A Battle of Redemption

(This was originally submitted as a requirement for my Sports Journalism class, J196, when we were asked to write a sports column.)

When the two fighters square off April 13, it won’t be just another big fight for them. For Manny Pacquiao, it is a shot at redeeming the loss he suffered in 2012 against his current opponent. For Timothy Bradley, it is a chance to prove that he really can beat Pacquiao, after their first tiff ended controversially.

As for me, I’m still waiting for the Pacman to unleash his inner animal; the instinct that brought him the fame and fortune. The instinct that made him almost undefeated in close to a decade. The instinct that allowed him to topple Mexican pugilists Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and Antonio Margarito, Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, and Brit Ricky Hatton.

The instinct that, sadly, has been missing since 2010.

His last win by knockout or TKO came in November 2009 against Miguel Cotto, where he won via 12th round TKO.

But after that, beginning with his next bout, the Joshua Clottey snoozefest, Manny Pacquiao won fights by decision. It became the norm. He still is a very elusive fighter, very quick, very agile. He still had the high-level skill set enough for him to remain at least a top-five pound-for-pound boxer.

But he hasn’t finished anyone since Cotto.

How many times has it been reported in the news that Pacquiao will win via knockout in x number of rounds?

Rappler reported last week that Pacquiao’s sparring partner Julian Rodriguez predicted a fifth round knockout for the Saranggani province congressman. In Manny’s previous fight against Brandon Rios, Freddie Roach said the Filipino will triumph in six rounds. He won the fight, but he did so via unanimous decision. He didn’t even get a knockdown.

In his previous fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, his trainer predicted a win for him, tweeting, “See @MannyPacquiao put the rivalry to rest with a KO.” He didn’t specify a round, but he saw a win in sight.

We all know how that turned out: Manny’s worst loss after eating a solid counter right hook from Marquez which resulted in a knockout.

Even Roach himself said after the Rios fight that Manny could have won via knockout or TKO, but Pacquiao took it easy in round 12. The article’s headline was “No KO? ‘Pacquiao’s compassion got in the way – Roach’”.

Manny’s string of lacklustre performances – at least by Manny Pacquiao standards – has led analysts and other boxers, most notably the pompous Floyd Mayweather Jr., to write him off, to call him washed up, a has-been, a shell of his former self. They’ve said that the sun is setting on Manny Pacquiao’s career.

I see two reasons for the decline: one is age, the other is politicking. Reason number 2 seems most plausible.

Maybe the compassion he has shown for his opponents since 2010 is linked with his being a congressman. Who would want a public official who pulverizes and knocks people unconscious? Perhaps Manny was trying to preserve that image. Look at his timeline of fights. His run of underwhelming fights began the year he won a seat in Congress. It couldn’t have been age because it would be too fast a decline if age were the reason.

Politics turned Pacquiao from one-man wrecking crew, out to crush all who stand in his way, to a too-nice guy. He might be forgetting that fans are entertained by knockouts and TKOs, not lopsided unanimous decision wins. Close contests, those that may go either fighter’s way, are fun to watch as well, but those are the most controversial fights. One only has to look at Pacquiao’s history with Marquez.

A win is a win, anyway it comes. But right now, Manny Pacquiao needs a definitive win because he is at that stage where he has a lot to prove: that he is still a legitimate top pound-for-pound fighter, that he still has that killer instinct, and that he is the rightful winner of his 2012 robbery versus Timothy Bradley.

For Bradley, a definitive win is needed, or else he will just be a fighter who had his win over Pacquiao handed to him, who didn’t really win their previous encounter

For Pacquiao, a knockout alone will be his redemption ticket.

Come April 13, it will be a battle of redemption.

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