Monday, March 27, 2023  |



Manny Pacquiao has more than enough left: Weekend Review

Photo / Mikey Williams-Top Rank


Manny Pacquiao: So many years are gone. The quickness is gone, or at least diminished. The punch volume is gone. And, most significantly, the excitement surrounding a Manny Pacquiao fight is largely gone. I was less interested in his title fight against Jessie Vargas on Saturday night than any since he first made a splash in the U.S. by stopping Lehlo Ledwaba in 2001. My apathy stems in part from statements and stands Pacquiao has made outside the ring; to me, the lovable Manny Pacquiao also is gone. My sentiments also can be attributed in part to the fighter he has become, a slower, less dynamic version of a once-great warrior. In essence, the Manny Pacquiao who dazzled the world for the more than a decade is gone. I have to acknowledge the obvious, though: A good fighter still remains. I watched Pacquiao’s victory over Jessie Vargas with some fascination and grudging admiration, as the 37-year-old version of Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 knockouts) can still confound a very good, experienced fighter like the now-former WBO welterweight titleholder. The senator from the Philippines still moves much as he did a decade ago, side to side, in and out, firing hard lefts and rights from angles that catch his opponents by surprise. I could still see the Pacquiao who dominated boxing from 2008 to 2012 if I squinted. He beat his much younger and fresher opponent convincingly at Thomas & Mack, much more easily than judge Dave Moretti’s ridiculous 114-113 score indicates. The 118-110 scores of Glenn Feldman and Glenn Trowbridge were closer to reality. And he won another in a long list of world titles that stretches from his first belt in 1998 to the present. All that is significant even if Pacquiao isn’t quite the fighter he once was.


Nonito Donaire: Donaire was my favorite fighter up until a few years ago. The Filipino Flash was one of those rare fighters who could – and did – end fights in a thunderous instant with unusual punching power, as accomplished opponents like Vic Darchinyan and Fernando Montiel learned the hard way. Donaire was fun to watch … was. The Donaire who lost to Jessie Magdaleno on the Pacquiao-Vargas card was flat, listless, nothing like the dynamic fighter who was so dominating less than five years ago. Magdaleno was quicker, more active, better, which is why he won by a unanimous decision to take Donaire’s WBO junior featherweight title. Donaire is 33; he looked 43 to me. Why? He told the broadcasters afterward that he slept too long on the day of the fight, which was an interesting excuse. Maybe making 122 pounds is taking too much out of him. More likely he’s just not the fighter he once was. I applaud Donaire for rebuilding his career and winning a world title after one-sided losses to Guillermo Rigondeaux and Nicholas Walters but he didn’t beat a murderer’s row of opponents to get there: William Prado, Anthony Settoul, Cesar Juarez and Zsolt Bedak are solid at best. The first gifted fighter Donaire faced since 2014 – Magdaleno – outboxed and outworked him to take his title. That, I’m afraid, is the real Donaire (37-4, 24 KOs) at this point. I don’t think he’ll retire; if nothing else, he’ll probably be more determined than ever after this setback. I just don’t believe he’ll ever again be a major force in the sport.


Vargas (27-2, 10 KOs) has nothing to be ashamed of. The 27-year-old from Las Vegas gave a solid performance against a legend, particularly in the first half of the fight. I don’t think he’ll ever crack pound-for-pound lists – onesided losses to Tim Bradley and now Pacquiao seem to confirm that – but he has the all-around ability and toughness to remain a factor at 147 pounds for some time. … Ask me if I care that Floyd Mayweather Jr. was at ringside for Pacquiao-Vargas. No wait, you don’t have to. I don’t care … at all. I still think he might fight Pacquiao again because of the money they both stand to make but I wouldn’t want to see it. I hope Mayweather remains retired. … Magdaleno (24-0, 17 KOs) has had vast potential since a strong amateur career and now has a breakthrough victory.  I think he caught an aging Donaire at the right time; he suggested as much before the fight. I also think Magdaleno is a very good boxer – quick, powerful, smart. He’s only getting started at 24. … We won’t know exactly how good Oscar Valdez (21-0, 19 KOs) is until he faces the top 126-pounders, guys like Gary Russell Jr., Carl Frampton, Lee Selby and Leo Santa Cruz, but he appears to be a star in the making. Hiroshige Osawa (30-4-4, 19 KOs), the WBO featherweight titleholder’s iron-chinned opponent on the Pacquiao-Vargas card, took too many of Valdez’s best shots before finally falling in Round 7. That’s the kind of beating fans remember, even if it comes against a second-tier challenger. And I don’t think he’s a mere power puncher; he seems to have all the skills. Time will tell. … Zou Shiming, the two-time Olympic champion, has improved considerably in a short time under trainer Freddie Roach. He looks more like a professional now, sitting down on his punches and trying to hurt his opponent. Shiming (9-1, 2 KOs) made opponent Prasitsak Phaprom (39-2-2, 24 KOs) look like an amateur, winning a near-shutout decision in their rematch on the Pacquiao-Vargas card to capture the vacant WBO flyweight title.  I don’t think he can hang with Roman Gonzalez, though. You need some power to earn Gonzalez’s respect and Shiming doesn’t have it.