Don't Underestimate Pacquiao's Ring IQ

Oliver SuarezContributor IINovember 26, 2009

LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 14:  Manny Pacquiao smiles before taking on Miguel Cotto during their WBO welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on November 14, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

In an article by the Pacman himself in, he articulated that psychological warfare and intelligence are as important as strength in the sport of boxing. Pacquiao mentioned how he played mind games with Cotto by pretending to not be hurt by the latter’s punches—a tactic that proved to play a vital role in the outcome of the fight.

In my article titled “Pacquiao: A Different Kind of Fighter, an All-Time Great ,” I alluded to the fact that Pacquiao’s high ring IQ is often overlooked. He is an experienced fighter who has fought the best and learned from each one of them. Unlike a number of boxers who become complacent after attaining success, Manny Pacquiao remains a dedicated student of the Sweet Science. Why do you think his performance improved so much during the middle and latter stages of his career?

There was a time in the fight where Pacquiao took a page out of Muhammad Ali’s book by playing rope-a-dope. Pacquiao allowed Cotto to keep him on the ropes with the expectation that he will eventually lure the latter into a slugfest. A few seconds later, the two traded punches, and Cotto was knocked down by a left uppercut.

In the first two rounds it was a very competitive fight, as Cotto was able to control Pacquiao with his jabs and counter punching. But Cotto seemed to divert away from the game plan, and as a result Pacquiao defeated him. But why did he divert from his game plan? It’s because Pacquiao adjusted and started timing Cotto with right hooks over the top. Too often Pacquiao’s victories are attributed to his opponent’s mistakes instead of giving him the credit.

Most opponents of Pacquiao often point out his ability to throw punches from odd angles as his most dangerous weapon, but what makes it more effective is his vision and knowledge combined with his innate instinct of knowing when to throw his punches at exactly the right spot.

Just like in football, a running back with great vision and instinct will most likely be successful even without great physical gifts. Imagine Emmit Smith with speed; that is Pacquiao in boxing.

Still, a number fans and analysts try to find minute reasons to downgrade Pacquiao’s accomplishments. But Pacquiao is the closest thing we have to our ideal boxer. He goes for the biggest of challenges. He doesn’t cheat the fans with his excellent work ethic and constant hunger to provide us with the best entertainment possible.

It’s time to face it: Pacquiao is indeed one of the all-time greats. Many of us find it hard to accept the fact that an athlete from today is at the same level as our sports heroes from the past. Manny Pacquiao has never compared himself to the boxing greats of the past, but the fact is he belongs in the same class.

He may not be the all-around boxer that Sugar Ray Robinson was, but great fighters come in different packages (i.e. Duran, Hagler, Leonard).

Many years from now, a young phenom with similar style will take the boxing world by storm, and he will face the same criticisms. A number of us will downgrade the young boxer’s accomplishments in order to protect Pacquiao’s legacy. It’s time to appreciate Pacquiao’s greatness and his contribution to the recent renaissance of boxing. Sadly, his accomplishments won’t be fully appreciated until he’s long gone from the sport.