Tag: Manny Pacquiao

What To Make Of Manny Pacquiao?

Well, boxing fans should know by now that we aren’t allowed fun headlines.  The hype and excitement of Manny Pacquiao fighting on free TV (and on ESPN nonetheless) was one that got attention in the world of a casual sports fan.

Australian Jeff Horn, a probably just above domestic-level opponent but far below a likely contender, was set to be a perfect showcase opponent for Pacquiao.  He’s legitimate enough to be sanctioned (don’t listen to Stephen A. Smith, Horn’s defeats over Ali Funeka and Randall Bailey, while not Keith Thurman or Errol Spence Jr. level, aren’t some guys you’ll find in a local gym) and he had a come-forward approach that would guarantee fireworks.  In a stadium of up to 55,000 person capacity and on a worldwide television audience, the time was ripe to showcase boxing to a new level.

Well, we know that the judges saw things differently and gave Horn a laughable unanimous decision.  While Horn was active, and did some decent things in the ring (aka he threw punches and survived when not throwing), mostly everyone knew that Pacquiao was the winner.

So let’s get that out of the way.  Pacquiao should’ve won the fight and Horn was better than the bum he was seemingly portrayed as by ESPN.  Those are the only two takeaways that really should matter.

But let’s talk about Pacquiao shall we?  Since his loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the “Fight of the Century”, Pacman has been on a bit of a journey.  He had the rotator cuff injury heard ’round the world, an impressive win against Timothy Bradley Jr. in an unneeded trilogy, a brief retirement, was elected a Senator in his native Philippines, a come back to beat beltholder Jesse Vargas, and a robbery at the hands of the judges against Jeff Horn.

Before the loss to Horn, I was actually a believer in ranking Pacquiao as a top-10 pound-for-pound fighter.  His legacy and resume are of course elite, but I also thought that comfortably beating top-10 welterweights in back-to-back fights more than warranted an argument.  Was he the “whirling dervish” or the “tornado of fists” that we once saw?  No, but he was a more controlled fighter who fought in bursts.

However, during the “Battle of Brisbane” as it was called; Pacquiao just didn’t look right.  Sure, Horn had an awkward style that took a few minutes to get situated against but minus a thunderous 9th round; Pacquiao just didn’t look the same.  The handspeed was still there, but the tenacity and the angles seemed….less than extraordinary.  Horn used his size and some headlocks to disrupt Pacquiao, but nonetheless he should’ve been vanquished.

I know that styles make fights.  But during this particular bout, I did not see one of the top-10 fighters in the world.  I did not see the best welterweight.  Does that mean Pacquiao is completely done and just a shell of a man that should retire?

No.  But after seeing Keith Thurman handle Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia and Errol Spence Jr. blasting out Kell Brook, it is hard to not heavily favor them in hypothetical matchups against Pacquiao.  It is hard to envision the counter-happy Garcia not landing on Pacquiao and neutralizing his offense.  That much discussed “passing of the Top Rank torch” match between Terrance Crawford and Pacquiao?  No way that’s happening or even as fascinating.

Pacquiao will get his shot at Horn again and if he does win, god will we be forced with a trilogy in Pacquiao’s home country?  At this point, I still rate Pacquiao as a very good fighter, but it seems his status as the elite of his weight class are officially in the past.

What Is Next For Terence Crawford?

In another edition of the quickly diminishing “World Championship Boxing” series from HBO came a bout between 140-pound king Terence Crawford against 2008 Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz of the Dominican Republic.  While Crawford was the overwhelming favorite, there was some hope that Diaz could cause some trouble for the son of Omaha.  Diaz, who last notably defeated Sammy Vazquez Jr. had only one loss; a controversial one against the tough Lamont Peterson.

However quickly, those thoughts faded as Diaz basically looked like if Shawn Porter decided to fight without arms.  Crawford was openly toying and mocking Diaz, who valiantly tried to fight back, and really the corner stopping the fight after the 10th round was probably a round or two too late.  Diaz, for what its worth, did find Crawford’s chin a couple of times which is a lot more than what could’ve been said by previous contenders John Molina Jr. and Viktor Postol.

Regardless of who is fighting whom, part of me is always convinced that there is a chance an upset can occur.  It is a lottery ticket thought, more often unrealized than anything, but boxing has taught us before that anything can be possible.  However, usually there comes a point where you realize that the other person in that ring is just too better than the other one.

A prime example was before this month’s sacrifice of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at the hands of Canelo Alvarez, I thought that the upset was possible until the camera zoomed in on Jr.’s face after the third or fourth round.  There you saw an overmatched boxer against just an a fighter who is not only better than them but on a whole different level.

In the case of “Bud” Crawford versus Felix Diaz, that moment almost felt like it came instantly.  Much like David Lemieux’s defeat against Gennady Golovkin, Diaz had no answer for just the jab of Crawford.  Diaz would sometimes swing wildly and find a target but otherwise it was just wide punches met with crisp, accurate and powerful responses from Crawford.

Terence Crawford has been great for a while, pretty much you can point to his outclassing of Yuriorkis Gamboa in 2014.  But this was the first time, I felt that a star was quickly approaching.  Crawford is not even one of the bigger names in boxing yet but you started to feel the energy, even watching on TV, that he might be on the cusp of breaking through a bit more.

Since his 2016 knockout of Hammerin’ Hank Lundy, Crawford has maybe lost two of his last 35 rounds.  While he hasn’t exactly faced a murderer’s row, do not fall for what hindsight tells you.  Viktor Postol was the consensus #2 fighter at the time, after his dismantling of Lucas Matthyse, in the 140 pound weight class.  Crawford battered him across the ring.  John Molina Jr. was basically a fill-in for Diaz, but did beat the rugged Ruslan Provodnikov beforehand.  They might not be pound-for-pound threats, but they have all been in the ring and held their own against good fighters.

At this point you have to wonder what is next for Bud?  A showdown with Manny Pacquiao would be better now than it will ever be but will Pacquiao be up for the challenge or will this barnstorming tour just be a cash out with Pac going to the highest bidder?  A move up to welterweight to face the likes of Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia or the winner of Kell Brook and Errol Spence Jr. could be appealing.  The possibility of being the full unified champion at 140 pounds would be fascinating, and Julius Indongo of Nambia has really earned a shot.  Hell, I would even love to see Mikey Garcia though he seems to be groomed for an Adrien Broner bout and the marinating of a showdown with Vasyl Lomachenko seems to have begun.

The thing is, Crawford is very close to being the best boxer on the planet.  It is not his fault if no one will fight him, and he shouldn’t be having to chase opponents.  We all know that dollars run boxing and its just as possible Crawford faces Amir Imam on a TopRank PPV rather than a big name on HBO.  With Bob Arum’s diehard belief that he wants Crawford fighting more than twice a year (something we can all agree on), and that his next fight might not even be on HBO…that Imam fight possibility should be prepared for.

Regardless, Crawford is a star even if he has not crossed over yet.  This is a fighter who has the power, accumulation, speed, defense, athleticism, mean streak and brash competitiveness that separates the elite from the all-time greats.  Maybe I am getting ahead of myself, but while Canelo Alvarez and Anthony Joshua might be the top of the food chain financially; Crawford is soon to be the alpha of the pound-for-pound ratings.