LAS VEGAS — If there is anyone who can relate to what Manny Pacquiao is feeling right now, it should be Mansueto 'Onyok' Velasco.
Until Pacquiao's controversial loss to Timothy Bradley, Velasco's defeat to Bulgaria's Daniel Petrov Bujilov in their gold-medal match in the 1996 Olympic Games had been the most widely protested setback by a Filipino boxer in the world stage.
Velasco suffered what many felt was an unfair decision to the wiry Bulgarian in the light-flyweight finals in Atlanta 16 years ago and, ironically, was at ringside to see his pal Pacquiao suffer the same fate on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time) at the MGM Grand.
"Medyo may hawig nga," said Velasco's older brother Roel, although he was quick to add that Pacquiao's 'victory' was clearer.
Onyok, 40, is now better known as an actor and television personality who appears in Pacman's shows, mostly playing the role of sidekick in slapstick scenes.
He quit boxing while at the peak of his powers shortly after the loss to Bujilov, his silver medal earning him millions in incentives both in cash and in kind.
"Dinamdam din talaga ni Onyok 'yung pagkatalo na 'yon," said Roel, who also won Olympic bronze four years earlier in Barcelona. "Pero ganoon talaga ang boxing."
Onyok, a member of Pacquiao's bloated entourage, said he did not see anything during the Bradley fight to believe that Pacquiao's skills and punching power are starting to fade at age 33.
“Andun pa rin naman ’yung lakas tsaka bilis niya,” said Onyok. “Yung galaw, kilos, kaya niya pa.”
If there was something missing during the fight against Bradley, it was the former pound-for-pound king's vaunted killer instinct, Onyok said.
“Yung gigil na tapusin na, wala. Parang ’di ko nakita. Dati pag tumama wala nang tigil ’yun. Ngayon parang nawala,” said Onyok.
Promoter Johnny Elorde said part of the blame should be on Pacquiao's overeagerness to finish off Bradley in the earlier rounds. The Filipino had Bradley on wobbly legs in the fourth round but failed to put him down.
“Sa tingin ko masyadong nanggigil lang na maka-knockout,” said the son of boxing great Gabriel 'Flash' Elorde. “At saka parang nag-slow down na siya the last two rounds kaya nakabawi si Bradley.”
However, former world champion Morris East insisted Pacquiao remains the same relentless and powerful fighter that he was at the height of his win streak despite losing for the first time in his past 16 fights.
“Intact pa rin yung skills niya. No worries,” said the US-based East, who now works the corner of world champions Nonito Donaire Jr. and Zab Judah.