The sorry defeat of Manny Pacquiao in the hands of little known Cuban champ Yordenis Ugas should be the Filipino ring hero’s final exit from prize fighting.
He himself admitted that his body was no longer what it once was. He was slower and his blows were not as fearsome compared to his prime years. Worst of all, his footwork was gone. As a result, his defense was virtually nonexistent.
The one thing I do not want to see is for Pacquiao to follow in the footsteps of the late Pinoy ring legend Gabriel ‘Flash’ Elorde, who was previously considered the greatest Filipino boxer of all time before Pacman overtook him with a record that will be impossible to match.
I have to admit that I had little awareness of Elorde in his prime. I was too young. But as I moved up my elementary years and reading the newspapers became a daily habit, I knew more and more of the man everybody called Bay.
He was the junior lightweight champion of the world when every weight category had only one kingpin. Today, there are just too many boxing bodies handing out meaningless titles. In the early 60s, Flash Elorde was king of the ring in his weight class.
He had a long reign, but as what usually happens with most champs, someone comes along to take away his crown.
In all of boxing, only two champions have retired undefeated if I am not mistaken. These would be Rocky Marciano in the heavyweight division, and Pacquiao conqueror Floyd Mayweather Jr.
That’s it. Every other prizefighter left boxing with a blemished record.
I am writing about Elorde because as I grew up, I kept reading about his attempts to regain his lost title. Every one of his last few fights was a failure.
I understand the lure of the ring, the fame and the adulation can be intoxicating. And the money isn’t bad either, at least for the top fighters. But Elorde had become a pathetic sight in his last few fights.
Lucky for him that he still ended up with substantial wealth and remained a popular figure to most Filipinos till the day he died.
After Elorde, Muhammad Ali followed the same sad path. It was truly painful to watch The Greatest being beaten by lesser fighters, ones who wouldn’t have lasted one round with him when he was at his peak.
Heck, even Mike Tyson followed the same road of continuing to fight when their best days were behind him.
Maybe, Pacquiao can hang up his gloves, run for president, or do whatever else he wants to do with his life. He has substantial business interests including ownership of a semi-professional basketball league.
If he still wants to be involved in boxing, he can train the new generation of Pinoy pugilists, maybe even create world champions.
After a few years, he can do a Tyson and stage a comeback of sorts by taking part in a Legends of Boxing tournament. He can go up against the other greats whom he sent to retirement.
Most likely, the likes of Ricky Hatton and especially Oscar dela Hoya would love to get back in the ring with Pacman for a chance to erase the humiliating defeats they faced in the hands of the Filipino.
Pacquiao can even face Mayweather anew for a chance to avenge his loss to the cocky American.
But his days as a professional prizefighter are over and he should exit now while his senses are still intact. Nothing could be worse than for him to end up like so many former champs who ended up with nothing, not even their mental facilities.
His trainer and close friend Buboy Fernandez said this week that he doesn’t want Pacquiao, not just yet.
Fernandez may want one final fight where Pacman leaves the sport in a blaze of glory. That’s the ending most champs desire, but it rarely happens. Not unless the last fight is against some journeyman boxer who is sure to lose.
But where would be the glory in that?
No, the Pacquiao story ended over the weekend and while it was not the happy ending that everyone was wishing for, the Pambansang Kamao still went down fighting, still put up a gallant stand against a worthy opponent.
He is expected to head home this week, with his bank account healthier than it was a few days ago.
Pacquiao said he would announce his plans when he returns, and there is a good chance that he will announce his run for the presidency next year.
He won’t get my vote if he does, but I won’t count him out either. Say what you will about the man, but he has the heart of a fighter. He enjoys nothing more than to proving his detractors wrong, and he remains an extremely popular public figure.
Ugas was not his last great battle. The 2022 war for the presidency could very well be. Unless he throws in the towel.
We shall see.