Commentary: Why Manny Pacquiao will fight again
If you listen very closely to how Manny Pacquiao is framing his retirement, it’s difficult not to see why the Pac Man won’t be away from boxing for long. After putting a cap on the trilogy against Timothy Bradley with a one-sided unanimous decision victory that saw the Filipino score a pair of knockdowns, Pacquiao affirmed his retirement both in the ring and at the post-fight press conference.
The only problem with his retirement is that you can clearly hear that this was not Pacquiao’s decision.
“I told my family that I’d retire after this,” Pacquiao said during the post-fight press conference. “I’ve already decided that I’m committed to my family that I’m going to retire and spend more time with them.”
Every question aimed his way was less about the fight and more about his future. Reason being is that Pacquiao has never sounded confident in his decision to walk away from the sport that changed his life.
Unlike Floyd Mayweather Jr. who visibly wore his disenchantment with boxing on his face during his last hurrah with Andre Berto and made it clear that his decision was based more for self than what anyone pressed him to do, Pacquiao still looks like he enjoys himself out there.
“I feel fresh like when I first started boxing,” said Pacquiao. Those aren’t words that spill out of the mouth of a man who doesn’t want to fight anymore.
Pacquiao doesn’t fight as a business decision. He fights for his country and his fans. He fights for others. But don’t get it confused because he also fights for himself. The smile he wears as he walks to the ring isn’t counterfeit. When he exchanges with his opponents, he wants to put on a thrilling show for the fans. And, in turn, that drives him more than anything else. He’s visibly disappointed when the fight isn’t as entertaining as he wanted it to be. But on Saturday night, he heard those fans cheering. He enjoyed scoring those knockdowns. He was becoming the old Manny Pacquiao again.
“He’s not as aggressive as he was back then but it’s coming back,” Freddie Roach said afterward. “For a while he said he just has to beat his opponents and not knock him out. It was good to see. That’s what the old Pacquiao used to be.”
It’s interesting to see how much Pacquiao has changed since he gave himself to God and pushed his religion to the forefront in 2012. The shift in focus came after his marriage was on the rocks prior to his third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez. His wife nearly divorced him and refused to accompany him to the ring on that night. He may have had the support of his country, but he certainly didn’t have the support of his wife. It was evident that he was torn and trying to appease too many people. But he ultimately chose religion and his family and that had a direct effect on his in-ring ability. Not from a physical state, but from a mental one.
Roach has stated on several occasions and in so many words that the killer instinct that Pacquiao used to possess had not present. It’s evident in the fact that he hasn’t scored a knockout since 2009.
For better or worse, religion has changed Pacquiao. But he’s been trying to balance his two loves for as long as he could until it reached a breaking point. And that breaking point is now.
You could see the conflict in Pacquiao whenever he discusses his impending retirement. He has wavered but when pushed he puts the onus on doing what his family has asked of him. But you haven’t once heard Pacquiao say that he’s no longer in love with boxing. And perhaps the worst thing that could happen to him was his performance on Saturday night.
After a slow start, Pacquiao started to ramp up the activity and looked more dedicated to hurting Bradley than he had in the two previous fights. More importantly, he knew he let the world down when he turned in an uninspired performance against Mayweather last May. He had a lot to prove to his fans, but even more to prove to himself. But after 12 rounds, he certainly looked far from finished as a fighter and a potential showdown with Terence Crawford certainly looked like a tantalizing dish.
“My favorite fight is Crawford because Manny’s best fighting weight is 140,” Roach said afterward while also citing interest in a fight with Canelo Alvarez if they could somehow keep the young Mexican’s weight gain in check. “I told him that he hasn’t slowed down and no signs of wear and tear and almost looked better than he has in a long time.”
Roach said he would support Pacquiao if he chose to walk away but something in the longtime trainer suggests that he is keenly aware that there are other forces that will weigh on Pacquiao’s ability to continue.
Obviously, Pacquiao’s run for a senate seat in the Philippines is another force that could drive him away from boxing. Pacquiao has long said that he wanted to help the people of his home country and he believes he can do so as a politician. But, as a member of the media had pointed out, there will be nothing that can compare to the money he can make as a boxer. And that, perhaps, could be an even greater help to his people than working for the government.
But when Pacquiao responded to the questions about retirement, it was less about being a politician and more about doing what his family has asked of him.
“My heart is 50/50,” Pacquiao said. “But I love my family.”
So, therein lies the dilemma. Boxing is what Manny Pacquiao has known for two decades. He has rarely taken more than a year off to fight and it’s apparent that he loves this sport. He can say that he’s retired today, but what happens when he’s sitting around the house and he gets the itch. And it’s an itch that he can’t scratch because he promised his wife and mother that he wouldn’t fight again. He could become irritated or miserable being unable to do what he loves. And, more importantly, he can’t do what got him to where he is today. He’s well aware of this potential problem and addressed it head on.
“Let me enjoy a retired life first,” Pacquiao said, clearly suggesting that he needs to be retired to know if he’ll really miss the sweet science. “If you ask me about comeback, I don’t know. But I might enjoy the retired life. I’m not there yet so I don’t know what that feeling is. I have commitment to my family and made my decision already. But my body is still okay and I can give a good fight.”
That last sentence is indicative of a man who’s not ready to call it quits. He’s never said that he’s grown weary of the grind. Boxing is Manny Pacquiao. Sooner or later, he’ll be back. And nobody will be able to stop him.