In the immediate aftermath of his stunning knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, Manny Pacquiao suddenly became something he hadn’t been in a very long time: an underdog.
Heading into the eve of Dec. 8 Pacquiao had officially won 15 of his last 16 fights, and unofficially won all 16 of them. His lone defeat, you will recall, came against Timothy Bradley by way of one of the most horrendously judged matches in recent memory. Aside from Bradley and various members of his family, nobody viewed that as a legitimate loss for the Filipino star. And so, given recent history, Pacquiao was viewed as a top dog.
Top dogs don’t get redemption stories.
A little more than a month ago, the second Juan Manuel Marquez’s well-timed counter sent Pacquiao sprawling to the canvas, that all changed. Suddenly he became the former superstar riding a two-fight losing streak on the verge of being forced into retirement.
What often goes unmentioned when reviewing the fourth Pacquiao-Marquez fight is just how good Pacquiao looked prior to getting dropped. It was inarguably his best showing in a very, very long time. He hastily and stupidly walked into an excellent blow, sure, but that doesn’t take away from the overall point-totaling display he put on prior to that. He was punching with more accuracy. He was hitting more shots. He was winning the fight on every judge’s scorecard before the punch heard around the world.
Marquez landed that big shot because he had to; Pacquiao, had he stayed mildly conservative, could have rode his way to a big decision win just by playing it smart.
Given how good Pacquiao looked throughout that fight, it should be pretty clear to everyone that he does have something left in the tank. Yes, everyone is throwing dirt on him right now, but that would all change if he could take down Marquez in the fifth fight. If he were able to do that, suddenly he’d be boxing’s newest big star (again).
"Juan Manuel Márquez already confirmed to me that he plans to continue [his career] in boxing and [told me] it is necessary to begin to review offers, to see the plans, to begin [the next steps] the following big fight [from last December]. He already spoke with his wife and children, with his family, and they support him in continuing [his career]," Fernando Beltran told Boxing Scene recently.
"The two fighters do not want to pay so many taxes, and yes there is the possibility that it will happen in Macau, which is something that [Top Rank CEO] Bob [Arum] likes. [Arum] will do a show [in Macau] in April and he will see what we can do there and what kind of purses [we can get for the fighters] and other aspects. But there is also the new arena in Mexico City."
The only thing that could have prevented Pacquiao’s return to glory would have been Marquez opting not to fight him. Obviously, seeing as Beltran publicly committed his guy to a rematch later this year, that won’t be a problem.
And thus the path for Pacquiao’s redemption campaign has been cleared: he will fight Marquez in September, utilizing much the same game plan he had a month and change ago – just with a bit more caution; three wins over Marquez in five tries will cement this past December’s outcome as a fluke; once he finally sheds himself of the loser label, he will essentially be able to fight whoever he wants en route to top-tier status on the pound-for-pound charts.
Frankly, Pacquiao being boxing’s king is a story that had gotten a little stale. His brand needed a reboot of sorts. So long as the Filipino star can bounce back effectively in his fifth fight against Marquez, his most recent defeat may actually end up being the best thing that’s happened to him in a long time.