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Time to Push the Envelope: The Future for Manny Pacquiao?

By Jeff Stoyanoff

It was certainly another dynamic performance by Manny Pacquiao recently in Dallas. It was indeed the stuff of legend as the fearsome Pacquiao delivered such a terrible beating to his opponent that Margarito was taken to a hospital for surgery on a fractured orbital bone. Nobody wants to see someone hurt in the ring, least of all Manny Pacquiao. But the fact that fighters have to fear for their physical well being if they even dare to enter the ring with him makes for a fascinating back story for the biggest name in boxing. Yet, the Margarito fight is merely a blip.

A matchmaking sham perpetrated on a public so enthralled with a transcendent fighter that they would likely pony up to see him hit a heavy bag. Let’s quickly dispose of a couple of selling points that were little more than fantastic misdirection.

Margarito would be a stern challenge as he was the taller and bigger man

That would be true if Margarito were able to effectively utilize those advantages. You don’t need to be Eddie Futch to see that Margarito fights small as he presses his opponent and prefers to work on the inside. In the end, Margarito’s size was a disadvantage as it provided more surface area on which Pacquiao could unload his devastating offensive arsenal. Margarito flashed a decent jab, but he was not able to nor was he interested in maintaining distance by using his height. Margarito is a warrior and he came to fight his fight and that suited the Pacquiao camp just fine.

Moreover, the increased weight was a mixed bag. It is true that Margarito did some solid work, particularly to the body. In a couple of instances, it actually looked like Pacquiao felt the shots which has hardly been the case in his recent outings. However, the increased weight clearly hampered the ridiculous speed deficit which already confronted Margarito. The speed difference coupled with the match up of styles spelled doom for Margarito. His size, far from being a plus, actually played into the hands of his opponent. This may seem like an unusually harsh take on Pacquiao’s performance and it is. But, the reason is simple.

Manny Pacquiao and the Rarified Air of All Time Greatness

Manny Pacquiao is now in the conversation when people discuss many of the greatest fighters in the history of boxing. Depending on whom you ask, he may be just another great fighter, or a top five all time. But, no matter whom you ask, his legitimacy as an all time great is seldom, if ever, questioned anymore. That ship sailed when he went 5-1-1 against future hall of famers: Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera, and Erik Morales. And the ship disappeared over the horizon when he blew away the likes of: Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, and Joshua Clottey. One can point to over the hill opponents who were hand picked and catch weights yielding weight drained opponents. But, those kinds of things have been part of boxing forever. Wasn’t Donnie Lalonde a hand picked opponent for Sugar Ray Leonard yielding a paper title at 168? Didn’t Rocky Marciano bolster his credentials with a dynamic knockout of a badly faded Joe Louis? Didn’t Henry Armstrong have a signature win over Barney Ross in what would prove to be the last fight of Ross’s magnificent career? It goes on and on. Fighters are matched. This is prize fighting. This is a business and a sport, making money is one way in which success is measured. Just like all of the victors in the examples above, Manny Pacquiao was great on fight night but, should that result really elevate his status as an all time great fighter? The game should change now. Pacquiao needs to continually astonish fans. Anything less is simply standing in place. And that is exactly what happened on Saturday night. The style match up was perfect and he blew away an overmatched opponent. I want more.

Cotto and Clottey: The Stuff of Legend

Miguel Cotto fought exceptionally well against Manny Pacquiao and he was completely overwhelmed. It was a dangerous and supremely talented welterweight and Pacquiao was in another universe. I was in awe of the performance. Nobody had ever dominated Joshua Clottey before he met Pacquiao in March of 2009. The streak ended that night. A rugged and talented full welterweight was similarly overwhelmed by the furious, unending assault of Pacquiao. That hugely underrated performance was similarly awe inspiring. Those performances made you think of Pacquiao as a true all time great.

But, then the sideshow happened. Margarito squeezed himself down to 150 to make himself available for a paper title for the Champ. While it is true that Margarito only weighed 154 for one fight. Consider that after making 150 he put on 15 pounds overnight. Does that sound like a natural weight for Margarito? Truthfully, none of that mattered as Margarito could have come in the ring with a baseball bat and he wasn’t going to win. Pacquiao had already ascended to another level. Who in the world picked Antonio Margarito to win? In the search for transcendence, this fight was a waste of time. We already knew the answers to all of the questions that the fight was asking.

Pacman has Spoiled Me

If Pacquiao continues to fight it should move beyond wins or losses. He doesn’t need to prove anything anymore. The resume is as good as you will find in the history of boxing. His place as an all time great is secure. Now, I want to be amazed. I want the feeling I had when I saw him demolish such a gifted fighter in Miguel Cotto. The familiar rap on Pacquiao is that during this recent stretch of dominating performances he has eschewed slick boxers who might give him more movement and counter effectively. Instead, it has been a series of talented fighters, but opponents that would nonetheless opt to stand in front of him or, even better, actually take the fight to him thus largely negating whatever size disadvantage he may have been saddled with going in.

I have no idea how Pacquiao would fare against Floyd Mayweather, JR., or Sergio Martinez, but how can we ascertain the level of his greatness if he doesn’t push the envelope? It isn’t fair and he can’t force his opponents to fight him. And, he certainly doesn’t have to do anything to justify himself to fans who are selfishly hungry to see him scale a never ending series of higher and higher peaks. But hey, he’s an all time great now so the game has changed. He is competing on a more ethereal plane as he challenges giants of the past for a far less tangible ranking. Winning alone just isn’t enough; we must be stunned by his greatness. Such is the life of an active legend of the game.

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