What Happened to Manny Pacquiao's Knockout Power?

Lyle FitzsimmonsFeatured ColumnistJuly 18, 2013

After stopping four straight opponents in 2008-09, Manny Pacquiao has gone six fights without an early victory.
After stopping four straight opponents in 2008-09, Manny Pacquiao has gone six fights without an early victory.Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

For perception’s sake, it was one hell of a 17-month run.

In just four fights—bookended by a stop of David Diaz for the WBC belt at 135 and a halt of Miguel Cotto for the WBO strap 12 pounds north—the stock of Manny Pacquiao rose from darling of the hardcore set to modern pound-for-pound king and possible all-time great.

Lest we forget, the two outings in between were even more gasp-worthy, in the form of a retirement-inducing beating of Oscar De La Hoya and a similarly career-altering poleax of Ricky Hatton.

Given that quartet of results at the time, it was difficult to find a sports fan of any stripe unconvinced that the Filipino would not only reduce Floyd Mayweather Jr. to a fine pulp, but also do similar damage to any enshrined Hall of Famer from flyweight to middleweight.

They were heady days indeed.

But since then, the Manny superlatives have been flowing like Southeast Asian mud.

The four fights immediately following his breakout set were received with markedly less worship, having each gone the limit while the hero managed just one non-decisive knockdown across 48 full rounds.

And the two since those…well, suffice to say the bloom has long since left the rose.

(For full disclosure’s sake, I’ve long been on record with a belief that Mayweather—had the pseudo-negotiating between the parties actually evolved into a fight—would have handled Pacquiao with a level of ease resembling that with which he’s dispatched the 43 men he’s actually faced. Perhaps not as spectacularly as last Dec. 8’s result in Las Vegas, but only slightly less definitive.)

Still, regardless of world view, it’s a lot harder now to find a writer willing to sing Pac Man’s praises as loudly as before. In fact, it wasn’t all that rare in the aftermath of Manny’s one-punch trip to oblivion that an article would pop up with someone opining that the seven-division champ ought to go one better.

Some, of course, like Paul Magno on Yahoo!, with more sycophantic flourish than others.

With so much accomplished and so many roads traveled, both literally and figuratively. Saturday's brutal knockout loss to arch-rival, Juan Manuel Marquez, seems like the perfect jumping off point for a stellar seventeen year career. … The fact of the matter is that Manny Pacquiao should retire. He has nothing more to accomplish in boxing and, as a human being, he has already done more in one lifetime than most can even dream of attempting.

Such sentiment surely moves the lifelong Pacquiao critic in me.

But while it’s a fine piece of reverence and surely worthy of a Manny fan’s digital scrapbook, the truth of the matter is such an eloquent ode is probably more than a tad premature given what Mr. Magno’s man had accomplished on the way to the sixth-round demise.

Though he didn’t follow the Diaz/Oscar/Hatton/Cotto bombardments with similar stops of Josh Clottey, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley or Marquez (in their third fight), it’s not as if Manny had morphed from a perpetual motion aggressor into a welterweight version of Ivan Calderon.

And nor were those last four victims simply emaciated editions of David Price.

Entering their respective Manny tries, they’d dropped 20 fights between them—but lost just one by KO.    

Pacquiao instigated what exchanges there were against a reticent Clottey, stepped off the gas to avoid permanently damaging a battered Margarito, prompted Mosley into passivity after a third-round knockdown and won 21 of 36 rounds against Marquez while throwing 142 more shots.

Perhaps it's lost amid the shock of seeing him zapped more than seven years past his last clear loss, but Pacquiao was leading on all three cards when Marquez’s fourth-fight shot landed, and he’d dropped his man just a round before while inflicting a broken nose and suspected concussion.

Had Max Kellerman’s “Which guy would you rather be?” test been applied through five rounds last December, Pacquiao would have been a clear winner. And had it been the roughly hewn Brandon Rios and not the sublimely skilled Marquez in there, let’s just say the sixth might have looked different.

So, unless “Bam Bam” is able to perform a similar feat before getting starched himself, the next series of Manny career obituaries will probably have to wait.