In light of his drastic change in lifestyle outside of the ring and the legacy-altering sixth-round knockout loss to his archrival on Saturday night, Juan Manuel Marquez, the question of how boxing will remember Manny Pacquiao is becoming increasingly complex.
This is clearly a different fighter than the destroyer that dominated the boxing world as an eight-division champion. After a well-documented history of gambling, womanizing and boozing, Pacquiao has cleaned up his act. A spiritual awakening has altered his life, and a venture into politics in his native Philippines is also thought to be distracting him from his training.
Considering the track record that Pac-Man boasts in the ring, it's impossible not to include him in the pantheon of the sport's all-time greats.
That said, after storming back in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, facing a rival he entered with a 2-0-1 record against (despite controversy in each bout), everything changed with one punch.
A fierce right hand from Marquez sent Pacquiao immediately to the canvas. It was shocking to say the least, if for no other reason than it had been a while since it happened.
ESPN Stats & info had the specifics in their account of the shocking development:
Medgoen Singsurat was the last fighter to score a knockout win over Manny Pacquiao (in 1999) prior to Juan Manuel Marquez tonight— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 9, 2012
So it had been 13 years since Pacquiao was decked for good, and it happened at the hands of an extremely formidable opponent, but one that could have set up a matchup with Floyd Mayweather Jr. had Pacquiao won.
While that fight may still happen down the road, it will have lost at least some of its luster. That may be the biggest caveat that debaters have when bringing up Pacquiao's prolific history.
The Marquez-Pacquiao rivalry had defined Pac-Man's legacy as the superior boxer in terms of the judges' perceptions. But Dinamita's knockout completely turned both public perception and the way history will reflect on Pacquiao.
There is still time for the boxing icon to redeem himself. He was beginning to take back control of the Marquez fight after being knocked down earlier on, until Marquez landed the perfect punch.
Pacquiao's extremely aggressive style and incredibly fast combinations will always be hailed in boxing lore, yet that tenacity and strategy has left him vulnerable to punishment. That is why Marquez has been such a great rival. His world-class counterpunching ability is what ultimately caused Pac-Man's demise.
No matter who his next opponent is—Mayweather, a fifth fight with Marquez, a rematch with Tim Bradley or whomever—Pacquiao needs to do a bit of damage control to his recent results.
It shouldn't be time for Pacquiao to call it a career yet, especially not after two losses. And don't expect him to.
After all, if anyone can take punishment and come back swinging with success, it's Pacquiao. Above all, he will remain an icon for that reason no matter how the rest of his career plays out.
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