YOU can sense that even in the simple matter of scheduling a definite date for his ring return, Manny Pacquiao just cannot totally disregard his activities outside boxing.
Pacquiao’s highly awaited return to gloved combat was originally set for November 10. The fight date was all of a sudden pushed to December 1 to give the Filipino ring icon some breathing room to file his Certificate of Candidacy in October. Pacquiao, who is also the incumbent representative of Sarangani province in the House of Representatives, is either seeking re-election or eyeing the governorship of the same province in the 2013 local elections.
After being informed by officials of the Commission on Election that a Certificate of Candidacy can also be filed by an authorized representative, Pacquiao revived the November 1 fight date and is now mulling over a short list of potential adversaries that includes Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez and Puerto Rican Miguel Angel Cotto.
At age 33 and after 17 years and 365 total rounds as a professional boxer, Pacquiao is undeniably heading into the final stretch of his illustrious fistic career. Not a few in fact believe that only the dream fight with American Floyd Mayweather Jr. is keeping Pacquiao interested in the punch-for-pay business.
Pacquiao’s interest in the gloved sport has evidently waned in his last few fights. The unbridled ferocity that made Pacquiao the most feared fighter on the planet has since been dashed by the fighter’s new-found devotion to his faith and his avowed commitment to a squeaky-clean image as an elected official. There is really nothing wrong with spreading the teachings of the Good Book, but in a sport as brutal as boxing, where an opponent is just waiting for the ideal opening to strike back, the sight of Pacquiao taking pity on foes and holding back his assault puts his very safety at risk. If Pacquiao is into bowling and not boxing, the distractions will not be an issue. For the record, bowling pins never punch back.
Pacquiao’s last electrifying performance came in November 2009, when he mercilessly butchered Puerto Rican Miguel Angel Cotto in 12 rounds. He has since been on cruise control, eventually suffering a controversial decision loss to American Tim Bradley in June. Pacquiao could have lost as early as November 2011, when he narrowly escaped with a 12-round majority decision win over Marquez. A former rival, Erik Morales, noted that Pacquiao’s mind appeared to be drifting elsewhere during the third showdown with Marquez. True enough, Pacquiao admitted after the fight that marital issues affected his performance against Marquez.
With eight world titles and enough money to purchase the first habitable land mass in Mars, Pacquiao can walk away from the sport right this very minute with his legacy plated in gold. But as he has chosen to lace on the gloves again, Pacquiao needs to get his head back in the game. The last few fights on the horizon, possibly against Marquez and Mayweather, are the most demanding and dangerous.
Pacquiao, make no mistake about it, still has what it takes to rumble. The lapses in his recent fights appear to be more mental than physical. In the case of Pacquiao, it is the fighter who has chosen to put restrictions on his boxing skills as he has found it difficult to reconcile them with his image as a Bible ambassador and public servant. If Pacquiao can put all the distractions on the back of his head and keep it there at least for the duration of a fight, there is a good chance we will see again the vintage “Pacman.”
Pacquiao just has to let his fists fly. From where this writer sits, a blazing finale for Pacquiao is still within the realm of reality.