“I just heard the final bell. Boxing is over,” said Manny Pacquiao, and off he will go to focus on politics without undue fuss and fanfare. A post on social media officially closed the career of one of the greats, with Pacquiao left with few regrets from a career glittered with glamour and glory. They say that retirement is good if you have plenty to live on and plenty to live for and Pacquiao will have both.
“This is the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but I’m at peace with it,” Pacquiao explained. “Chase your dreams, work hard, and watch what happens.
“I will never forget what I have done and accomplished in my life.
“[Boxing] has given me the chance to fight my way out of poverty [and] the courage to change more lives”.
“Pac Man” will be chased by few ghosts. From humble beginnings, a move to Manila saw a teenage Pacquiao spend time on the streets and work in construction before unearthing his boxing talent.
The only man to win world titles across four decades and eight weight classes, Pacquiao established himself as perhaps the finest southpaw of all-time, beating 22 world champions in a 72-fight career. Possessing some of the quickest hands in history, and a refined tactical nous, Pacquiao bows out after just his eighth defeat, Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas beating him in August as the Filipino struggled to make telling blows.
Pacquiao has traded the demands of the ring for political punching and point-scoring as Pacquiao plots a presidential bid. Already a senator in the Philippines, Pacquiao intends to run for his country’s highest office next year, formally bringing to a close his boxing career, and the early signs are that his ministerial machinations may be just as swift as his mid-ring manoeuvrings during his time as a fighter, in a complex political landscape in Manila.
Hard as it is to narrow down to just a handful of encounters in a spectacular career of great skill and longevity, here are five of Pacquiao’s most memorable bouts:
Manny Pacquiao vs Marco Antonio Barrera (Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas, November 15, 2003)
It seems a touch peculiar in retrospect but Manny Pacquiao came in to this encounter an underdog, possessing a formidable career record but with limited experience under the more intense spotlight and scrutiny that a marquee fight in the USA would bring. Marco Antonio Barrera was, at the time, one of Mexico’s leading lights, a brilliant featherweight who had avenged his defeat to Erik Morales with a fine performance the year before.
But it was to be the night on which the Filipino with the explosive feet and dynamite hands announced himself to the world. After meticulous, intense preparation, Pacquiao controlled from start to finish, with remarkable endurance and potency throughout eleven rounds as Barrera battled, gamely, to hold on.
Eventually the white towel waved, the Mexican beaten at the Alamo as Pacqiuao snared a featherweight title and catapulted himself into the international consciousness.
Manny Pacquiao vs Oscar De La Hoya (MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, December 6, 2008)
Pacquiao (left) battles Oscar De La Hoya
There were some who reckoned Pacquiao would be a diminished presence as he packed on mass to make weight to take on Oscar De La Hoya. The American’s stock had fallen after defeat to Floyd Mayweather but he remained fundamental to a sport he helped put back on the map and stepped into Pacquiao’s palatial Sin City second home with a degree of confidence.
It was unfounded. Any thought that Pacquiao’s increased weight would impact upon his performance was proved folly as he dismantled De La Hoya, the Golden Boy not so much de-gilded but demonstrably, decisively deconstructed as boxing’s new star danced to a coronation. Off into retirement went De La Hoya, and on went Pacquiao.
Manny Pacquiao vs Ricky Hatton (MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, May 2, 2009)
Pacquiao stands over the beaten Ricky Hatton
It was, to put it bluntly, a demolition, Britain’s best battered and beaten as Pacquiao again played the hits at his Las Vegas residency.
From the word go Pacquiao looked virtually unstoppable. An over-attacking Hatton left his chin exposed and was twice knocked down in the opening round before a vicious blow to the jaw decided things inside two rounds.
For several minutes Hatton lay flat on his back in the centre of the ring as the crowd saluted their star, a henceforth undefeated record at light-welterweight shattered by a crisp left hand. For a second fight in succession Pacquiao’s opponent shuffled off into retirement – Hatton down and very much out.
Manny Pacquiao vs Antonio Margarito (Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas, November 13, 2010)
The great’s eighth. After the falling-through of discussions over a fight with Floyd Mayweather, Pacquiao eyed another world title at another weight class, this time the vacant WBC light-middleweight crown. Standing in his way another Mexican in Texas, with the impressive Antonio Margarito prepared and yet more questions about Pacquiao’s candidacy against a larger fighter.
Margarito was beaten in a clinic of technique and tempo. Such was Pacquiao’s advantage that the Filipino held back in the final round for fear of further damage to Margarito, who suffered a left orbital bone injury and permanent damage to his eye.
In the end, victory by unanimous decision was inevitable: an eighth weight conquered and crowned with a world title.
Manny Pacquiao vs Floyd Mayweather (MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, May 2, 2015)
Floyd Mayweather (left) takes on Pacquiao in 2015
Sometimes great sporting occasions live up to their billing, and sometimes they fall short. Like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Escape Plan, this proved an improper pastiche of past glories as the two greatest pound-for-pound fighters of a generation finally shared the screen. Perhaps nostalgic eyes will give this foolishly fonder viewings, but it is certainly a grand shame that the two did not vie in their prime.
It is pleasing that there are eight decades yet to top it, for this was a “Fight of the Century” in name only. The record books will show victory for Mayweather but also this as the highest-grossing pay-per-view event of all-time. It was boxing the spectacle vs boxing the sport as two inextricably linked fighters beyond their primes duelled against the dying light, Mayweather dodging and weaving, Pacquiao struggling to land a punch. The post-fight fallout further sullied an encounter that left plenty wanting more.
However in terms of memorability, there have been few recent occasions to top this bout. We may have been denied a battle at their best but Pacquiao and Mayweather met in a match that mattered – and Mayweather continued on his way to 50-0.
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