CHICAGO - Longtime boxing promoter Bob Arum has seen more fights than most of us ever will in our lifetimes. And he's never been one to pull any punches.
That didn't change when the Harvard-educated lawyer gave me a phone call yesterday to share his insights on last Sunday's main event at the T-Mobile Arena down the famous Strip in Las Vegas.
"Manny is a diminished fighter," said the 89-year old Hall-of-Fame inductee and Top Rank CEO who is affectionately referred to by many as "The Bobfather" for his looming presence around boxing across five decades.
Arum was talking about Pacquiao, his promotional outfit's crown jewel for 10 years before their much publicized and not-so-amicable 2018 split.
PacMan, once known as the ferocious storm hurtling across the Pacific is now a bit weakened at age 42. Fighting in the twilight of a majestic 26-year career. he was mugged by Yerdonis Ugas in a stunning 12-round upset loss where the rangy Cuban beat both logic and the steep underdog odds of plus 280 (wager $100 to win $280 ).
"We all get old," Arum said of Pacquiao's failed bid to recapture the WBA welterweight title that he was stripped of last January 2021 for inactivity following a 25-month layoff.
In describing the eight-division champ's unceremonious unanimous decision defeat, Arum referenced poet A.E. Housman, who wrote a nostalgic ode about how athletes' careers, regardless of luster and aplomb, often die young.
Arum thinks Terence Crawford, now the resident star at Top Rank, would have beaten Pacquiao "badly" with his speed and that Errol Spence, whom he describes as a strong 147-pounder, would have been a similarly uphill battle for the fighting Senator from the Philippines.
"Manny's a great physical specimen but he is not Superman," said Arum. "Even the best athletes cannot perform at the highest level when they get older."
Arum didn't throw a shade on Pacquiao. He merely lifted the curtains on the God honest truth about how our sports heroes routinely struggle to find the right exit ramp or execute the proper dismount.
SO WILL ARUM VOLUNTEER WISE COUNSEL ABOUT RETIREMENT TO A FORMER PRIZED WARD HE STILL CALLS A FRIEND?
"He needs to make his own decision on that one. And it will be determined by his financial needs and what his body tells him. I wish him luck."
Like almost everyone on this planet, Arum has not only gotten wind of Pacquiao's political plans, he has also, apparently, diligently kept track of it.
Effusively, I told Arum that Manny is currently ranked fifth in the polls among potential candidates to the May 2022 presidential elections. It is, as Arum and boxing fans can relate, a puncher's chance to win the highest elected seat in our country.
A heavyweight Democrat who helped then U.S. senator Harry Reid win a tough re-election bid in the state of Nevada in 2010, Arum quickly KO'd the notion.
"I don't care if he's No.3 or No.12. (Pres. Rodrigo) Duterte is a strongman who will not relinquish power."
Citing Sara as heir apparent and her dad possibly running for vice president, Arum believes that the Dutertes will be extremely difficult to beat.
Probably not the words Sen. Pacquiao wants to hear. But it's something worth listening to and learning from.
After a tough outing inside the ring, it looks like Manny is poised to carry another Herculean task outside of it, this time in the dirty, sloppy political arena.
The good news is, at least in the back-stabbing, morality-deprived jungle that is politics, time is squarely on Manny Pacquiao's side.
FOND FAREWELL. If this was indeed Pacquiao's last dance, here's goodbye to my fellow sportswriters who cover the Pacquiao beat here in the U.S..
It was an honor to share the media room with Quinito Henson (Philippine Star) Nick Giongco (Tribune), Abac Cordero (Philippine Star) Roy Luarca (Rappler) Marc Anthony Reyes (Inquirer), Dino Maragay (PhilStar), Dyan Castillejo (ABS-CBN), Virgi Romano (Saksi) and our SPIN.ph editor, Gerry Ramos.
I've only met Josef T. Ramos of Business Mirror for the second time since the Thurman fight but he struck me with his enthusiasm and resourcefulness. traits that remind me of my younger days as a newspaper reporter.
I wish Manny hangs it up for good but I don't mind covering another Pacquiao fight in Vegas, if only for the chance to roll with you all guys once more.
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