It was a sight many of us thought we would never see: Manny Pacquiao—the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the world, the most indomitable boxer of our generation—lying cold, motionless and unconscious on the canvas of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Losses that resoundingly shocking always have their upshots. Some boxers light a fire under their arse, roaring back with a vengeance and fighting better than they ever have before. Some boxers develop a case of the yips, fighting tentatively in subsequent bouts, scared to take another devastating punch. And some boxers unlace their shoes one final time and call it quits for their career.
Manny Pacquiao can't be one of those guys.
Calling it a career would, of course, fall in line with the wishes of his outspoken wife, Jinkee. Mrs. Pacquiao had some candid words with the USA Today this week, imploring her husband to quit while he's ahead:
"It's the first time I've seen him like that, lying on the canvas, and I was scared...I know he is still (capable) of fighting, but for me there is nothing to prove. He already has eight (title) belts. He can retire—stop—at anytime. I want him to stop now. But he is the one who has the last say. Boxers risk their lives; (some) end up in wheelchairs. I don't want that to happen to Manny.''
Long-term trauma is a touchy subject, and one that's on the mind of the collective American sports-watching consciousness—especially at the apex of the NFL's concussion epidemic.
Pacquiao's retiring for the sake of his long-term health would be a shame—from a selfish perspective, at least—but it would also be understandable. Nobody could blame him for wanting to live the rest of his life without needing a wheelchair.
But most in the sport don't think that's the real reason Pacquiao would retire. If he does indeed decide to call it quits, many speculate that it would be to pursue his burgeoning political career in the Philippines—a country in which he already sits on the House of Representatives.
And that, in spite of Jinkee's wishes, would be an egregious letdown.
For even though he ended up lining the canvas like a rug, Pacquiao showed us enough in the first six rounds against Juan Manuel Marquez to convince us he's not yet through fighting.
He looked a step slow on defense, sure, but he also looked lightning quick on the attack. He had Marquez wobbling at the end of Round 5, and had that round gone a little longer, it's likely he could have ended it right there.
Imagine how different the narrative would be if that were the case?
Boxing isn't ascribed the "game of inches" platitude as often as other sports are. But Pacquiao-Marquez 4 made it graphically clear that matches can turn at the drop of a dime. A couple of punches in either direction, and Pacquiao could still be sitting atop the boxing world right now.
The sport is already bleeding viewers to MMA. You think Marquez's sixth round punch was bad? Just imagine the knockout blow boxing will suffer if Manny Pacquiao retires from the throne.