Michael S. (Brooklyn, NY): With a loss to Miguel Cotto, what do you think would be next for Manny Pacquiao?
Vivek W. (ESB): I think at this point it’s tough to say. Being age 30 and having over 50 fights under his belt, there’s no question that the wars have taken a huge toll on Pacquiao already. I think a humbling loss (particularly via early KO) would force many around him to push him to pack it in, as there would be little else to prove and the lust of a Mayweather showdown would be not only reduced, but somewhat stripped away, replaced instead by a mounting interest in a Mayweather/Cotto showdown. Considering Pacquiao’s mega-man status in the sport, I think it would be hard to see him jumping back in line to face the current 140lb champs, but on the flipside, his ability to win at the negotiations table against marquee names would be greatly compromised as well, so it greatly distorts his options. I think there’s only one other place he could look if he decides to stick around, and this option would inevitably place him right back in contention with a solid performance. That option is none other than JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ.. And I put that in all caps because that’s the fight that Pacquiao said he has no interest in, (reference to his “finished business” statement after the JMM II fight), yet everyone else in the world does. This fight is a must before both men leave the sport, particularly if they both lose their pending matchups. As much sense as retirement would make, I don’t know how easy it would be in the case of Pacquiao, because literally EVERYONE from the Philippines that I have talked to tells me very adamantly that they love him in the ring, but have ZERO interest in seeing him in any type of political seat, which brings about another potential challenge for him. That challenge is a loss of identity, because with little left to do in the ring and little support from his people relative to his political ventures, there will inevitably be a very tough to fill void in his life. The more I think of it, the more I realize that no matter how great things currently are, the life of Pacquiao is a very delicate one right now, and there’s a thin line that could quickly take his life from sugar to another “S” word that I’m not exactly able to spell out! If he walks away from the sport, there would be no more boxing and (from what I’m hearing) no political support either….so, where would he really go? There’s a lot riding on this fight for him. More than many of us thought about prior to now.
Jeremy O. (Philly, PA): Do you think Mayweather will be affected by having to weigh in at 144lbs against Marquez?
Vivek W. (ESB): I think Mayweather’s biggest issue coming into this fight will be the man across from him and any potential ring rust found within him. The weight, I don’t see being an issue at all. Miguel Cotto is viewed by many as being a big welterweight, and even in his case, ever since becoming a welter a few years back, he has only weighed in at exactly 147lbs 3-times in 8 welterweight fights. Mayweather is very similar, only tipping the scales at 147lbs twice in four welterweight fights, not including the ODH fight which took place at 154lbs, allowing him to tip the scales at 150lbs. Contrary to popular belief, these guys aren’t nearly as big as they seem. Some may argue that Cotto is, but Mayweather, I’ve seen in between fights on plenty of occasions and I don’t think I’ve ever seen the guy above 155lbs. Ever! So despite the layoff of nearly two years, considering his dedication to the gym, (which he never stopped training), I don’t think the loss of a few more pounds will be detrimental, although stranger things have happened. It’s only my opinion, but we’ll have to wait and see, perhaps.
Pierre R. (Los Angeles, CA): What do you take from the fact that Pacquiao is still filming movies and side-tracked while Cotto is already in full training mode?
Vivek W. (ESB): I take away the fact that Pacquiao is doing what he is able to do while Cotto is doing what he has to do. Remember, Cotto is the one that has to come down in weight and not allow it to be such a drastic change that it affects his bottomline performance on fight night, not Pacquiao. The average fight camp last roughly 2 months, and Pacquiao’s people have already stated that he’ll be done with all outside obligations no later than September 5th, giving him plenty of time to get prepared. One thing that I do have a concern about is the fact that there are so many other key issues surrounding Pacquiao prior to his camp. As of right now, he still has no idea where that camp will be held, and many of the destinations being discussed leave room for circus atmospheres and too many hanger-on’s to fight off. Cancun, the Bahamas, Cebu….all great cities….and also all poor places to conduct a camp of this importance. I think words like normalcy, regularity and continuity come with a high premium, and I guess I’m not totally sold on Pacquiao having to deal with a new environment, with new elements, and new people before arguably the most career defining fight of his illustrious career. A few years ago, I was assigned to the NBA’s Miami Heat (by way of Most Valuable Network), and I can remember covering the championship series when the Dallas Mavericks were up 2-0 against the Miami Heat. With only two games left to win to wrap up the series, all of a sudden, despite having all the answers for the opponent on the court, it was the outside influence that created the first level of doubt in the mind of the Mavericks head coach, forcing him to change lodging locations because the temptations and distractions were greater than any ‘championship focus’ speech he could ever deliver. That move came a day too late, as not only did the level of confidence change, but so did the winning ways. That team would never win another game in that series, and subsequently never reach a stage that grand again (to date). As I mentioned in an earlier question, a humbling loss (or any kind for that matter) means a world of change for Pacquiao. This is not the fight he wants to let slip away. I can only hope for his sake that the movie, the commercials, and the fight camp questions are all wrapped up when it’s time to really train, because if they aren’t, he’ll have himself to blame if his career is (“wrapped up”) when this fight is over.
Darius S. (Liberty City, FL.): How do you rate Tavoris Cloud amongst the top light heavyweights after seeing his recent performance against Clinton Woods?
Vivek W. (ESB): I think at this point it’s a bit tough to say, because few people have really taken notice of exactly how good Cloud is. Prior to his recent victory, only the hardcore American fight fans – (particularly in Florida) – took note of his worth, but after last weeks win against the U.K.’s Clinton Woods on national television, I think suddenly, his name will find it’s way on the tip of many other tongues around the sport. I thought that he performed extremely well, and few took note of the fact that he actually entered the ring with sore throat and what I’m being told was flu-like symptoms I think shows a lot more. It wasn’t an easy fight, but he dug down deep and was able to defeat a guy who came into the showdown knowing that his window of opportunity to stay relevant in the light heavyweight division was quickly closing, so I think you have to consider all those outside factors and view him as a guy on a mission. Now, where does he sit, relative to the bigger names in the division? I won’t say that he’s ready for a Bernard Hopkins just yet, (then again, who is), but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that he’d give Dawson a very intriguing showdown, and if Dawson is victorious against Johnson in their rematch, I think clearly, Dawson/Cloud has to be made no later than Summer 2010. Both men have very good speed, both are undefeated (Dawson 27-0, 18KO’s/Cloud 20-0, 18KO’s), and both now hold straps in a division that has slowly heated up to a nice simmer. Granted, Cloud doesn’t have the resume of Dawson, but after defeating a formidable contender like Woods, it only makes sense, as every other marquee matchup to be made in the division may require him to travel abroad, which is something that even Dawson hasn’t done, yet one of the two will inevitably soon have to (more than likely). I like Cloud alot, and I think he put himself in a great position, as it relates to his status in the LHW division.
Carmelo F. (Orlando, FL): Do you think that Juan Urango can be a top player in the busy jr. welterweight division?
Vivek W. (ESB): Personally, I think Juan Urango is much closer to the thick of things than many may give him credit for. Many have taken a lot away from him after his recent loss to Berto, but Berto’s speed, decent power, and raw ability – (not to mention size) – was far more to deal with than anything he would ever encounter in today’s jr. welterweight division. He (Urango) isn’t the fastest guy on the planet, so those with superior boxing skills and an ability to handle his body shots stand a very good chance to defeat him. Now, when you look at that list, that’s where things get interesting, though, because many of the divisions big names have a few things to prove themselves. Bradley has the speed to handle him, but I’d love to see him try to handle that body banging for 12rds from a guy he can’t back up because I’ve never seen him in with a fighter like that. Khan and Devon Alexander, same thing. Urango doesn’t fight going backwards and neither of those guys have the brute strength to make him reconsider, so you have to ask yourself how many of them would really handle him coming forward hacking away all night? There are two men that I would love see face Urango at 140lbs right now, and I think it would be a great proving grounds for all three involved. Victor Ortiz….who we know has a good punch, but desperately needs this type of grind-it-out fight to try once again to show the world that he can handle a bruising type fighter who he can’t knock out. My second choice would be Nate Campbell, because I think a solid performance against a fighter like this would prove to many that Campbell is easily ready for anything the division could toss at him. Campbell is also a grind-it-out type fighter, and if he can walk a guy like Urango down who typically won’t fight backwards, I don’t see many other guys in the division that would maintain the stamina to slow him down over the course of 12rds. It’s one thing to show more speed, but speed goes away by the round when a fighter is being worn down. I think the Campbell/Urango showdown would be a great gauge – and in effect a coming out party – for whichever man emerges in that fight and I hope if Shaw and Bradley don’t give Campbell his well deserved rematch, this Urango/Cambell fight happens. They’re both in Florida so this may be an easy fight to make happen. We’ll see what happens.
(Happy Belated Birthday to Angelo Dundee. Every one of my encounters with this man have helped me realize exactly how important he is to the sport….Best wishes)
(Vivek Wallace can be reached at email@example.com, 954-292-7346, YouTube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEK747), Facebook, Myspace, and www.vivekwallace.com)