In November, when Manny Pacquiao almost lost to Juan Manuel Marquez, there were some serious problems that contributed to it, but none were as serious as the deterioration of his personal life.
According to Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole, Pacquiao's marriage was on the verge of collapsing at the time. His wife, Jinkee, wanted a divorce, and their personal issues reached their peak at the worst possible time: just prior to Pacquiao's critical bout against Marquez. Iole adds that Pacquiao's rest and preparation for the matchup was often compromised by lengthy phone conversations with his wife.
The problems between Pacquiao and Jinkee were so extreme that Jinkee wouldn't even leave her suite to accompany her husband to the arena for the fight versus Marquez. In light of the disruptions to his personal life, those who were close to the WBO Welterweight Champion were in no way surprised by his lackluster performance in the fight.
This time around, though—just prior to a critical matchup against Timothy Bradley—there will be no distractions. This time, Pacquiao has the full support of his wife, which will ultimately restore him to his normal self as he prepares for one of the most important bouts of his career.
Pacquiao has steadfastly insisted that any strife with Jinkee in no way contributed to his struggles against Marquez, but how could it not? Athletes aren't robots; sometimes, there's no way to prevent their personal issues from carrying over into the ring or onto the field or the court. It's human nature.
Instead of blaming his performance on his familial struggles, Pacquiao told Iole that he simply had fallen into the trap of underestimating his opponent, but in the same sentence, he insisted he was at his physical peak. How often do professionals underestimate their opponents to that extent, particularly when they have months to prepare for a matchup? Something doesn't add up, and that something seems to point to behind-the-scenes problems.
Even Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, insisted that the boxer's marital problems contributed to the decision against Marquez. Of that night back in November, Roach told Iole:
When he came into the dressing room, he wasn't smiling and he wasn't the old Manny Pacquiao I'm used to. He was [very late arriving] and he didn't have the kind of focus you normally get from him. Obviously, he was going through a pretty serious situation in his personal life and his wife was threatening to divorce him, so that's tough for anyone to handle. I wasn't thrilled with the performance, but I'm not that critical of it given everything that was happening.
Pacquiao is a professional, and he doesn't make excuses for himself, no matter how valid they might be. He knows that if he had lost to Marquez, there would be no asterisk next to it that said, Suffered from family problems at the time. A loss would've been a loss.
Now things are different. Pacquiao has patched up his relationship with Jinkee, and he's abandoned some of the distractions that also contributed to his near-downfall, such as a rather extreme gambling problem. Now, not only is he in peak condition physically—he's in peak condition mentally as well, which is every bit as important.
For anyone who looks at that performance against Marquez and expects it to be any indicator of how Pacquiao will perform against Bradley on Saturday night, think again. The Pacquiao who shows up on Saturday will be the Pacquiao of old, one of the greatest boxers in the world, not the one who was unfocused because of family problems.
This time, he'll enter the bout with a clear head. And he'll have the support of his family to thank for a win.