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Living in Pacquiao’s Past

Brandon Rios Floyd Mayweather Jr Manny Pacquiao Pacquiao vs. Rios Pacquiao-Riosby Jordan Capobianco: No one ever said Mike Alvarado should fight Floyd Mayweather. Of course, Mike Alvarado is not named Manny Pacquiao. He’s not the only boxer in history to have won world championships in 8 weight classes. He isn’t a politician or a statesmen or a role model for a nation, and he isn’t the guy who knocked out Ricky Hatton with a killer head shot. He just isn’t Pacquiao. So when Alvarado beat up Brandon Rios, no one called for Alvarado/Mayweather. For people who aren’t Pacquiao, beating Rios has nothing to do with Floyd Mayweather.

For Pacquiao, though, and for many of his fans, beating Brandon Rios has everything to do with fighting Floyd Mayweather. Because Pacquiao is Pacquiao, beating a brawling, stands-right-in-front-of-his-opponent, lookin’-like-he-learned-how-to-fight-in-a-bar tomato can like Brandon Rios implies a Mayweather shot. Call it wishing on a star.

But wishing on a star doesn’t make the star burn brighter. It doesn’t make a star who’s slowing down and getting older go back to who he used to be. It doesn’t increase his reflexes or put power back into his arms. It doesn’t reverse the clock. And a boxer’s ability at the present moment is not dictated by the content of his character. If it were, Larry Holmes would have knocked out Mike Tyson.

So let’s talk about reality.

To begin with the obvious, the proposed Mayweather/Pacquiao fight is impossible because of boxing politics. Bob Arum and Top Rank are affiliated with HBO, Floyd Mayweather is affiliated with Showtime. That situation isn’t going to change any time soon.

But there’s also the fact that the Pacquiao/Rios fight was a non-championship bout. There weren’t any world championships on the line because neither fighter holds one, or has the prospect of holding one any time soon. Rios, a limited fighter to begin with, had never fought at 147 before. He was coming off a loss, and to quote Larry Merchant, Rios’s record reads less like a “Who’s Who” of boxing, and more like a “Who’s he?” of boxing. It wasn’t an accident that the promotional material for the fight included replay after replay of Pacquiao’s loss via knockout to Juan Manuel Marquez. They had to include the footage of Pacquiao’s defeat to make the fight against Rios seem legitimate.

On top of that, Floyd Mayweather doesn’t fight opponents who aren’t world champions anymore. Mayweather hasn’t stepped in the ring with someone who isn’t a world champion in more than three years. Mayweather is cementing his legacy as one of the greatest boxers of all time, and he’s doing it by putting on masterclasses against world champions. A Pacquiao whose fights are advertised with footage of his defeats, a Pacquiao who is slower than he used to be, and a Pacquiao who can land shots on Brandon Rios all night without scoring a knockout does not live up to that test. Pacquiao might have won the fight in clear fashion, but it’s easy to look good when that’s your competition.

But that is not Floyd Mayweather-level competition. It isn’t even Adrien Broner-level competition. It was a way for Bob Arum to open a boxing market in China, and a way for a lot of interested parties to earn a lot of money. But it wasn’t, and isn’t, a testament to Pacquiao’s continued relevance when it comes to world championships.

Just as the unstoppable force of Tyson was never the same after it was stopped by Buster Douglas, the unstoppable force of Pacquiao will never be the same. Despite what he can still do to limited fighters with styles tailor-made for his own, if you go by what happened in the ring, it’s obvious Pacquiao doesn’t stand much of a chance against any current world champion at welterweight anymore, and would likely look one dimensional and handicapped against any world championship-level counterpuncher, much less a legendary champion like Floyd Mayweather.

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There is a certain romanticism in wishing it otherwise. Wishing that the Pacquiao of yesterday would come into today, much as I’m sure Muhammad Ali’s fans wished he had beaten Trevor Berbick. But he didn’t, and wishing didn’t make it so. He was too old.

You can wish upon a star all you want, but don’t be surprised when the wish doesn’t come true.

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