Manny Pacquiao's career may be in doubt as he prepares for a fight with Brandon Rios on Saturday, Nov. 23, but a win or loss for Pac-Man won't come close to deciding his legacy overall.
Pacquiao comes into the fight with Rios on the heels of two devastating losses in a row.
The first wasn't really a loss at all, as it came when Pacquiao fought Timothy Bradley and lost in June of 2012. The controversial decision was a joke, to say the least, as it was clear to everyone with a pulse that Pac-Man had earned the win over Desert Storm.
Pacquiao's second loss in a row came against Juan Manuel Marquez. That defeat was a bit easier to swallow, as Marquez landed a brutal counterpunch to turn the lights out on Pacquiao.
A loss to Rios would almost certainly end Pacquiao's career, and his trainer, Freddie Roach, admitted that a bad performance—not necessarily a loss—could produce the same end result, per the Associated Press (via ESPN.com):
Manny Pacquiao's trainer says the Filipino boxer will contemplate retirement if he fails to perform well against Brandon Rios this month.
Freddie Roach said if the Rios fight "does not go well, we will seriously talk about his retirement," but he added Pacquiao was training well for the Nov. 24 bout in Macau.
"It's really hard to say until we see the fight, but I will be the first one to tell him to retire," Roach said in a teleconference Wednesday. "We have an agreement that as soon as I tell him that, he will retire."
Indeed, a third loss in a row will almost certainly end his career, but it shouldn't go so far as to tarnish the legacy he's built. After all, a shady and ridiculous loss to Bradley followed by a loss thanks to one great punch from Marquez aren't exactly telltale signs that Pacquiao wasn't that good.
Even if he loses to Rios, the three straight losses that otherwise might have ruined his or any other fighter's stellar legacy won't hold water in regard to Pac-Man, because of the circumstances surrounding those losses.
Sure, a defeat at the hands of Rios might signal a decline, but it would take a backseat to what Pacquiao has done during his illustrious career. And Rios is no slouch himself, as he enters Saturday with a 31-1-1 record and is seven years younger than his opponent.
Pacquiao's great career includes multiple titles in multiple weight classes and wins over some of the best fighters of his era. In fact, the sole legit question anyone could ask is how much better Pacquiao's legacy could have been if he had fought and beat Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the dream bout that never happened.
We will never know the answer to that question, as it's highly unlikely the two will ever meet in the ring unless Pacquiao makes such a sensational comeback that not even Money Mayweather can deny him a shot.
So if Pac-Man doesn't have a great showing and/or loses to Rios, fans should focus on the great things Pacquiao has done rather than what happened at the end of his career.
Many great fighters have succumbed to age, and nobody ever really holds it against a boxing legend when nature takes its course.
For better or worse, Pacquiao is a boxing legend who deserves a ton of respect, and there's nothing a terrible judge, one punch or a loss to a younger fighter can do to change that.