A lot of athletes have been brought down by their egos. Pick a sport and point you finger at any era in that sport’s history – inevitably you will come across at least a few guys that weren’t as great as they could have been because they had such an inflated sense of self. Understanding one’s limitations, acknowledging them, and working on improving them is the key to longevity for any and all of the all-time greats in any arena.
Boxing is no exception.
Manny Pacquiao is one of the best fighters of all time. Given the way he has carried the sport over the past however many years, that assessment is beyond reproach. People’s opinion will vary regarding where exactly he belongs on the all-time list, but there is no denying that he belongs somewhere. Once you reach the plateaus that he has reached, it’s easy to rest on your past. It’s easy to point to accolades attained and shrug off criticism about more current performances.
Pacquiao isn’t doing that.
Over the past year, he has not performed the way a boxer of his caliber should have. He was thoroughly challenged by Juan Manuel Marquez last November – and nobody would have faulted any of the judges if they had given Marquez the nod in that one. Similarly, Pacquiao was underwhelming against Timothy Bradley. Should he have rightfully won the match? Yes. Should it have even come down to the judges? No. Bradley, hobbled and broken, should have been knocked out before the 10th round.
And Pacquiao, for his part, gets it. He gets why critics are questioning his skills all of a sudden. He isn’t mad. He’s motivated.
“I have to prove they’re wrong,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “My last two or three fights have not been impressive, but guys are running and running from me after I hit them. I thought Marquez ran all night, and [Timothy] Bradley backed off.”
That last rationalization may have been unnecessary, but the general point is correct. Pacquiao’s fights haven’t been impressive. And he does have to change people’s new perception of him.
“If there’s a chance, I’m going to do my best to make the fight look easy,” Pacquiao said in reference to a knockout.
There is the key. For all of the lingering doubts and all of the questions – a knockout will silence everyone. That’s how quickly things can change. That’s how quickly perceptions change.
Will Pacquiao be able to knock Marquez out on Dec. 8? We’ll all find out the answer to that question together. But for now, it’s comforting to know that he knows he has to.
Ed. Note: Are you interested in seeing some really cool photos of Manny Pacquiao while he’s doing his thing? Well, Howard Schatz, one of the nation’s most renowned photographers, has a new book out featuring amazing images of 70 champion boxers including: Manny Pacquiao, Andre Ward, Sergio Martinez, Bernard Hopkins, Tim Bradley, Wladimir Klitschko, and many others. It’s definitely worth a glance. Check out more information about the book over here.
(Kudos Los Angeles Times)