In a week, we shall witness Manny Pacquiao do battle with Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time. In the build-up for this epic fight, so much hype had been said about how close the three matches had been, how controversial the decisions were, how it was that the referees did a bad job of keeping score. Hence, there is the compelling need for this fourth encounter to put a closure to the issue of who really is the better fighter. Both gladiators are primed and eager to go after each other’s jugular. Both realize the need for a convincing win – hopefully by knockout – to indelibly stamp one’s superiority over the other. Both understand the critical implications of this bout on their respective careers. A win will surely bring sunnier days, while a loss could mean the sunset of their ring careers.
What’s next for Manny if he wins? A win will diminish the controversial loss he absorbed from Timothy Bradley a few months back. It will be an unequivocal statement that his fighting ability and his thirst for war have not waned, contrary to what his many detractors claim. A win will open the door to many lucrative fight possibilities, chief of which of course is a fight with the flamboyant Floyd Mayweather. A solid win will trigger renewed calls for this dream match. And this mother-of-all-title-bouts will be a cinch to break all records. That is, if it does materialize.
But if that dream bout doesn’t happen, there will be other bankable stars who can provide Manny an interesting challenge. Having an inside track here will be the extremely popular Brandon ‘Bam Bam’ Rios. Rios belongs to the Top Rank stable, and this will make the fight easier to handle. Rios (31 – 0 – 1 with 23 ko’s) is an exciting fighter who can provide slam-bang action every second of every round. His non-stop slugfest with Mike Alvarado is a prime candidate for Fight of the Year. His never-say-die attitude will make this a tailor-fit fight for Manny, who has lamented the fact that most of his opponents of late have prepared their back-pedalling shoes on the way to the fight.
Other fighters who will make an interesting match for Manny will be the newly-crowned WBC welterweight champ, Roberto Guerrero; Manny’s nemesis and current WBO welterweight champ, Timothy Bradley; and the upcoming Mayweather heir-apparent, Adrien Broner.
A match with Roberto Guerrero (31 – 1 – 1 with 18 ko’s) is unlikely, considering that Guerrero belongs to the Golden Boy stable. Guerrero, aka ‘The Ghost’, is a Mexican-American fighter whose fighting style combines the exciting Mexican warrior ethos with cold-blooded American technical skills. His patience and ring intelligence will make him a good challenge for Manny. His Mexican lineage will feed right into the storyline of the “Mexecutioner’ monicker given to Manny.
As for Tim Bradley, the motivation would be to avenge that bummer-of-a-loss that tarnished Manny’s record. “Desert Storm’ Bradley has 29 wins, only 12 by ko, with 1 no-contest. While he has an impeccable zero-loss record, his low knockout rate has hindered his ability to develop a stronger fan base. Bradley needs to come out with more spectacular knockout wins to get boxing afficionadoes to take a more serious look at him.
Adrien Broner, aka ‘The Problem’, has been acquiring international prominence with his exciting fighting style and his off-the-ring antics. At 23, he is the current WBC lightweight champion, though he is fast outgrowing the division. His 25 – 0 record, with 21 ko’s for a whopping .840 knockout rate, reminds one of the late Edwin Valero. He will be very comfortable in the welterweight division, where his competitive juices will be tested.
But what happens if Manny loses? In the event of a Manny debacle, the possibility of a lucrative Mayweather fight further dims. There will be lesser interest for that superfight to materialize. Even the number of worthwhile bouts will dry up. People will view Manny as a falling star, and upcoming boxers will hesitate to risk their records against a fading Manny. As his marketability plummets, his political career will also be affected. So will that of his wife, Jinkee.
As he prepares for this fourth encounter with Marquez, Manny must realize that this fight will be crucial, not just for his ring career, but for his near-term political aspirations as well. He needs 2 to 3 more fruitful years in the boxing arena in order to cement the gains and build a solid mass base for a smooth transition to the political circle. His continued success in the ring, coupled with the windfall of benefits that will accrue from these victories, will trigger that. His accomplishments during his first term as congressman will not be enough. For no matter how well-intentioned he is, the nature of Philippine politics has not really changed. People will still expect the same traditional support from political leaders, and these favors will be remembered come election day.
On December 9, people from the Philippines and Mexico, as well as boxing fans from across the world, will sit back and watch the epic struggle between two of the world’s best boxers. Bring out the beer, bring out the popcorn. It will be a fight to end all fights. It will be a war. For Manny, will this open more doors? Or will the lights finally be turned off?