In a lot of ways, Manny Pacquiao’s loss to Juan Manuel Marquez was less devastating than his loss to Timothy Bradley. Both defeats were humbling and it’s probably safe to assume that neither one felt particularly good, but at least the Marquez one was legitimate.
Pacquiao walked into a punch that he should have seen coming. That happens in boxing. You accept it, move on and pledge to come back stronger on the next go-round.
What happened against Bradley, though, having a bout that you clearly won ruled in the other guy’s favor – that lingers.
His June loss to Bradley marked the beginning of a particularly ugly streak for the Filipino star. You will recall, prior to that, Pacquiao was on a pretty good run. A lot of people felt as though he lost his third fight against Marquez, but he got the decision anyway. He was able to continuously secure big money endorsements with relatively little trouble. His personal and religious views, while mildly controversial at certain points, didn’t really hurt his value as an international icon. People were still clamoring about him being the world’s top pound-for-pounder.
Then he fell to Bradley in one of the worst decisions in recent memory and suddenly everything changed.
He was no longer boxing’s king. He was no longer the same sort of international superstar. He no longer got the benefit of the doubt in close fights. Suddenly he was ‘on the decline.’
That's how quickly perceptions change in this business.
The Marquez loss was icing on the cake, but Pacquiao’s unlucky streak really began in mid-2012 when he fell to an opponent the whole world saw him beat.
During a recent interview, Bradley was asked for his thoughts on Pacquiao-Marquez IV. His response? He ‘felt sorry’ for his Filipino rival. Ouch. It’s probably safe to say that being the object of Bradley’s pity is more stomach-churning for Pacquiao than watching tape of Marquez’s KO.
2013 is going to be big for Pacquiao’s legacy. When it’s all said and done, we will either view it as the year he bounced back strong after a particularly grueling six or so months – or the final nail in the coffin of his career. If it ends up being the latter, then the Bradley fight officially go down in the history books as the beginning of the end for one of the all-time greats.