His face was “bruised and plump.” He needed help to get on his feet. His fingers were swollen so badly he couldn’t sign autographs.
That was a Philippine newspaper reporter’s description of Manny Pacquiao, the day after he won.
You should have seen the loser.
Antonio Margarito was in the hospital, his face swollen with welts the size of Texas, his right eye shut and barely in place in his broken eye-socket bone.
This is why Manny Pacquiao needs to stop now.
On Saturday, the PPP (pound-per-pound) King of Boxing, won his 8th title in 8 weight divisions. What more is there to do?
He can wait for the winner of this weekend’s Martinez/Williams fight and go after the middleweight crown. Hey, 9 titles in 9 weight classes! But then why not 10, or 12?
That’s the problem. Manny is so good, it’s not a fair fight unless he handicaps himself so severely. Like a thoroughbred forced to carry more weight, Manny has to do something that’s not as obvious as tying his left hand behind his back. It’s necessary because he is so good he would destroy others his size or smaller. The only challenge is to keep fighting what I call “up-hill.” Fight bigger,stronger, but not necessarily better boxers.
Margarito was 17 pounds heavier and 5-6 inches taller than Pacquiao. That’s not Mount Everest, but even Pacquiao admitted after the fight that Margarito had enough mass to absorb all of the Pacman’s punches.
Fighting bigger guys means knockouts will be fewer, fights will be longer, and the war of attrition will ultimately prevail.
Pacquiao’s speed enabled him to punch Margarito 411 times. The battering should have been obvious to the referee and to Margarito’s trainer who let the punishment go on.
And since this is boxing, Pacquiao got his share, 135 punches came from the stronger Margarito.
Punches start adding up and take their toll. Inside and outside the ring.
By stopping now, the Pacman saves his energies for his day job in the Philippine Congress, and his real passion in life—leadership.
Notice I said leadership, which is not politics, necessarily. Yes, congress is all about politics, but Manny’s gift goes beyond that. He’s got the most important trait for a leader: Charisma. People follow and listen. This is something that can be developed, hopefully, for positive purposes. But it is Manny’s true gift. His fists may have brought him fame, but his real gift is public service.
Like Obama did in 2008, there’s something about Pacquiao that inspires hope.
Perhaps it’s the back story that creates the foundation for a mythic life. The hardscrabble upbringing, the tale of a street kid who turns to boxing to help feed his family. Boxing discovered and nurtured him to the point where he is the most intriguing fighter in the sport.
So why stop there?
Because there’s life after boxing, and to preserve it, there’s no better way than to end his pugilistic phase at the top.
Pacquiao has established his boxing legacy firmly. His championship track is like watching one of those charts of the evolution of man. Eight weight classes? The only one who could repeat what he’s done is another flyweight with the same expansive heart and spirit. And that’s not likely to happen—ever.
Margarito wasn’t even the best challenger. But he was bigger, by a lot. And if there were any doubters left about Pacquiao, seeing the champ destroy a bigger man was enough to etch the legend in stone.
But boxing is as much about greed as it is about legacy. Manny’s problem here is coming up with a suitable exit strategy for all.
People keep mentioning Floyd Mayweather, as if that’s the ultimate. It is not. But how do you top that match up?
A Pacquiao farewell in the Philippines.
One big blowout. The “Thrilla In Manila” with a real Filipino champ eight times over, and it doesn’t matter anymore if it’s a lesser fighter. It’s the last-pay-day. The Finale. People would pay to see a finale. Train for real in Baguio, then take a week to travel and train in different parts of the country, ending in one big blow out in the big city.
Think of what it would do for tourism. And balikbayans would go for balikboxing.
It’s the “Manny go home, farewell tour and karaoke.” The Datu goes out on top.
All you have to see is an image of an addled Muhammad Ali in a wheelchair to know it’s the right thing to