By “Old Yank” Schneider
The bloom is off the rose. We all saw it coming with Freddie Roach “wishing” his way to win after win with Amir Kahn. But one more win was not in the cards. Roach fighters would continue to lose. Senshenko…Chavez, Jr….Pacquaio. Wilting in boxing is uglier than it is in any other sport because of the utter sense of downer that follows. There are no other team members to pick you up. When the wilting begins only the solo bloom is there, losing its petals, in what seems a one-act play following an often brilliant career; the soliloquy spoken to an audience that has painfully, quietly and sadly if not pitifully already left the theater. Losing it at the end of a career in boxing is the ultimate solo performance — this rose by any other name does not smell sweet.
The fans are already leaving. We know it to be true. It is the legacy of the old ushering in the new — especially so when all the others have gone — evidenced by them playing their hedging comments out in the blogosphere before the bout has even begun.
This is not about Freddie Roach losing his touch — he has not. This is about fighters who were over-rated, undisciplined or simply at the end of their careers.
This is about Pacquiao at the end of his career.
Pacquiao by every measure is a winner. But this Saturday night is not some dispersion index. This is defined by what have you done for me lately? And by this “measure of lately”, he will lose Saturday night against Marquez.
The first time I ever saw Pacquiao fight was in his first televised bout in the USA. I was so stunned by his activity, by his inability to slow his pace, that I literally jumped to the phone to call another boxing fan to alert him to the fact that I’d just watched the next phenomenon hit boxing. I was certain after three rounds that this pace could not continue. I was stunned after 4 rounds that Pacquiao could still be fighting at that pace and convinced that I was hallucinating after watching 5 rounds. It ended with a Pacquaio KO of Lehlo Ledwaba in the 6th. I knew something special was about to happen for Pacquiao.
Following this USA debut performance I had the distinct pleasure of watching Pacquiao perform his craft again and again. I’d not been alive to see Henry Armstrong. But I was alive to watch Many Pacquiao. Using the names of Armstrong and Pacquiao in the same sentence and sentiment is not a sacrilege in boxing — it is simply awe-inspiring for fans sharing greatness in the ring separated by a generation.
There is no need for me to chronicle Pacquiao’s career after 2001 — it is a study in greatness in the ring. But that was then and this is now. And now is a study in the subtle slippages of late.
Most fans and veteran observers saw Pacquiao losing to Marquez in their last meeting. The scorecards of dozens of boxing writers are posted on Wikipedia. Conversely, most observers saw Pacquiao winning his most recent bout against Timothy Bradley — but lose he did on the official scorecards. And more importantly, win or lose with observers or official score-keepers, he’s lost a step.
What is losing a step in boxing for a man like Pacquiao? Against Juan Manuel Marquez it is not a step that can be afforded to be lost.
It is most fortunate for Pacquiao that he is fighting a smaller man because Pacquiao is no legitimate welterweight at this stage of his career. Perhaps before he was — perhaps when his trainer was feeding him 5,000 calorie a day diets and feeding him Famous Ariza Chocolate Protein Shakes he was a legitimate welterweight — but today at 147 pounds Pacquiao is simply soft.
So in this game of losers and winners I sadly report that Saturday night will usher in the end of Manny Pacquiao’s career. There will be no Freddie Roach to blame. It will be what it will be. Manny will be the loser come the end of the bout.
A very personal solo experience will follow for Manny Pacquiao that only retired fighters can relate to.
And finally a senior citizens bout between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao will be made that is utterly and abjectly full of emptiness. But…
Always remember this: We will still be the winners for having Manny Pacquiao while we did. It will be bitter sweet. Soon enough we will all start talking about when Pacquiao was great — we will know that he will never be again what he once was. The step he lost may be the proverbial bloom from the rose, but the champion’s wreath he wore will leave a scent in the Boxing Hall of Fame that lingers forever.