On November 10th 1983, Roberto Duran, 32, who had vacated his WBA junior middleweight title in order to challenge world middleweight champion Marvin Hagler, lost a 15 round unanimous decision and a shot to win a world title in his fourth division. In his last fight prior to fighting Hagler, Duran stopped undefeated WBA middleweight champ Davey Moore in the eighth round to win his third division title and was in the midst of a career resurgence. Due to his brilliant effort and him fighting Hagler on near even turns for a majority of the bout, Duran was given a shot at WBC junior middleweight champ Thomas Hearns. On June 15th 1984, Duran, who was less than two weeks away from turning 33, was knocked out by Hearns in the second round. Hearns' right hand landed on Duran's chin with so much force, Duran fell face forward and was out.
Manny Pacquiao is in the midst of a two-bout losing streak and is in dire need of a career resurgence. In June of 2012 he lost a controversial decision to Timothy Bradley and then six months later he was knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez in the sixth round and like Duran went down face first. In two months Pacquiao will turn 35 and history is not on his side when it comes to fighters his age ever regaining their all world status after suffering back-to-back loses.
In the era of modern boxing we haven't seen it happen many times where a superstar over 32 lost two big fights back-to-back like Roberto Duran and Manny Pacquiao, and then came back and go on to dominate again. Shane Mosley and Bernard Hopkins defied the trend. Yes, five years after losing to Hearns, Duran did conclusively beat Iran Barkley for the WBC middleweight title in what turned out to be Ring Magazine's fight of the year. However, Duran lost his next fight to Sugar Ray Leonard and really wasn't much of a factor in the title picture after that.
Then again, being in the title picture and dominating again are two entirely different things regarding Pacquiao. He could actually lose his next fight to Brandon Rios and still probably fight for a title in his next bout because of his name recognition, as it was the case with Duran. No one doubts that even at almost 35 Pacquiao can be a legitimate title holder again. The question is, does he have the fire inside to push himself the way he used to in order to be one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in boxing again? This is something no one knows or can even venture to guess. In all reality Manny won't know himself for sure until he's a couple weeks into training camp. As to whether he's the fighter he was three or four years ago, we know that's not the case. He's clearly on the decline, it's how much so?
Pacquiao is in such a conundrum right now. There's a plethora of young tigers out there between 140/147 for him to test himself against, but what does he really have to gain or prove by beating Amir Khan, Devon Alexander, Lucas Matthysse, Danny Garcia, Robert Guerrero or Timothy Bradley in a rematch? Other than money, which ain't a bad thing, I say not much.
It appears that if Pacquiao beats Brandon Rios this coming November, which isn't a given, there's really only three fights that make sense for him to take if he still has the desire to continue fighting, and it may even be just two, being that everyone who saw his fight with Bradley believes he won it and he may feel he has nothing to prove by fighting Bradley again. That leaves potential bouts with Floyd Mayweather and Juan Manuel Marquez as his best options and fights that would be easy for him to get up for. But are they plausible?
So Bradley beat Marquez this weekend. Sure a rematch with Bradley, assuming Manny beats Rios, would be an easy sell. But Bradley did better as the fight progressed versus Pacquiao during their fight, and it could well be a tougher go this time around against Bradley, especially if you believe that Manny has declined. Then again if he really blitzed Bradley, which is unlikely, he'd gain some needed momentum in making a case for a showdown with Mayweather.
As for getting Mayweather in the ring, Pacquiao needs to look impressive to rekindle interest in the fight, and understand that Floyd will make him do everything short of insisting that he fights handcuffed on fight night. Never has Manny been at such a disadvantage when it comes to negotiating with Mayweather like he is now. Losing consecutive fights to Bradley and Marquez killed the perception of him being the only fighter on the block who could really test Mayweather and perhaps beat him. Add to that Mayweather looked terrific in his last fight versus Saul Alvarez, so it's easy to see that Manny will have no juice if he ever gets the chance to bargain for a clash with Mayweather.
It seems as if Pacquiao is just out there rudderless trying to find his footing again. His motivation for continuing to fight and who exactly he should fight are somewhat bewildering. He's fighting history and age at a time when his perception and influence are severely compromised.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com