Suggesting that Manny Pacquiao has had it pretty easy over the past five to seven years may be oversimplifying things, but it's not inaccurate. During the height of the Filipino star’s popularity, when he was beating his foes senseless en route to eight division titles, he wasn't getting tested much.
Pacquiao’s opponents feared him, plain and simple. Even legends like ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley who were known for their prior willingness to stand with a guy and swing opted to run around the ring for the duration of the entire match when fighting him. It got to be where Pacquiao’s reputation was enough to get him through most bouts, and his name value was enough to earn him the decisions in those bouts.
That all changed when he fought Timothy Bradley.
Despite thoroughly manhandling his opponent, Pacquiao ended up losing. The legitimacy of that final result has been debated to no end over the last few months, but this much can be said for certain: it took away some luster. Suddenly Pacquiao was ordinary. Suddenly it was okay to give the other guy a controversial decision win.
Last December’s bout with Juan Manuel Marquez was supposed to be one that showcased Pacquiao’s resiliency and ability to bounce back from a loss, something he hadn’t had to do in many years. We all saw how it ended. Not only did Pacquiao not return with a bang, he actually set himself back even further. The manner in which the former champ got beaten down gave even his closest associates pause.
"My girlfriend's a doctor," Freddie Roach told the Los Angeles Times recently, "and she thought he was dead."
That’s how bad it was.
Now it stands to reason that the inevitable fifth Marquez bout will be Pacquiao’s real resiliency test. Can he come back from two straight defeats and reclaim his place at the top of the mountain? Roach seems to think so.
"He says he's fine, and I believe him," Roach said.
"There are things I will be looking for in our next training camp," he added. "First, it is the footwork. I will be able to tell if he starts feeling for the canvas. I remember when I did. I'll look for any slight tremors. I remember watching Larry Holmes show a slight tremor when he was doing the mitts in training and I always thought that was a bad sign for his future. But so far, so good."
Pacquiao has already proven that he can rise through the ranks. Similarly, he has proven that he can stay boxing’s king for an extended period of time. What he has yet to prove is whether he can bounce back from mental and physical disappointments. We’ll find out the answer to that soon enough.