When Will Manny Pacquiao Be “Done?”
Manny Pacquiao Manny Pacquiao Manny Pacquiao
It was a running argument for nearly two years. I battled regularly with fans and fellow members of the media about whether or not Manny Pacquiao was “done” as a main stage fighter.
The cynics—and there were many—pointed to the multi-division world champ and Filipino icon’s high-profile loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2015, to his unanimous decision loss to Jeff Horn in 2017, to his 13-fight run without a KO or TKO. They also pointed to his age as a two-decade pro in his late 30’s. All of these were valid points, but not necessarily proof that he desperately needed to hang up the gloves.
I countered with the fact that Manny managed to beat Timothy Bradley and Jessie Vargas—two legitimate top 10 welterweights—pretty decisively after the Mayweather fight and that he, really and honestly, should’ve gotten the decision over the rough, but sloppy Horn.
It’s funny how things had turned in my career. Once voted no. 1 Pacquiao Hater by the old Pacland forum, I was now spending a great deal of time defending the guy’s career choices against weepy media members who were begging for him to retire. Meanwhile, I insisted that he was, at the very least, still a legitimate top 5 welterweight.
It was a bit easier to make my case after he thrashed and stopped Argentine knockout machine Lucas Matthysse in 2018 after seven one-sided rounds to capture a version of the WBA welterweight title.
Six months later, after beating Adrien Broner via unanimous decision, it should’ve been pretty clear that a forced retirement wasn’t a dire necessity and that Manny could still hang with anyone in the division. His performance showed that he was not an old man running out the clock, but a legitimate elite-level player who still deserved consideration as an elite-level player.
And then the bout with Keith Thurman was announced.
The ten-years-younger Thurman was coming into the contest just one fight removed from a long layoff and he looked plenty vulnerable in that return bout. But, still, “One Time” was universally regarded as the most accomplished of the high-end welters and no worse than a top-three 147-pounder alongside Errol Spence and Terence Crawford. Many smart boxing people even acknowledged him as no. 1 in the division.
The doubters said that beating Matthysse and Broner was one thing, but stepping into the ring with the multi-talented Thurman would be too much. Pacquiao, they insisted, had bitten off more than he could chew and he was in for a painful surprise.
And me? I saw Pacquiao-Thurman as an even-money affair, but one that Pacquiao absolutely could win. Pacquiao’s particular skill set and his still-present abilities might play well against Thurman’s weaknesses. My official pick was Pacquiao over Thurman via close split decision—and I took a bit of guff over it.
As things turned out, though, Pacquiao was even more effective against Thurman than I imagined he would be and, while it did turn out to be a split decision win for Pacquiao, the bout was more decisively in Manny’s favor than I imagined it could be.
So, what does all this say about Pacquiao and his future?
The man is legitimately and undisputedly a top 3 welterweight now and, while I don’t personally fancy his chances against Crawford or Spence, he has the style and raw ability to beat anyone in the division on any given night.
At 40 years of age, Pacquiao is still an elite player in the sport and someone who deserves a lot more pound-for-pound recognition than he currently receives. He’s nowhere near “done” as a high-end fighter and, honestly, based on recent performances, there’s not a lot of obvious slowdown in his game, either.
Pacquiao, in the short term, will be “done” when he decides to be done. It’s hard to make an argument that he should leave the sport when he’s still among the very best.
True, there’s not a whole lot left to accomplish for him, but the man seems determined to go out on his own terms and I just don’t see all that many fellow fighters capable of forcing him out.