You can feel it already. A boxing world without the presence of Manny Pacquiao.
Manny has been beaten before– seven times previously, to be exact. He’s always come back better and stronger. It’s given him an air of invincibility.
But there was something different about this last defeat at the hands of Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas. This seemed permanent. Like, there’s really no coming back from this one.
Maybe it was the Filipino icon’s especially cringey excuse making after the loss, labeling Ugas one of his “easiest opponents” and blaming his poor performance on leg cramps. Tossing that ugliness into the post-fight narrative reeked of desperation, of an outgoing star grasping at his competitive relevance by holding on to dreams, wishes, and excuses.
The biggest indicator of this being the end, though, was his ring performance itself. Pacquiao was sluggish and slow to pull the trigger. He looked every bit the part of a 42-year-old fighter with a 26-year pro career behind him.
Whatever the case, Pacquiao seems done. And, if he’s not entirely done after the Ugas fight, it’s clear that there just isn’t all that much left anymore.
Manny’s business circle and general hangers-on don’t want him to be done, of course. They’re hoping and praying for a few more boxing paydays from which they can siphon and they’ll nudge him, however they can, into getting back into the ring.
And just as Manny’s associates will feel his absence, so will the sport of boxing.
Without Pacquiao in the welterweight mix, there’s no monster payday on anyone’s horizon and no possible passing-of-the-torch moment or piggyback ride to next-level stardom. Since the retirement of Floyd Mayweather, Manny has been THE money opponent at 147. Errol Spence may be a very distant second in welterweight star power and Terence Crawford may, arguably, be the best fighter in the division, but neither carries the name value or international drawing power of Manny Pacquiao. Not even close.
Now, suddenly, without division’s biggest target gone, all those hopes and dreams of hitting the Pacquiao lottery are also gone.
A fighter like Mikey Garcia, for example, who put his career on hold a couple of times in hopes of landing a Pacquiao fight, has to now shift focus and look for the next best available payday.
Errol Spence, who could’ve been the guy to retire Pacquiao if not for his retinal tear, will probably move into a Yordenis Ugas bout, hoping to get some positive rub from being the man who beat the man.
Terence Crawford, who was never a strong contender to get a Pacquiao bout in the first place, has nowhere to go for his piggyback ride to breakthrough stardom now. A talked-about fight with Shawn Porter would be very good, but it’s not the kind of star-maker a Pacquiao fight would be.
All in all, the high-end players in the welterweight division will now have to look elsewhere for big fight opportunities. With Manny gone, there will be no one-fight to the top possibility.
This is not entirely a bad thing, though. Maybe, in the long term, it’s even for the best. Without that big Pacquiao target out there, other top welters will have to turn to one another for breakthrough opportunities. Maybe they’ll have to build up big-ticket bouts the old school way, by fostering rivalries and building to tantalizing matchups with increasingly competitive building-block battles.
Manny couldn’t be around forever. Sooner or later the vacuum caused by his absence would’ve happened anyway.
So, while the loss will be felt, boxing needs to move on. It’s time for new stars to push themselves to the forefront of the boxing scene.