Pound-for-pound champ never rang true for Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao more than it does this 2008. He often figured in the discussion but never was a lock, not with "Pretty Boy" Floyd Mayweather around.
Then came Mayweather's retirement and Pacman's mind-boggling jump to the welterweight division to beat the highly regarded Golden Boy, Oscar De La Hoya, and, soon after, Pacman was all the buzz.
Add to that two title bout victories prior, each in different weight divisions, against archrival Juan Manuel Marquez and a gutsy David Diaz and all events neatly combined to elevate his status as P4P King—undisputed.
No, Pacman wasn't a mere replacement with the Mayweather departure; he turned out to be a brilliant claimant to the throne Pretty Boy's retirement notwithstanding.
Pacman's busy schedule was Bob Arum keeping true with his promise of making Pacman more active in 2008 and bear fruit it did. We have yet to see Pacman guest in one of them late night shows though, which is part of the grand plans Arum illustrated not too long ago when he inked Pacman under TOP RANK.
A cinch for 2008 Fighter of the Year, Pacman's 2009 will probably be as tightly scheduled what with the Hatton showdown all but an inkblot away and the shadow of the P4P king of old looming from the sidelines next.
It is not far-fetched that a PAC-JMM 3 will come into fruition not when the cloud of doubt still hovers his controversial draw followed by an eked-out win. Should he dispose of Hatton and Mayweather, the money would definitely come in a third JMM installment, with Pac establishing himself as the main draw.
Pac will then be pressed to make this fight happen and any attempt to stray away from that path will be considered an evasion, and Pac is not one to let these lingering doubts put a chink in his armor.
Unless Freddie Roach gets into his fits of seeing Pac as this invincible machine and convinces him to fight Margarito, which is way pushing it, either a JMM or a Cotto fight, Arum permitting, is Pac's best choice to finish 2009 with a flurry easily topping 2008.
While a boxer's guarantee is never to be taken seriously, Pac hinting of retirement may indeed bear some substance. 2010 will be an election period in the Philippines and Pac has never been privy with his intent of resuming his stalled ambition of gaining a political seat.
Whereas before there was some resistance, now that he has cemented his position as boxing's current best and a Hall of Fame spot a formality, his constituents (also his fans) will probably be more sympathetic to give him the precious vote he was once denied.
Pac is a one of a kind specimen who defies convention. He has taken the big fights more than any other boxer in recent memory. Looking past Hatton, Pac’s next line of opponents are all big names, which will only further his streak of engaging the best the sport has to offer.
There will be no letup. No one is exactly seeing Pac electing to go for a tuneup because, even with a loss, the list of big names is waiting behind his doorstep. In this lies the danger of wearing himself thin. Law of averages catching up on Pac is becoming more and more real with every win he chalks up.
It has been a good nine fights against top competition since his last loss. Voters are a fickle-minded lot; if Pac doesn't do well in 2009, the memories of his 2008 success may lose its luster come 2010.
Factor that pressure into the equation, coupled with the stiff competition, law of averages, and a tiny one-year window, Pac has got all the ingredients to cook himself up a defeat. Minus the tremendous physical attributes and work ethic, everybody says that Pac wins because he regards every fight as that for his country.
Call it his own version of sports psychology but the undue pressure of fighting not just for the country but to actually have a political seat in the country, plus the wear and tear of a nine-win streak can only take Pac so far. He is human and he is ripe for the picking.