Feb. 13, 2014
Guts, Glory or Neither? A Candid Look at Manny Pacquiao's Final Run
By Danny Howard
When Manny Pacquiao faced off against Jessie Vargas last weekend, the bout carried an aura of inevitability. We knew Pacquiao was going to win, we knew he probably was going to look pretty good and we knew that the chances of him losing the fight was remote at best.
Well, Manny did win and added a third Welterweight title to his already long list of trinkets he’s won in his legendary career and the consensus was that Pacquiao still looked like dynamite even at the age of 37. If looking at the fight with Vargas in a very general way, Pacquiao still looked like the elite fighter he always has been and is still a force to be reckoned with.
Pacquiao is still very much in the game despite the fact that he is a Senator in the Philippines, but even in victory, his place as the top Welterweight in the division and pound for pound fighter in the world has not been in any more doubt than it is right now. Sure, Pacquiao looked solid against Vargas, but one doesn’t need a nuclear-powered microscope to see that Pacquiao is slowing down to a crawl with Father Time nearing his door.
Vargas was a handpicked, stylistically proper opponent that had few tools to actually trouble Pacquiao, which is why the fight was so universally panned to the point that Bob Arum had to broadcast the fight out of his own pocket. With only 10 knockouts in over 30 fights, a series of questionable wins over less-than-Pacquiao caliber opponents as well as flunking his first chance to establish himself as an elite talent after being greatly outclassed by Timothy Bradley, Vargas was the fall guy with the gold.
That being said, the fight was a lot more competitive than it had any right to be. Outside of a flash knockdown in the second round, Vargas boxed well behind a rangy jab and controlled the pace of the fight for the first six round. The fight ultimately looked the way everybody thought it would in the second half, with Pacquiao shellacking Vargas knowing that he didn’t have the pop to hurt him or the IQ to keep him guessing.
It’s clear that this version of Pacquiao is at his most vulnerable and nearing full-on depletion unless he is matched up with opponents similar in the Vargas mold. While possible, it is much harder now seeing Pacquiao clearly and convincingly run the table at Welterweight with tough stylistic clashes with Danny Garcia, Terence Crawford and Errol Spence as possibilities and just a tough fight altogether with the hard-hitting, but robotic-minded offense of Keith Thurman.
It is not surprising that Arum mentioned all of those fighters sans Spence for a future clash. There has to be the belief that Pacquiao is still in the game to want to compete even though the objective is getting whatever paydays are left as his marketability continues to dwindle.
Crawford is the likeliest to face Pacquiao out of the bunch, but names like Jr. Featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko, former sparring partner Amir Khan or even Adrien Broner may get a chance to pad his pockets before setting him up for the inevitable finale.
Maybe it will be Crawford if Arum believes enough in him to carry his company or perhaps the winner of Garcia/Thurman if otherwise, but once Pacquiao runs out of the few favorable fights he has left as he ages, he’ll be set up to pass the torch whether he likes it or not. Even when that moment comes, who is to say that will be the end?
That may not be the way we want to see Manny Pacquiao end his legendary career, but there’s no more glory to be found in a career highlighted by constantly achieving the impossible. There could be no better happy ending in the sport for a man who has done so much and given so much, but it looks like business as usual right up until the end.
Danny Howard has been all over the place, writing for FightHype, the Yahoo Contributor Network and the Examiner. He also became a legend in his own mind by writing “And Stay Down! Boxing's Worst Comebacks, which you can either buy on Amazon or email him for a free copy. Howard doesn't have time to drown in the nega-verse that is social media, but you can find him on Facebook or breathe life into his long dead Twitter @dbbox625 or let him have it directly at Daniel.Howard6@att.net