O Manny, Where Art Thou?

Image: O Manny, Where Art Thou?

By Rishad Marquardt: One can’t have a detailed discussion on the career of Manny Pacquiao without talking about Floyd Mayweather Jr., and with it, few people would resist the temptation to compare the two. I can’t speak for everyone, but when people would watch Floyd, many would watch hoping that this time was the time he was going to taste defeat and at the same time would be able to witness the ensuing arrogance wiped clean from his face.

It was as attractive a reason to watch him fight as any other. Many boxing fans would admit that watching his defensive skills was akin to satisfying a guilty pleasure, one would watch on in awe of a master technician in action. But despite this, all too often it was his demeanor, attitude, and choice of fights – and especially their timing, that were a painfully monotonous source of frustration and dissatisfaction.

This was never the case with Manny. He would mirthfully bob up and down in the ring before a fight, his facial expression glazed in concentration, yes, but not with the menacing and antagonizing stare that encompasses the expressions of so many a pugilist. Once the final bell had rung, during the in-ring post-fight interviews often in which for most fighters the occasion can get to them and emotions can run high, Manny would speak softly, politely, and with respect. Rarely has there been a fighter whose fighting persona in the ring has contrasted so dearly with their amiable character outside it. Did anyone watch Manny to watch him lose? Unlikely. For most, it was his fighting skills and perhaps more so the fights he picked that made him into the fighter everyone wanted to see.

Watching him announce his retirement was easily digestible as the Manny Pacquiao we all know could not keep on fighting with the same intensity against the best of the best forever. Nobody wants to watch a fighting great descend to taking fights beneath them. After rumblings around the rumor mill, hearing Manny announce he was to come out of retirement was not a shock, but to hear who he was coming back to fight, was.

This by no means is meant to detract from the reputation of Jesse Vargas, but the fight choice on Pacquiao’s side this time was tame and can at best be described as underwhelming. The Pacquiao we have come to know would pick a fight so tantalizing, just putting it in your diary would be enough to muster excitement in itself. It would appear, though, that that Manny has exited the stage.

If I have given the impression that being able to watch the Pacman fight again is an unwelcome proposition that should be rebuked, then allow me to correct myself. Watching the fighter of the decade from 2000 to 2009 fight in any kind of fight is a treat because Manny has such a special place in the sport. What he did and how he did it in his peak years has given him a golden tint and earned him respect not just from the record books – but from the people. But lament I will as this is the very reason people want not for Manny to come back and fight for fighting’s sake, but to fight as he always has – in the face of adversity and in honor of fighting in the most alluring challenges available.

Manny has already said he’s doing this fight for money, and it would seem he’s picked a fight that minimalizes the chances of an overwhelmingly negative outcome. Either way, it surely marks the end of a chapter as he sets himself up not for fights that define his sporting career, but for fights that will make his retirement fund that little bit more grandiose.