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Monday, April 15, 2024

Pacquiao passes first test toward imminent comeback

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ON Sunday last week,  Filipino boxing legend Manny  Pacquiao—a former senator and the only one on earth to win no less than a dozen world championships in an unequaled eight divisions—battled South Korean martial arts Youtuber DK Yoo in a six-round exhibition.

Pacquiao won without a sweat in what served as prelude to his eventual return to the sport that earned for him and his family enormous wealth and international fame only a few of his kind had attained.

But at 44, isn’t it too late for Pacquiao to return to the ring as a pro?

There are actually quite a few former champions who retired at a ripe age only to return fighting and win world titles.    

The most famous comeback was heavyweight George Foreman, who initially retired in 1977 at age 28, but returned 10 years later—and lost twice.

But Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer to become the oldest heavyweight champion of all time at age 45. He would have four more fights before again retiring for good in 1997 at 48.

Sugar Ray Leonard, one of boxing’s most beloved pros, retired in 1984, came back three years later and move up in weight to challenge the much feared KO master Marvin Hagler and emerged the winner in a famous but disputed split-decision to defy the odds and win the title after such a long layoff.

At that age—Pacquiao turns 44 this Saturday—not a few expressed concern to see him climb the squared ring again for high-level fights even against the upcoming pretenders in his welterweight division like Jaron “Boots” Ennis,  who, according to reports, is being eluded by 147-pound top dogs Terrence Crawford and Errol Spence.

Pacquiao, despite his 72-fight career with eight losses, is not new to hanging up his fighting gloves and retrieving them back at least six times since his embarrassing KO defeat to unheralded Rustico Torrecampo in 1986 following a 15-fight winning streak (13 by KOs) since turning pro in 1995.  

He came back from that first career setback for another string of victories, including an eight-round stoppage of Thai Chatchai Sasakul in December 1998 for the World Boxing Council flyweight plum that actually set the tone of his remarkable 12-year, eight-division title conquests.

He yielded the throne to another Thai, Medgoen Singsurat, when  he failed to make the required 112-pound limit in 1999. But Pacquiao is not Pacquiao if he couldn’t again rise when  he falls. The climb from one weight class to another continued. He took his second world jewel, then International Boxing Federation super-bantamweight from African Lehlo Ledwaba (technical knockout in six rounds) in 2001, and two years later, his third by, again, stopping the popular Marco Aantonio Barrera of Mexico (TKO in 11) for The Ring featherweight belt.

Eric Morales, Barrera’s countryman, would spoil Pacquiao’s title run by outpointing his future friend in his debut in the super featherweight in 2005, although Pacquiao more than made up for this twice, both via knockouts.    

Pacquiao would then go on another unbeaten 15-outing streak in the next five years until 2010 which gifted  him the last five of his amazing record, making him the first man to win world championships in eight weight classes.   

Pacquiao would crown himself the WBC super featherweight kingpin at the expense of what would be one of his arch nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez, who he will meet four times.

David Diaz (TKO in 9) for the WBC lightweight, the rugged Briton Ricky Hatton (KO in 2) for the Ring Magazine lineal world super lightweight and another future Puerto Rican Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto for the World Boxing Organization welterweight diadem (TKO in 12).  

The husband of former Sarangani Vice Goernor Jinkee with whom he has five children,  ended his title run by ruling the vacant WBC super welterweight division by beating black and blue a taller and bigger Antonio Margarito in 2010.

That bloody unanimous victory clinched for him the “Fighter of the Decade” for 2000 to 2009 over  archival Floyd Mayweather Jr., who himself made a comeback to boxing after two years of retirement in 2009. That was besides Pacquiao accorded “Fighter of the Year” three times.

Before making it to the 147-pound category, the then lightweight Manny fashioned out one of the greatest upsets in prizefighting history with a TKO in 9-round  conquest of  Barcelona Olympics gold medalist Oscar De La Hoya in a catchweight welterweight encounter in 2008.   
Pacquiao would suffer back to back ring losses in 2012, losing his WBO world welterweight jewel in a questionable split decision to American tough guy Timothy “Dessert Storm” Bradley before getting knocked out by Marquez in December in a non-title showdown.

Calls for going back to private life sprang following this double whammy.  But as he has been saying often: “Hindi pa tapos ang laban!”

He regained his WBO crown by outclassing the talkative  Bradley in 2014. He finally earned  a crack at Mayweather after a long almost six years of talks and lost again in a fight Christened “Fight of the Century” for the sixth time in his career due to an injured right shoulder.

The much-awaited May 2015 contest generated an all-time high of nearly 4 million pay per view buys worldwide.

But Pacquiao would again come back the following year repeating over Bradley in the third of their trilogy before taking on big American Jessie Vargas for his third stint as WBO welterweight titlist.

Then came the 12-round loss to former Australian school teacher Jeff Horn, who robbed him of his WBO belt via another controversial verdict.

But again, Manny surprised the entire boxing world by winning yet another world title—the WBA regular welterweight belt by stopping a former dreaded KO artist himself, Argentine Bomber Lucas’s Matthysse inside seven rounds in a bout held in Kuala Lumpur in 2018.  

Back in Las Vegas, he successfully defended the same title by pounding out a unanimous decision win over Adrien Broner then took the challenge of then undefeated Keith Thurman, knocking the latter down in the early going, to win via a close split decision in 2019.

Due to inactivity brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, Pacquiao was stripped of the crown in an unmerited decision by the WBA, which it awarded to Cuban Yordenis Ugas pro bono.   

Ugas became a legit champion after beating Pacquiao while subbing for Errol Spence, who claiming injury, begged off from a title encounter scheduled in 2019.

That prevented Pacquiao from regaining the throne he rightfully owned until unceremoniously taken away from him.  

That victory over Yoo definitely indicated Pacquiao is back. When? Millions of his fans worldwide will have to wait.  

And it won’t be for long.

Image credits: Wendellv Alinea

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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