Manny Pacquiao cannot afford to lose to Juan Manuel Marquez. A second-straight loss would destroy any negotiating leverage he may have left with Floyd Mayweather and render Pac-Man a much less intriguing opponent for anyone else.
In other words, another loss is going to cost him money. Big money. And who wants to lose money?
But those are short-term considerations, and Pac-Man's boxing career is winding to a close anyhow. Soon enough, he'll be focusing on politics and his (somewhat hilarious) singing career. The bigger question is, how would a second-straight loss affect his legacy on the whole?
My first inclination is to say it wouldn't hurt it in the least.
In the grand scheme of things, we'll remember Pacquiao as arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter of his generation, as the man who had wins over top-notch boxers like Marquez, Shane Mosely, Antonio Margarito, Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Oscar De La Hoya and Erik Morales.
From 2006-11, he was absolutely dominant.
But the fights with Marquez have always been close affairs, and many folks thought Marquez won the last fight. If Marquez were to earn the decision in this fight, I highly doubt anyone would be surprised. These fights have always been tight, and the two rivals know each other so well in the ring it almost seems fitting that Marquez might finally get the win.
Besides, the "loss" to Timothy Bradley was a controversial—and I would argue, incorrect—decision. Are we going to destroy Pacquiao's legacy over that and a tight loss to his rival?
Of course, if Marquez knocks out Pac-Man that changes the story some. A fighter of Pacquiao's stature shouldn't get knocked out in a fight like this, and truthfully, it would be a shocking result if he did.
Where Pac-Man's legacy could take a hit with a second-straight loss, however, is in the perception that he is no longer solely focused on the sport. The end of Pac-Man's career might be remembered as a time when other distractions caused him to slip and lose his elite form in the ring.
There's been no shortage of discussion about Pac-Man's decisions leading up to this fight. Have his other pursuits hurt his focus? Will his newfound religious beliefs and his decision to swear off gambling and womanizing cost him his edge in the ring?
The danger in losing this fight for Pacquiao is that we start to think of him as something less than a great fighter, that we allow the politician to affect the boxer's legacy. Suddenly, the demise of Pac-Man isn't about his gradually declining skill-set—a fact of life for athletes we excuse when remembering the end of their careers—but rather a choice he made despite taking our Pay-Per-View dollars.
Somehow, that seems simultaneously better and worse than simply fading away. Better in that he's a well-rounded person and isn't defined by boxing; worse in that he continues to make millions upon millions of dollars for a hobby we took more seriously than he did.
I'm not saying that's a fair judgement—I have no doubt the man trains his butt off to prepare for each fight—I'm simply saying that perception will exist, at least in the minds of some.
And while we talked about the short-term ramifications of a loss in this fight, they could come back to affect his legacy. I firmly believe that if Pacquiao and Mayweather don't fight, it will forever tarnish the legacy of each. We all want to see the best go toe-to-toe, and they remain the best fighters out there.
But if Pac-Man losses to Marquez and Mayweather tries to destroy him on the split, they may never fight. And if they don't fight, Pac-Man will never be able to firmly say he was the finest pound-for-pound fighter of his generation. Worse, he'll never have the chance to beat Mayweather and prove it.
I've always believed the legacy of the loser wouldn't be tarnished, not in the least. Nobody is going to suddenly downgrade the career of either Pacquiao or Mayweather if they lose the super-fight, not after what each has accomplished.
But a failure to fight will sour fans to the achievements of both, I promise you that.
If all we remember is the constant charade of fight negotiations between the two, it's a shame, and something boxing fans will never forget.
So Pac-Man's legacy will potentially be hurt by a loss to Marquez. It isn't the loss itself that will hurt Pacquiao in our eyes, but more so the implications and consequences of that loss that could do the damage.
In other words, what happens in the ring will tell us a whole lot more about what happened out of the ring, and what's to come. Pac-Man will always be one of the best, but how we choose to remember the end of his career remains to be seen.
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