In June 23, 2001, a young, scrappy, bright-eyed Manny Pacquiao happened to be at the right place at the right time. He had just moved to the US to train and was still a newbie at the Wild Card Gym when fate came calling.
He was pencilled in a last-minute sub to face then IBF super-bantamweight champion Lehno Ledwaba. He eviscerated Ledwaba in six violent rounds and dethroned him. The rest, they say, is history.
Fast forward to last week—Aug. 21, 2021 around 20 years and two months after that Ledwaba victory and everything seems to have come full circle. (Incidentally, Ledwaba died of complications related to Covid-19 last month as per Wiki. May his soul rest in peace.)
Cuban Yordenis Ugas just happened to be at the right place at the right time. He was scheduled to fight on the same day but got upgraded instead to the main event and would prove to be victorious.
LOSSES. Pacquiao has eight blemishes on his record. The first two came early in his career, which is not surprising for most fighters. The third loss came in a war against Erik Morales when the latter was still at the peak of his powers.
But when he got his act together, Manny put on an incredible display of boxing firepower going undefeated for six years, dishing out beatdowns on several future- Hall of Famers.
That streak would get interrupted by a controversial decision loss to Timothy Bradley followed by the worst debacle of his career, a brutal knockout to rival Juan Manuel Marquez.
He would lose also to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a good two-way affair, and suffer another travesty of a decision verdict against Australia’s Jeff Horn.
But somehow in all those losses, even the one that came against Marquez, you always got the feeling that he could still bounce back and revive his career by stringing together a couple of wins.
But last Sunday, it felt different.
FATHER TIME. Yes, of course, everything about it boils down to age. He will be 43 this year. We still saw glimpses of that dazzling hand speed and the combinations. His accuracy was a bit off, but for the most part he was still able to land his flurries.
Then Manny revealed afterwards that he had been suffering cramps which affected his performance.
That I can believe and that I can hang my hat on as the reason why he lost.
No, it was not because Ugas was tall, big and strong. He had fought bigger, stronger opponents before in Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto and vanquished them.
You see, Manny generates a lot of his power from his legs. See those sturdy legs that look like Veco posts? That’s a huge part of his game. His legs are so strong and powerful that he is able to propel himself forward to throw that deadly left straight and spring backward immediately to avoid counter-artillery.
Those muscular athletic legs also allow him to bounce around the ring and befuddle his opponents with nasty combinations.
And because his legs are so robust, he hardly gets tired even after expending all that effort. That’s why he is able to retain his power up until the championship rounds, whereas his opponents by this time are sapped and dog-tired.
Boxing legend Gerry Peñalosa opined that Manny may have over-trained for this fight. That’s also possible. But, you see, as you get older, getting into shape isn’t anymore a switch you can just turn on and off. When you cram during training, something’s going to give and in Manny’s case, his legs were gone midway through the fight when he cramped.
Should he retire? I think he may have enough for a farewell fight. But that should be it. Some losses feel different and there was some sense of peroration that came with the Ugas loss. And Manny himself acknowledged that the end may be near for his storied career.
LAST ROUND. It’s on one of my best buddies, Dr. Gerry Ypil, who recently celebrated his birthday. Cheers!