By Greg B. Macabenta
There is no doubt in my mind that Manny Pacquiao won against Australian Jeff Horn. The CompuBox statistics showed Pacquiao landing 182 punches vs. Horn’s 92, with 123 power punches against the 73 of Horn, plus 59 jabs finding their mark vs. Horn’s 19. Horn was also on the verge of being ko’d in the 9th round and his face was a mess.
I think Horn’s victory was a hometown decision, which the judges figured they could rationalize based on the impression of more aggressiveness on the part of the Australian, and the flurries of blows he delivered, even if mostly on Pacquiao’s arms.
But even if Pacquiao had been declared the winner, I would still have the same opinion of him, which is that his glory days are over. It will be downhill from now on.
Pacquiao did not display the speed and the ferocity that he showed in pummeling Oscar de la Joya, Antonio Margarito, and Miguel Cotto. And he did not have the power and the timing that flattened Eric Morales and Ricky Hatton.
Most of all, Pacquiao did not manifest the hunger for victory that he had when he upset Marco Antonio Barrera on his way to becoming the toast of the boxing world.
That was in November 2003 — almost 13 and a half years ago. Pacquiao was a young warrior in his mid 20s. Last Sunday, he was an ancient 38-year-old.
It was Horn who displayed the characteristics of a hungry fighter, willing to take risks in order to deliver a solid blow. In the 9th round, when Horn was obviously unsteady and hurt, Pacquiao did not even display the killer instinct that left Cotto, De la Joya, and Margarito looking like the victims of a back alley mugging. In Pacquiao’s prime, Horn would have been clobbered mercilessly. Not last Sunday. And so, Horn survived and won.
Maybe even trainer Freddie Roach had begun to take it easy too, perhaps underestimating the Australian. In Pacquiao’s bouts against Margarito and Cotto, Roach warned his ward about being caught against the ropes. He instructed Pacquiao to move to the center of the ring the moment he felt his back touching the ropes. In his bout with Brandon Rios, Pacquiao used remarkable footwork to evade Rios’s heavy artillery as Rios tried to corner him on the ropes. The Mexican-American was left confused and frustrated.
Against Horn, Pacquiao kept leaning against the ropes, allowing Horn to throw a flurry of punches. Although most of those blows landed on Pacquiao’s arms, they must have been impressive enough for the judges to rationalize their inexplicable scores.
But so much for Pacquiao as a boxer. Whether or not he has a return bout with Horn, his place in boxing’s pantheon of pugilistic immortals is assured. It will take a long time, if at all, for another boxer to claim eight division championships.
While his fans have echoed the advice that Pacquiao should retire, my social media comment took a different slant. I said that, Pacquiao the boxer, having once again suffered the pain of an unjust and unfair decision, will hopefully realize, as Pacquiao the senator, the pain experienced by the families of EJK victims who have been subjected to unjust and unfair decisions by him and his colleagues in the Senate.
And I added, for good measure, “I hope he tells Dick Gordon that.”
Why does a decent, humble, likeable, disciplined, principled, dedicated athlete like Pacquiao become a sycophantic and amoral politician? What is it about political power that makes a Mr. Hyde out of a Dr. Jekyll?
When Pacquiao decided to run for the House of Representatives and subsequently for the Senate, it was tempting to portray him as the epitome of the Peter Principle. A person promoted to his level of incompetence.
But Pacquiao possessed an admirable trait that defied the Peter Principle — a hunger for learning and an obsession to rise above his lowly beginnings, not just in the ring but academically and intellectually.
Unable to finish high school because of poverty, he resolved not only to finish high school but to earn a college degree, as well. In 2007, he passed a high school equivalency exam and promptly took a course in business management at Notre Dame of Dadiangas University.
In TV interviews after his victories over Barrera and Morales, Pacquiao’s responses in English became the butt of good-natured jokes. But he persevered. Today, he speaks passable English and has even managed to deliver privileged speeches in the Legislature.
To prepare himself for his career as a congressman, Pacquiao took the Certificate Course in Development, Legislation and Governance at the Development Academy of the Philippines, Graduate School of Public and Development Management.
It probably is not an exaggeration to assume that Pacquiao has better prepared himself for his official government functions than President Donald Trump. Trump has been outdoing himself in intellectual shallowness to the embarrassment of right-thinking Americans.
It may be assumed that Pacquiao has no need for money, having been named the second highest paid athlete in the world in 2015. It may also be assumed that even his bout against Horn in Brisbane, without pay-per-view revenues, will net him a tidy sum above the legitimate, unstolen earnings of fellow politicians.
In sum, Pacquiao has it made. He has demonstrated an impressive capacity for achievement, well beyond the ability of many learned individuals. And he has achieved the honor and respect reserved only for bona fide heroes.
Why then dissipate such a lofty stature by being a low-down, party-jumping, boot-licking, opportunistic politician?
This is not to say that Pacquiao the senator has already become all of that. But he certainly sounds and acts the part. His unprincipled, transactional loyalty to his political cabal and to those who have no respect for human rights and the value of human life is like rust eroding his reputation — he is fast being exposed as a hero with feet of clay.
Pacquiao’s admirers would like him to retire sooner, rather than later. That is entirely up to him. If he doesn’t want to suffer the fate of Muhammad Ali, he should quit while he still has full control of his faculties.
But where I hope Pacquiao will retire from is being a trapo — a traditional politician. He has no need to be so. And he has an opportunity to demonstrate true adherence to principles and even genuine nobility in his political career.
Pacquiao should learn a lesson from Mark Antony’s eulogy for Julius Caesar: “The evil that men do lives after them. The good is oft interred with their bones.”
Greg B. Macabenta is an advertising and communications man shuttling between San Francisco and Manila and providing unique insights on issues from both perspectives.