Will The Chin Betray Manny Pacquiao?
The chin is a mystery in this sport of ours.
You can't teach a chin, can't really strengthen it, though you can, it has been argued, shore up your chin by bulking up your neck muscles some, so when a punch lands, your brain doesn't rattle in its pan as much.
The chin of Manny Pacquiao hasn't been a mystery for all of his career, not until Juan Manuel Marquez landed a counter right from Hell, Hell in this case being the state of mind for Manny-iacs after their demi-God hangs up the gloves, at some time yet to be determined, and forever steps away from in-ring combat.
That Marquez blow dropped Pacquiao like he'd been Tased, and a viewer had to be concerned when Pacman lay on the canvas for a spell, out of it, his brain unable to reset and adjust after the traumatic impact.
Today, we fight fans wonder, and all the Manny-aics hope, that Manny's chin hasn't been fatally compromised, that his wiring hasn't been altered irrevocably. We know that an athlete who suffers a concussion is often times more susceptible to suffering another, and some scientists argue, that athlete is even more susceptible to brain trauma following each concussion.
Pacman (seen above, with Brandon Rios, right, in Chris Farina-Top Rank photo) has been stopped twice; the first time came in 1996, against Rustico Torrecamp. That third round finisher came via a left hand, maybe to the face, or to the body, it is impossible to see from the sub-par video floating around YouTube. The left (or was it a right, as is stated in the book "Pacman," by Gary Andrew Poole?) sent the Filipino to the mat, where the ref reached a count of ten, and called a halt to the scrap. The TV caller yelled that Pacman's eyes were crossed, and his body language suggested a reaction to a head shot more than a body shot, for the record. In the book "Pacman," Poole says Pacquiao didn't remember getting stopped right after it happened, and it took him 30 minutes to get to his senses and absorb the loss. That sounds like head trauma, not body, but the jury I suppose is still out.
In 1999, Pacman was again stopped, in round three, this time against Medgoen Singsurat. The video evidence on this occasion is more clear. A right lands to Manny's body, as his back is to the ropes, and he hits the canvas. He's on his knees, then belly, his face a mask of pain. He tries to get up and is just about there but the ref reaches ten, and waves his hands, signifying the end. In the Poole book, the author states that Pacquiao was weakened from a harsh weight cut, and was "exhausted and dehydrated" when the body blow scored.
All in all, Manny has been more than durable for many moons since those disappointments occured...
So...Did Marquez put Manny into a new danger zone? Will that Pacquiao chin now be quick to betray him?
It's not hard, if you are not a Manny-iac, to ponder that perhaps the Marquez thundercrack left physical after-effects in Manny. The way he went down, rendered inanimate, dead weight, onto his face, the way his body lay, looking scarily lifeless. Lord, it looked not that unlike the reaction which flared when RKF was shot, what with the family and posse looking stricken and weepy and frenzied. "We have to ask, will Manny Pacquiao ever be seen in the ring agains?" HBO's analyst Larry Merchant asked, while Pacquiao, a minute after being felled, lay on his back, eyes open but unfocused. Manny had cleared many of the cobwebs, it looked like, after 1:30 or so, all were happy to see. But we can't know if there will be lingering effects, if a Brandon Rios punch could conceivably do a similar number on his brain.
I delved into the issue with another fighter with ties to the Philippines, "The Filipino Wrecking Machine," Mark Munoz.
Munoz (13-3), a 35-year-old California resident, showed zero doubt that Pacman will roar back on Nov. 23, and show any and all doubters that at 34 1/2, he's by no means a has been.
"I know Manny, I know his character," said Munoz, born in Japan, the son of two Filipino immigrants. "He came from humble begginings, I've seen the city he came from, he's always had to fight. This fight with Rios is literally his life. He's had to fight for his life, to survive. When it comes to adversity, he's risen above on a number of occasions. This is not anything different."
What does Munz think will do down in Macau? Not Pacquiao, right?
"I think in the fight versus Rios, we will see the champion inside of Pacquiao, see what he's made of," Munoz continued.
The MMAer, who is expected to take on Michael Bisping on Oct. 26, in a UFC on Fox promotion, has trained at Wild Card, seen Pacquiao up close, and measured him. Before the second fight with Erik Morales, Munoz was at Wild Card, and hung some with Manny and trainer Freddie Roach.
Is there a possibility, though, that Marquez broke something in Manny, if not his will, then the solidity of his chin? "I don't think so," Munoz said. "I've gotten knocked out twice in my career, and I came back stronger." He won three straight after getting stopped via a head kick from Matt Hamill in 2009, and came back to beat Tim Boetsch in July, after getting stopped on strikes by Chris Weidman one year earlier. "It's the way you train, and approach a fight, how well you feel inside," Munoz said. "I think Pacquiao will come back against Rios more durable, and smarter. He walked into that punch from Marquez. I think (following the Marquez loss) Manny will be tougher."
Follow Michael Woods on Twitter.