Pacman bows out in style

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

LAS VE­GAS — He had stuck well to the script all night.

He was re­tir­ing to spend more time with his fam­ily and to spend more time help­ing the peo­ple of his na­tive Philip­pines, Manny Pac­quiao in­sisted when he was re­peat­edly ques­tioned about his plans af­ter a unan­i­mous-de­ci­sion win over Ti­mothy Bradley Jr here on Satur­day night. Then came a feint from press row.

It seems as if your fam­ily wants you to re­tire more than you do, one re­porter said. Pac­quiao laughed, sank into the ta­ble and looked around.

“You’re good,” he said to the re­porter, jok­ing.

He paused and pon­dered in a mo­ment of sin­cere re­flec­tion. Then the truth came rush­ing out: “My heart is 50-50.”

It is tra­di­tion in box­ing to ask what’s next — what op­po­nent at what weight in what venue? The in­quiries are even more poignant when leg­ends talk of re­tire­ment. In box­ing, that word can, af­ter all, mean a few weeks off be­fore the next fight.

But in all the pok­ing and prod­ding over what the fu­ture holds for Pac­quiao, a slip­pery 37-year-old wel­ter­weight world cham­pion, a deeper, broader ques­tion was lurk­ing: How does the sport move for­ward?

In a mat­ter of half a year, two sem­i­nal fight­ers of this era, Pac­quiao and Floyd May­weather Jr., have said they are call­ing it quits.

May­weather has moved on to pro­mot­ing. Pac­quiao, who was elected to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Philip­pines in 2010, is run­ning for a seat in the Se­nate, with the elec­tion a month away.

Both have left doubters in their wake, in part be­cause of the sport’s du­bi­ous his­tory with re­tire­ment and also be­cause each man has shown that he still pos­sesses dom­i­nat­ing skills.

And there is the fact that a re­match be­tween the two — for as dull as their first fight was — would still be box­ing’s most lu­cra­tive fight at the mo­ment.

May­weather, 39, with a 49-0 record, left the door open to a re­turn to the ring in a re­cent in­ter­view with Spike TV, say­ing that he did not know what the fu­ture held. Pac­quiao (58-6-2) just wants peo­ple to stop ask­ing him about to­mor­row for a mo­ment.

“Let me en­joy, first, re­tired life,” he said af­ter Satur­day’s fight.

The box­ing world still has plenty to look for­ward to.

Saúl Ál­varez, the mid­dleweight known as Canelo, is ce­ment­ing his dom­i­nance one blow at a time. Emerg­ing fight­ers like Gen­nady Golovkin and Ter­ence Craw­ford are close to be­com­ing the next greats in the sport.

And the Amer­i­can light heavy­weight An­dre Ward is on his way to re-emerg­ing as a com­mand­ing fig­ure.

Still, th­ese fight­ers have yet to show that they can com­mand the main­stream mar­ketabil­ity of Pac­quiao or May­weather. And it is so hard for us to let go of the old guard when they are still so good.

“No,” Bradley, 32, said af­ter Satur­day’s fight at the MGM Grand Gar­den Arena. “No, Manny Pac­quiao shouldn’t re­tire.”

Bradley, whose only two losses in his 37-fight ca­reer have come against Pac­quiao, should know.

Through the first half of the fight, Bradley was elu­sive, es­cap­ing Pac­quiao’s lung­ing left hands, but he was also un­able to get close enough to land any clean blows of his own. Each fighter was clearly try­ing to draw the other in to con­nect with pow­er­ful com­bos.

By the fifth round, the blows started land­ing. Fi­nally, it seemed, the fight­ers were throw­ing cau­tion to the wind, tak­ing risks, al­low­ing them­selves to be hit so they could be in bet­ter po­si­tions to hit.

And Pac­quiao started get­ting the bet­ter of the ex­changes.

In the sixth round, Bradley came in head­first, try­ing to fire a right hand, but Pac­quiao deftly and quickly twisted to his left to meet his op­po­nent’s head with his right fist. The first knock­down — un­con­vinc­ing as it was — came a round later when Bradley lunged off bal­ance and Pac­quiao ba­si­cally pulled him to the can­vas with his left hand.

Two rounds later, how­ever, Pac­quiao left no doubt about who was in con­trol. He stunned Bradley with a left-handed counter, and then, as Bradley crouched, Pac­quiao met him low, reached back with his left hand as if wind­ing up for a fast­ball, and un­leashed a pep­pery hook.

That sent Bradley rolling to the ground, his legs kick­ing up over his head, like a gym­nast do­ing a back­ward tum­ble.

Even when Bradley got the bet­ter of Pac- quiao, he seemed only to en­er­gize him. Af­ter Bradley landed per­haps his best shot of the fight, a left hook in the eighth round that sent Pac­quiao back to the ropes, Pac­quiao stopped the on­slaught, smiled and whis­pered in Bradley’s ear.

“I saw him smil­ing quite a bit in the ring tonight,” said Fred­die Roach, Pac­quiao’s trainer. “That shows me how much he loves the sport. He was re­ally happy with what he was do­ing.”

Roach added that he saw Pac­quiao do some­thing he had seemed to get away from in re­cent fights — pounce when he had his op­po­nent hurt, to try to land a knock­out.

“I think the old Manny Pac­quiao, that’s the way he used to be,” Roach said. “That’s what makes him such an ex­cit­ing fighter.”

It is also what will leave fight fans dis­ap­pointed if Pac­quiao does, in­deed, say farewell to box­ing once and for all. — New York Times

Manny Pac­quiao (left) bat­tles Ti­mothy Bradley Jr in his fi­nal fight on Satur­day.

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