“Pacquiao's a has-been, his career is over," Floyd Mayweather said three months ago in San Antonio during a stop on the ten-city press tour he and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez did to promote their September 14th junior middleweight title bout.
Regardless of his stinging assessment, the reigning pound for pound king had no qualms barking yet more orders to the “has-been” Pacquiao through the press. Mayweather told boxing writer Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports:
"Everybody's like, 'Aw, Pacquiao,' but I'm just letting you know he's not getting a fight with me. The only way he's getting the fight with me is if he signs with Mayweather Promotions. He's got to give me fights with Mayweather Promotions. If he don't give me no fights under Mayweather Promotions, then he's not getting the fight. That's how it is working now, because the ball is in my court. The ball has been in my court.”
Mayweather went on to detail how hard he tried to share said ball with Pacquiao (seen in above Chris Farina-Top Rank photo) by making the one fight every red-blooded boxing fan in the universe wanted to see back then, when Pacquiao was at his peak. One can only assume, of course, the version of Pacquiao our friend Mayweather was referring to was the one who obliterated Ricky Hatton and dismembered Miguel Cotto circa 2009. After all, that version of Pacquiao would have been a tough out for any welterweight in the world at the time, even the audaciously gifted Mayweather.
Alas, it never happened. And there’s no use recounting it all here. If you’re a boxing fan, you know the story. If you don’t, save yourself the trouble. It was all rising action and no climax, a fight without punches, dark clouds without a storm.
"I wanted to fight Pacquiao at one particular time, but I wanted to fight him when he was at the top. I'm not going to speak on another man's finance business, but like I said before, I left Top Rank for a reason. He's with Top Rank, so I want him to be happy with Top Rank."
At 34, the diminished Manny Pacquiao’s career continues under the banner of promotional partner Top Rank this November when he will face the brave but likely outclassed Brandon Rios in Macau, China. With a win, Pacquiao and his handlers will hope to salvage a career laid waste by one of the more devastatingly perfect punches you’ll ever see in the sport.
Last December, just when it seemed the popular Filipino was at long last on the verge of overwhelming his arch-nemesis, Juan Manuel Marquez, in the sixth round of their fourth and maybe final encounter, Pacquiao was concussed down to the cold, harsh reality of the unforgiving blue canvas by a singularly beautiful and savagely delivered right hand counterpunch.
Poor Pacquiao never saw it coming.
With ten seconds remaining in Round 6, Pacquiao had landed a vicious left cross. Soon, he had Marquez backing into the ropes in retreat. It seemed the end was near. Pacquiao feinted a jab, but was suddenly stunned by Marquez, who had ducked under it with absurdly perfect timing to unload that pristine right hand punch to the jaw that Pacquiao never saw coming. His head flipped back violently when it landed, and he melted into the canvas face first.
It was vicious. It was cruel. But it was boxing.
Pacquiao died in that moment. Not the man, of course, but his legend. In the blink of an eye, the previously indestructible Manny Pacquiao, an entire nation’s Superman, was swept into a little pile of rubble, a laughably unintimidating heap of frailty. In just an instant, the fearsome freight train with lightning fast hands made of angry anvils was rendered to a state of fragile weakness. Manny Pacquiao was nothing now.
Mayweather will be nothing one day, too. Sure, it might not happen in the exact same way it did for Pacquiao. After all, where Mayweather is a supreme example for aspiring risk managers everywhere, Pacquiao is the mascot for the gambling sorts. And now that Mayweather has easily outpointed Canelo Alvarez, is there anyone in the boxing world between 140 and 154 pounds to favor against him? Even if he braved the middleweight scene, wouldn’t he likely outbox aging champion Sergio Martinez, too?
No matter. Our grand American hero Mayweather could retire 100-0 someday. The axiom would still hold true. Eventually, no one is what they used to be. No one.
So perhaps Mayweather’s greatest lesson will end up being the one nobody was able to teach him inside the ring: how to lose. And if that’s the case, if Mayweather is the type to struggle for life’s meaning when the lights turn away from him, if he’s the sort to be shocked in the brevity of life’s peak, our pal Floyd need only look to Pacquiao’s knockout loss to Marquez for some inspiration.
In the third round, after Marquez landed several left hooks to the body, Marquez feinted the punch again before sending a long, looping overhand right with the intention of shattering Pacquiao’s crown. The punch seemed almost a full circle. It was slow, deliberate. Everyone in the arena saw it headed Pacquiao’s way. Pacquiao seemed to have long enough to blink several times before it got anywhere near his face. One ringsider swears the person sitting next to him had time for a full yawn while it made its way over.
In his youth, Pacquiao would have gotten out of the way. Or maybe blocked it. In his old age, though, he could but partially catch the punch with his glove, that slow, arching blow, to absorb some of its impact.
It didn’t matter.
This hulking mass of what used to be lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez punched with such force now, at welterweight, that such a blow floored Pacquiao for the first time in any of their four fights previous. Pacquiao seemed confused as the reality of it slapped him on the brow, as his bottom titled down towards the welcoming ocean of the canvas. As his shoulders found their new home, Pacquiao’s feet rose slightly as he rolled to his back, perhaps protesting the new physics of a previously familiar environment.
Things were different now, and here was the lesson.
Pacquiao climbed diligently to his feet. His resolve did not vacillate or waver. If anything, the newfound terror of Marquez’s incredibly sudden power brought forth such a burst of light from his soul that one might have believed, if just for that moment, the script of Pacquiao’s legend was closer to its beginning than to its end.
It may have been his finest moment inside the ring.
Pacquiao’s relentless vigor, his singular expression of defiance, carried him oh-so-close to victory. It was close enough to feel the warmth of the approaching light of ardor, close enough to smell the flowers of adulation, close enough to anticipate a quiver of victory.
But these things would never come.
Instead, he had brought himself only close enough to feel the pain of loss in its fullest measure, the terrifying sting in the death of his legend, as he lay down there on the floor, Marquez’s lion’s paw having swept him into a tiny heap of a bashful little lamb.
But after it was over, as the songs were being sung for his opponent now instead of him, as the adulation from those who used to compare him to the greatest of the greats devolved into an especially pathetic form of pity reserved only for fallen fighters, this wretched little Manny Pacquiao did not whimper or cry. He did not stomp his feet on the ground. He did not accuse Marquez of cheating.
Instead, Manny Pacquiao smiled sheepishly for the camera. He looked a bit sad, yes – embarrassed even. But he was not ashamed. His face was brave.
“That’s boxing,” he said just moments after peeling himself out of oblivion.
No, Manny. That’s life.
Kelsey McCarson is a boxing writer for TheSweetScience.com and Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @KelseyMcCarson.