By Matthew Hurley: As Manny Pacquiao readies himself for his rematch against Marco Antonio Barrera this coming Saturday night most of the questions regarding the betting favorite deal with his mindset and his preparation. Put simply, in his homeland of the Philippines, Manny Pacquaio is an Elvis Presley like figure – and icon before death. He means everything to his countrymen and Manny, despite his extraordinary ring performances, may be feeling that constant pressure that comes with being a star..
Or, perhaps not. The “Pac Man” may just thrive on all the distractions that come with being an idol. Those so-called distractions may make the boxing gym and the expert tutelage of trainer Freddie Roach a safe haven. The proof is in his record in big championship fights.
To further that point, rumors were being passed about before each of his three fights with Mexican icon Erik Morales. Morales, one of the great fighters of the last ten years, threw everything he had left at the Filipino whirlwind after an already Hall of Fame career in their initial meeting, and beat Paquiao legitimately. The rematch, almost as good in its intensity as the initial encounter, saw a more disciplined Pacquiao break down a still remarkably resilient Morales and eventually put him away in the 10th stanza. The rubber match was both a coronation and a sad farewell. But Morales gave everything he had left before succumbing in the 3rd round. Manny was just too quick, punched too hard and was peaking, while “El Terrible” was sliding down the backside of a great career.
[Erik Morales went on to give one last valiant effort, and in this writer’s opinion a winning one, against David Diaz in August of this year. Morales lost a close unanimous decision and promptly announced his retirement.]
Now Paquiao faces off against a man he bludgeoned to the canvas back in 2003. Of all the big fights lined up towards the end of the year this one seems to be the easiest to pick. Manny should win much as he did the first time around. Not because he beat Barrera on that night so convincingly but because he’s an even better fighter now. In this writer’s estimation Manny Paquiao is the best fighter pound for pound in boxing. He doesn’t talk trash like Floyd Mayweather, he only backs up his legitimacy. If anyone questions who the best and most exciting fighter in boxing is (and exciting counts for a lot) just ask yourself, “Who would you rather watch with your buddies, Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather?”
In the end, distractions may count for nothing or they may count for everything. After all Marco Antonio Barrera maintains that his loss to Manny Pacquiao the first time around was due to distractions in training camp and medical problems. But distractions are only as big as you make them and the fun loving Pacquiao never really seems distracted when he has a formidable opponent in front of him. Barrera, and the rest of us, will find out just what type of fighter he’s going up against Saturday night when Manny Pacquiao charges after him.