8-division world champion Manny Pacquiao is in the crossroads of his boxing career. After his 6th round knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez earlier this month - his first knockout loss since 1999 - the Filipino boxing icon has plenty to ponder on if he truly intends to successfully continue on with his boxing career.
Pacquiao declared upon his return to the Philippines that he "will rise again". Can he do it? The answer to that is an emphatic "yes". But as a close observer of Pacquiao's career since his emergence in the world boxing scene, this scribe believes that such a task requires plenty of sacrifice from a man who has transcended his sport and has become more than just a boxer.
The Sarangani Province congressman, who has also taken upon the role of an outspoken bible ambassador, can benefit from a verse in the good book that reads: "He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored." - Proverbs 13:18.
It isn't that Pacquiao hasn't put in the work in training, but his approach to the sport of boxing can sure use some revision. It's said that poverty is the greatest motivator, which is why it's a high rarity that you see a world champion boxer come from a wealthy background. What makes Pacquiao's story so compelling isn't any different. He is "rags-to-riches" personified.
But that was then.
The motivation of that boxer who once sold donuts on the streets as a boy has already manifested into a legendary multi-million dollar boxing career. It's been a long while since Pacquiao truly felt any kind of urgency and need in his life other than perhaps that of purchasing a new mansion or luxury vehicle. The Pacquiao you saw lose to Marquez, isn't your uncle's Pacquiao that steamrolled through Mexican legends and made some of this era's best boxers look like sparring partners. In fact, I haven't seen that Pacquiao since the Miguel Cotto fight. And that's not an exaggeration. Why else would Pacquiao state that he would bring the Pacquiao of old prior to his fourth fight with Marquez?
Just like the slogan says: "Manny Knows". He knew. After all, he's the one doing the do.
And what he has done in recent years, is take his craft for granted, while Marquez obsessed in further improving his. Boxing has become Pacquiao's part-time job; his old woman that now shares a bed with politics, religion, show business, and whatever else he wishes to dip his toes in. This new Pacquiao is far from hungry. He's full, rich, blunted by flattery from friends and media who are more than willing to give it, and to put it succinctly, BORED. Yes. Pacquiao has been bored out of his wits, which explains the ever-growing entourage and various distractions that keep him entertained.
With that said, the real issue is: How much does Pacquiao truly want to continue boxing?
Every champion has pride. Surely, the devastating loss to Marquez did a number on Pacquiao, for him to want to get back up and right things. But how much does he really want it? In such a brutal and risky sport like boxing, if one isn't willing to give up everything, he's already lost.
The promotional side of boxing will ensure Pacquiao gets back up on his feet. It's this simple: Arum gives Pacquiao an opponent he can beat in 2013, maybe even a rematch with Timothy Bradley, Pacquiao trains hard enough to win by knockout, the media spins it, and next thing you know, the loss to Marquez becomes a forgotten memory as if it were a fluke. You know, like it was simply a lucky punch that beat Pacquiao who was winning the fight. But this point in Pacquiao's career, there are only two wins that matter: One against Marquez; the other against Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
On a different note, Marquez is getting old. In my opinion, the fourth fight with Pacquiao was his perfect moment. Can he truly sustain this level of conditioning past 40? But then again, I'm not Angel Heredia, and that is a different story on its own. But for Pacquiao to truly get back on top of the world of boxing, he will need to learn from his "taker". Marquez has laid down the blueprint on how to come back from defeat despite his advanced age. His dedication to his craft, even after falling to Mayweather and Pacquiao, has made him more dangerous than ever at an age when other elite fighters can only talk about their glory days in hindsight.
But Marquez is a pure boxer though. He lives and breathes it. Pacquiao, on the other hand, is a totally different animal, which isn't a bad thing. He is more than just a boxer, which is why he appeals to a broader audience than any other boxer in the sport today. But for him to rise again, Pacquiao will have to set everything aside for a little bit and focus on the profession that has allowed him to pursue his many other passions.
That, or simply hang it up.
There is no shame in letting go if the fire in his heart is truly gone. I truly have not seen it since his win over Cotto. What I've seen is a Pacquiao that was simply going through the motions, and was basking in the fame and attention. Why not? He earned it. Although the devastating knockout that rendered him unconscious changes everything. Does he really want to risk his life? He has done more than enough, and the potential damage that can be caused by not giving it his 100% isn't worth not being able to enjoy the fruits of all his labor with the people that truly love him the most - his family.
Money, revenge, pride; there are plenty reasons to add to Pacquiao's impetus. But whatever his reasons are, I hope that he takes his time to take everything in consideration, and may he pursue what truly is in his heart, 100%. He owes it to nobody else, but himself.
Follow Dennis on Twitter @dRealSource.
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