Manny Pacquiao looked really good in his last two fights. When he took on Timothy Bradley a year and change ago, while he admittedly coasted up until the last minute of rounds, he was so clearly better than his opponent that it seemed incomprehensible that he could somehow lose. Similarly, right up until Juan Manuel Marquez put him to sleep during their most recent meeting last December, the former eight division champ looked to be in control of that match as well. Mind you, not just to the fans – the judges had him winning on all three scorecards until he got dropped.
When you look at things through that lense, it’s sort of hard to make the case that Pacquiao should retire if he loses to Brandon Rios this November. He almost won his last two bouts, after all. And yet, that’s exactly what everyone, including Pacquiao’s own team, is saying. Which poses the obvious question: Why are we so certain that he is on the decline if we can all admit that he should’ve beaten Bradley and that he was beating Marquez right up until he wasn’t?
Well, because that’s how boxing works. You’re defined by the end result, not the result that you would’ve had if everything went according to plan. Did Pacquiao beat Bradley? Sure. But there are a lot of people who think he lost to Marquez at least twice when judges ultimately gave him nods – that’s how judging works. If you leave it in the hands of judges, you can’t complain about the result afterward. Sometimes it’ll go your way, other times it won’t. Along the same lines, Pacquiao beating Marquez until he was knocked out is cool, but at the end of the day, that’s the point of this sport – knock the other guy out.
If Pacquiao won 11 rounds and then got dropped by Marquez in the 12th, that wouldn’t have reduced the impressiveness of Marquez’s victory. That’s what boxing is about, winning by any means necessary. Not almost winning. Not kind of winning. Winning.
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That’s why Pacquiao is being doubted heading into his November showdown. Because no matter how close he came to winning, he didn’t ultimately cross the finish line.
"He had Marquez hurt but Marquez caught him with a great shot,” Brandon Rios said during a recent press conference. “He jumped in and boom. I know I'll be ready.
“They think that I'm another Margarito. That I'm just going to come forward and take a beating. I'm younger, coming up in weight and better. Manny Pacquiao was the best but everybody gets aged at [some] point."
Exactly. Nobody is questioning how good Pacquiao was. Folks are questioning how good he currently is. You can blame away one loss on circumstance. The judges are stupid, the scoring system in boxing is dumb, and so on and so forth. But two back-to-back losses can’t be explained away.
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Rios is going to be ready for Pacquiao come November. He may not beat the Filipino star, but he’ll give him a good fight. And anyone who doesn’t think so simply hasn’t been paying attention to either guy for the past two years.