The seemingly impossible has happened. Manny Pacquiao looks beatable. Twice-in-a-row-level beatable.
Fine—the Timothy Bradley fiasco is still up for debate. But even though popular opinion and general eyesight states that the controversial decision should have been scored in Pacquiao's favor, those claims look far less convincing in light of what happened on Saturday night.
Pacquiao's bout with Juan Manuel Marquez left no room for doubt, and after Pacquiao suffered a knockout loss—even after beating Marquez twice in a row—we know there is something wrong with the picture. And perhaps the only way to rectify it is for Pacquiao to take a step back from the sport until he has the focus required to be the best once again.
There was an immense amount of pressure on Pacquiao to win Saturday's fight, which was a bit strange, given the outcome of his previous three against Marquez. After a draw in their first-ever bout, he won the next two, and because of that, you'd think he would have had the clear upper hand this time around. But not so.
Now, we know why the pressure was on so thick. Now, we can see why Marquez was so eager to give it a fourth go. He knew he had a win in him, even if the rest of us didn't see it coming.
But should we have? Not only have the outcomes of all three prior bouts between Pacquiao and Marquez been widely debated, but truth be told, Pacquiao hasn't been his same old dominant self of late. He didn't dominate Marquez either of the last two times they faced each other, despite the fact that he came away with the victory.
And now that he has suffered his second consecutive loss—and at the risk of sounding a bit dramatic—his legacy would seem to be in peril.
This is someone who's supposed to be one of the greatest all time. Before Saturday, he was 54-4-2 with 38 KOs. People love him, and his personality, and who he is outside of the ring. But mostly, they love him because he wins, and he wins big—or he used to, at least.
The doubt about Pacquiao began the third time he faced Marquez. Before suffering a hotly-contested split-decision loss to Bradley in June, Pacquiao beat Marquez in a majority decision that was, again, the subject of much debate. Neither of his fights prior to Saturday's have been clear, indisputable victories.
But before that third bout with Marquez, things were different. Pacquiao scored a unanimous decision win over Shane Mosley in May 2011. He took down Antonio Margarito in a unanimous decision prior to that, in November 2010. He beat Joshua Clottey easily in March 2010.
Perhaps this was just the wrong time for Pacquiao to be facing Marquez, someone who has looked very capable of beating Pacquiao in the past. Perhaps this was the wrong time for Pacquiao to be facing one of his biggest rivals. In hindsight, it's a lot easier to see that he looked vulnerable. All of his personal turmoil leading up to the Bradley fight, his mother's recent claims that a recent religious crisis interfered with his performance—all of it spelled disaster, and maybe we just didn't see it.
And now, on top of the fact that we've seen Pacquiao get knocked out for the first time ever, we have to deal with the fact that the epic superfight with Floyd Mayweather just isn't going to happen. Coming off this devastating loss, the last thing Pacquiao needs is to face the toughest competition out there, the toughest competitor on the planet with an unbeaten record to prove it.
Given what has transpired over the last six or so months, it's time for Pac-Man to step away for a while. It's time to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. Maybe it's personal, maybe it's technical, but whatever's going on, it needs to be solved before he gets in the ring again—and most likely, it isn't going to be a quick fix.
It's time to make sure that the next time Pacquiao steps into the ring, whenever that is, it will not end in disappointment. Now, the pressure is on like never before, and Pacquiao needs enough time off to make sure that when he does decide to come back, it will be for a comeback.
The Bradley loss? Could have been a fluke. But this loss to Marquez wasn't a fluke. It was a problem—a big one—and it needs to be fixed so Pacquiao can go back to being the Pacquiao we know.