants to help his country, but he is a fighter first.
In his last bout Manny was beaten conclusively by Floyd Mayweather. And in reality he wasn't even Floyd's toughest fight, but it must be noted that despite losing, he didn't absorb anything close to the type of punishment where one would consider him damaged goods. It just so happened that Mayweather had the style, reach and speed to neutralize Pacquiao's sporadic southpaw aggression. Mayweather will beat Pacquiao every day of the week, but that doesn't mean Pacquiao is finished and his days of being a world class fighter are in the rear view mirror. Granted, Manny isn't the same fighter he was five years ago but he can still beat and compete with other elite welterweights vying to emerge as the marque man at 147.
If Pacquiao could write the perfect script, he'd fight Mayweather again and try to avenge losing to him 10 months ago. But he knows deep down that Floyd isn't going to step in the ring with him again and he certainly isn't going to let Mayweather dictate whether or not he continues on with his career.
In order for Pacquiao to continue fighting for millions of dollars, he must beat Bradley next month, and it would be a real shot in the arm if he did it in a convincing manner. He surely wants to erase the stench of the Mayweather setback and a sensational performance against Bradley would align him to be in position to knock off the fighter who looks to be the next Mayweather, Terence Crawford. Crawford is a beautiful boxer who can fight as the attacker and seek the knockout if he chooses to. It’s not a given yet but Crawford looks to be the genuine article. That said, Crawford is not without his detractors who mock his level of opposition after each impressive outing.
Crawford's most impressive performance to date came against Yuriorkis Gamboa, 23-0 at the time, a little over a year and a half ago. His detractors say Crawford's showing was more the case of Terence being a weight class or two bigger than Gamboa than it was a case of him being such a special fighter. In order for Crawford to escape the perception that he's fighting handpicked opposition the likes of Raymundo Beltran, Thomas Dulorme, Dierry Jean and Hank Lundy, his last four opponents, Crawford needs a big name opponent with a large following to mark his official arrival to the big time.
Adrien Broner would fit the bill ideally, but I think it's obvious Broner doesn't even want to be on the same side of the street as Crawford. Viktor Postol 28-0, who holds the WBC super-lightweight title, would be acceptable, but if Crawford takes Postol apart, it'll be said by his detractors that Postol was a paper champ who hadn't fought anyone noteworthy until fighting Crawford. And if you can believe it, there's a lot of chatter in regards to Crawford fighting Ruslan Provodnikov, 25-4, in his next bout which has Mayweather-Gatti written all over it.
As you can see, based on who's out there for Crawford to fight, Manny Pacquiao is the only one who can put him in front of a worldwide audience to showcase his skills. As for Pacquiao, aside from Crawford, he could fight Keith Thurman or Danny Garcia who are both undefeated, and they also would be PPV attractions. But not for the same money he'd earn fighting Crawford because Terence is seen as the most skilled and gifted boxer in the sport. Pacquiao would like to make the Mayweather outing a distant memory to boxing observers, and the best way he can do that is to take on the next Mayweather-esque opponent on the rise and administer him his first defeat.
I think the reality is, and it's starting to slip out, Pacquiao knows if he beats Bradley in a way in which there's no doubt as to who the better man was, he'll still be a draw and in line for a few more multi-million dollar bouts. Call it a hunch, but I believe Manny likes and needs the money and walking away from piles of it still on the table is something he can't and won't do — assuming he defeats Bradley next month, which certainly isn't a foregone conclusion.
Let me add one small caveat in closing – If Pacquiao looks sensational in beating Bradley, and then indicates he wants to fight further, his promoter Bob Arum might back off on pushing for the Crawford bout right away. If there are two PPV wins available to Manny (Garcia and Thurman) before having to deal with Crawford, Arum will promote those instead, meanwhile continuing to build Crawford up, moving the two fighters on a collision course for mid-2017.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com