Movie Review: Manny (2014)

February 2, 2015 in Boxing, Movie Reviews, Reviews, Sport

manny

Considering what great material the filmmakers had to work with, Manny, the new documentary on eight-weight-class Filipino world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, should have been a sure-fire KO. Instead of delivering the haymakers fans would have loved to see, however, the film ended up pulling its punches all the way through, resulting in a thoroughly unsatisfying experience that barely scratches the surface of both the man and the sport.

On its face, Manny ticks all the right boxes for a sports documentary. A poor Filipino kid from the gutter is forced to box from a young age to put food on the family table, and in the process develops a talent and ferocity that would take him to the very top of the sport. Amid the career highs (such as his superstar-making pummeling of Oscar de la Hoya in 2008) and lows (his KO loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in 2012, for instance) there are celebrity interviews and “rare” public and behind-the-scenes footage, all with the familiar voice of Liam Neeson narrating the script.

But despite an explosive start highlighting Pacquiao’s knockout loss to Marquez, Manny soon settles into conventional documentary mode and begins to skim over the stuff that would have made the film fascinating. It touches on all the things we already know about Pacquiao’s life outside of his major fights — the humble beginnings, the rise through the weight ranks, the movies and singing that came with the stardom, the foray into politics, and the apparent “religious awakening” he would experience a few years ago — but without ever getting to the “good stuff” simmering beneath the surface.

Yes, it was cool to see highlights of his training and big fights — Barrera, Morales, De la Hoya, Hatton, Cotto, Margarito, Marquez — in high definition, and it was fun to see celebrities like Mark Wahlberg, Jeremy Piven and Jimmy Kimmel talk about him, but all of these things felt superficial.

I wanted to see more footage of Manny’s daily life; I wanted to hear more about the dirty business of boxing and the disputes between his promoter Top Rank and Golden Boy; I wanted to hear about all the venomous groupies that feed of his money and all the cash he literally gives away; I wanted more depth on Manny’s dark side — the gambling and the drinking and the womanizing. It would be unfair to say the film completely ignores these issues, though it barely takes more than a jab at them. The approach by directors Leon Gast (who won the Oscar for the Ali documentary When We Were Kings) and Ryan Moore was to just touch upon all the touchy things and gloss over them quickly before moving onto the more positive aspects of Manny’s existence.

The best parts of the movie are when we see people close to Manny talk about him, from adviser Michael Koncz and ex-conditioning coach Alex Ariza to his long-time coach Freddie Roach and promoter Bob Arum. The bits with the most emotion actually all involve Pacquiao’s wife Jinkee, the only person who appears to be giving it to the viewers straight. But unfortunately, these flashes of genuine insight into Pacquiao are few and far between.

Perhaps it’s because I already know too much about Pacquiao for Manny to teach me anything new. To be honest, even the 24/7 documentaries produced by HBO before each Pacquiao fight offer more about he subject than this documentary. I just think the film would have been so much more interesting had it dared to venture deeper into things such as Alex Ariza’s unceremonious dumping from Pacquiao’s team and the subsequent feud he developed with Roach and Koncz (not discussed at all), questioning how and what really caused the negotiations with Floyd Mayweather Jr to break down multiple times (nothing apart from a couple of clips anyone could have dug up on YouTube), and some sort of definitive statement about all the allegations of performance enhancing drugs (the elephant in the room).

Even the chronological depiction of Pacquiao’s career missed important chunks. Although the footage is out there, the film ignores Pacquiao’s earlier losses before Morales and his world title fights at the lighter weight class, and completely skips his less inspiring bouts against Joshua Clottey and Shane Mosley. I know it’s hard to follow every bout of Pacquiao’s long career, but pretending that some important events of his life don’t even exist makes me question the filmmakers’ objectivity and decision-making.

At the end of the day, Manny is a film that’s more hagiography than documentary. It feels like it has been made by the same people who follow Pacquiao around all day telling him how great he is (they’re what netizens described as “Pactards”). Pacquiao is an interesting, charismatic sportsman who deserves a better biography than what he got here, and this was never more apparent when listening him spew out the awkward lines they wrote for him at the end of the movie.

Having said all that, Manny remains in a position to succeed because of Pacquiao’s immense popularity and fortunate timing — as the long-awaited showdown between him and Mayweather appears to be  getting somewhere at last. Maybe after they finally do fight each other someone else can make a more compelling documentary that can do Manny Pacquaio justice.

2 stars out of 5

Not again! Pacquiao-Marquez IV set for December 8

September 16, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

It’s decisions like these that make it so hard for me to keep following boxing. Manny Pacquiao, fresh off his ludicrous decision loss to Timothy Bradley, has decided to fight Mexican great Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time. The bout is scheduled for December 8 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and everyone involved will make lots of money.

In fact, it appears money was the driving factor for this bout. Floyd Mayweather Jr, the guy who represents the most dough, just got out of prison and has shown no interest in fighting this year, so the bout everyone wants to see is still out of the question. (And let’s face it, even if all the stars were aligned these two would probably still refuse to fight.)

Consequently, Pacquiao was presented with three options, all three of whom he has fought before. The apparent order of interest from Pacquiao was as follows:

1. Miguel Cotto, who refused to come down in weight and chose to fight Austin Trout in New York instead. Pacquiao dominated and knocked out Cotto in a catchweight fight in 2009 that was actually closer in the first few rounds than most people remember. It was also financially lucrative, with Pacquaio getting a reported $22 million to Cotto’s $12 million.

2. Juan Manuel Marquez, who has fought Pacquiao three times, with Pacquiao leading 2-0-1 (the two wins were a split and majority decision). Many people continue to insist that Marquez won all three. The last time they fought was in November last year, with Pacquiao escaping with a majority decision and Marquez storming off in disgust.

3. Timothy Bradley, who outpointed Pacquiao in a June fight Pacquiao clearly dominated, and even sparking a post-bout review into the iffy decision. Bradley continues to be thought of as a minor draw despite the victory.

Is this picture wrong to you? Shouldn’t the order of preference be the other way around? Shouldn’t Pacquiao be furious with the Bradley decision and want an immediate rematch so he could knock him out, regardless of how much money he would be making? And if Bradley’s not available, shouldn’t Marquez be more enticing than Cotto considering many people think Pacquiao lost to him three times already? And what’s the point of fighting Cotto again when he’s already knocked him out convincingly? And if you really wanted to fight him that bad, then why not fight at the higher weight rather than forcing Cotto to drop down in weight again?

As a Pacquiao fan for many years, this is a massively disappointing piece of news. I’m disappointed in him, personally. I’m sure even some of his most fervent fans feel the same.

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s long-time trainer, made his objections known — he wanted Bradley. “Manny knew I would prefer Bradley,” he said. “I think the money was a huge factor. Bradley doesn’t bring the people Marquez does. But I would have rather had revenge for that bad decision in June.”

Roach also knows fighting Marquez for a fourth time represented an enormous risk because of the controversy surrounding their last bout. Chances are Pacquaio would start off down three rounds on the scorecards as the judges might feel like they need to right a past wrong, he said.

I agree. From a quality perspective, Pacquiao-Marquez IV is obviously higher than Pacquiao-Bradley II, but it’s a stupid move from a career perspective for Pacquiao. With dwindling skills and a political career to look after, he doesn’t have that many fights left. That loss to Bradley didn’t harm his career that much because everyone knew he won. But a legitimate loss to Marquez, which is highly likely by the way, will kill just about all interest in the Mayweather fight. Moreover, it will be an affirmation for the many people that believed Pacquiao has never been as good as Marquez and should have lost all four bouts.

Of course, nothing is a surprise anymore with Bob Arum running the show and whispering in Pacquiao’s ear. Arum is scum who only cares about how much money Pacquiao can make him and keep making him. We’ve all tried to rationalise some of Pacquiao’s questionable opponents in the past, but it’s gotten to a point where everything looks like an excuse now. There’s no excuse for this one. If he wanted to settle the score with Marquez, there is no reason why it couldn’t have come after avenging the loss to Bradley, or even after setting up the Mayweather fight (win or lose).

I have a feeling a few years from now, we’ll be looking back at Pacquiao’s career (and Mayweather’s, for that matter) and be saying, “He was so good, but it’s such a shame he tarnished his legacy with such stupid career choices.”

Desert Robbery: Tim Bradley shocks Manny Pacquiao in controversial decision

June 10, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

I told you it was gonna be a weird fight. Everything about it felt a little “off”, from Manny Pacquiao’s religious awakening, his well-publicized calf problems and the drama with conditioning coach Trevor Ariza to him weighing a career-high 147 points. From those predicting a Timothy Bradley upset (including himself, with a mock Bradley-Pacquiao II poster and ticket) to the delay over the Heat-Celtics game 7 and Pacquiao’s bizarre stalling just prior to the bout (warming up his calves on a treadmill). The night just had a surreal feel to it.

And those concerns were proven right. Despite dominating the fight – and when I say “dominate” I mean it in every sense of the word – Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao somehow lost a split decision to Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley at the MGM tonight. Inexplicable. 115-113 three times, twice to the winner.

This was not a “close fight that could have gone either way”, like the first two fights between Pacquiao and his arch rival and Mexican great Juan Manuel Marquez. It was not a “close fight that one guy ought to have won”, like what some have said about Pacquiao-Marquez III (with Marquez being the rightful victor). It wasn’t even a case of one guy taking his foot off the pedal with the fight seemingly in hand, only to allow the other guy to sneak home a victory, ala Oscar de la Hoya vs Felix Trinidad. This was, frankly, a flat out robbery, the worst of its kind.

Not one of the experts covering the fight gave the bout to Bradley. In fact, I can’t see a single scorecard (apart from the three official ones), that gave Bradley more than four rounds (which would mean a 116-112 Pacquiao decision). Many gave Bradley ONE round, which made it a 119-109 virtual shutout. Personally, I had it 118-110 after giving Bradley two rounds, and one of those might have been a pity round. Put it this way: even Bradley’s own manager reportedly had it 8-4 in Pacquiao’s favour. Heck, even Floyd Mayweather’s dad, Floyd Sr, said Pacquiao won and there was clearly “a gap” between the two fighters.

Whichever way you look at it, this has to be one of the most outrageous decisions in boxing history, and one that is almost certainly dirty. Even the worst incompetence could not have produced this kind of result.

Bradley was the busier fighter of the two, but Pacquiao was by far the more effective. It’s hard to remember a single clean punch from Bradley, and certainly not one that troubled Pacquiao. On the other hand, Pacquiao landed several crisp shots throughout the fight (though to be fair, most of them early on), and some of them forcing Bradley to bend his knees and wobble back.

CompuBox stats are said to be misleading, but not when they are this wide. Pacquiao landed 253 punches at 34% to Bradley’s 159 at 19%. He landed 63 jabs to Bradley’s 51. He landed 190 power punches at 38.5% to Bradley’s 108 at 27.7%. And he landed more punches than Bradley in 10 of the 12 rounds.

There will now be a rematch in November as per the option clause in the contract. Is anyone else suspicious? Bob Arum, the promoter for both men and very possibly Satan in disguise, acted outraged by the decision. Apparently, he had it 10-2 in Pacquiao’s favour. He added, before the decision was announced, that Bradley told him, “I tried hard and I couldn’t beat the guy.”

Interestingly, Arum also  said, “I have both guys, and I’ll make a lot of money in the rematch, but it’s ridiculous.” Mmm…does anyone smell fish? The popular conspiracy theory making the rounds on the internet now is that Arum rigged the fight to make more money from the rematch, and so that Pacquiao could continue delaying his fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr – maybe even kill any possibility of the megabout happening altogether. Another theory is that Pacquiao’s contract with Arum’s Top Rank is nearing its expiration date and his cash cow has not signed an extension, suggesting he might jump ship to rival promoter Golden Boy. (For those of you who don’t remember, Pacquiao stirred up controversy last time when he allegedly signed with both promoters, only to have a judge later rule that he belonged to Top Rank, with Golden Boy taking a small percentage of earnings.) Could this be Arum’s way of trying to hold on to Pacquiao for a little longer or to punish him for not signing an extension?

Some might say it is karma for Pacquiao’s decision over Marquez in their third fight, but at least that fight was close. This was just another black eye on the already-battered sport of boxing.

Excuses running out for Mayweather-Pacquiao

January 13, 2012 in Boxing, Sport

The latest Ring Magazine cover featuring Mayweather and Pacquiao

The Mega-fight that may never happen

The biggest boxing match of all-time between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao has been (or not been) in the making for almost three years, ever since Pacquiao defeated Ricky Hatton in May of 2009.

But of course, there has always been something in the way.  First it was a dispute over Olympic-style blood testing not required by the sanctioning bodies.  Then it was Floyd Mayweather Jr wanting to take a break.  Then there were the negotiations that supposedly took place but supposedly didn’t.  Then it was the defamation case against Mayweather for alleging Pacquiao used/uses performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).  Then it was the legal troubles of Roger Mayweather, Floyd’s uncle and trainer.  Then it was Mayweather going to jail for assaulting his ex-girlfriend.  There was always some crap in the way, and after a while, it all smelled the same.

[If you want a headache, check out Fighthype’s negotiation timeline of Mayweather-Pacquiao: Part I; Part II]

New developments

Just when it looked like the most lucrative fight ever would never take place because of greed, egotism, selfishness and (for lack of a better term) cowardice on both sides, there was an unexpected twist.  A Las Vegas judge agreed to delay Mayweather’s short 90-day jail sentence to 1 June 2012, allowing Mayweather to commit to his pre-scheduled 5 May 2012 fight date at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Interestingly, Mayweather’s camp initially announced the 5 May 2012 fight date on 2 November 2011, less than a week after Pacquiao’s promoter,  Bob Arum of Top Rank, claimed that the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight would “never, ever”  happen because of Mayweather.  At the time Mayweather announced the date, they were without an opponent (a strange thing in itself), but they did proclaim that they were after the biggest fight possible, and that was with “the little fella”.  It could not have been more clear that they were finally and officially calling out Pacquiao, who was coming off an unimpressive victory over Shane Mosley and was about to head into his third war with Juan Manuel Marquez 10 days later .

After Pacquiao narrowly escaped with a controversial majority decision win against Marquez on 12 November 2011 (which many thought he lost), the stage was set for the two to finally make the fight happen. But then Mayweather was sentenced to jail (6 months, 3 months suspended), essentially derailing the fight once again.

A follow-up to Mayweather's challenge tweet

Arum ducking and dodging

Following the handing down of Mayweather’s sentence on 21 December 2011, Bob Arum declared that he was going to the Philippines to present to Pacquiao four options for his next fight, none of which included Mayweather because he was going to be unavailable.  The options were: Miguel Cotto, whom Pacquiao had already knocked out, Juan Manuel Marquez, whom Pacquiao had already fought three times, and Lamont Peterson and Timothy Bradley, two young but relatively unknown opponents.

None of the four were even remotely as appealing as a Mayweather bout, but Arum enjoyed using Mayweather’s jail sentence to justify that he had no other alternative.  More importantly for the greedy 80-year-old, it meant he could milk his cash cow Pacquiao for longer, as a loss to Mayweather would clearly diminish Pacquiao’s value or even send him into permanent retirement.

What Arum didn’t expect was the judge to delay the sentence and allow Mayweather to fight on 5 May 2012, and for Mayweather to then expressly call out Pacquiao on Twitter.

“Manny Pacquiao I’m calling you out let’s fight May 5th and give the world what they want to see,” Mayweather tweeted, followed by, “My Jail Sentence was pushed back because the date was locked in.  Step up Punk.”

The temporary reprieve for Mayweather must have caught Arum off-guard, because he was obviously flustered and began contradicting himself as to why Pacquiao could not fight Mayweather on May 5.  When Mayweather became unavailable, Arum was happy to suggest 5 May 2012 (which is Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo) as a possible fight date for Pacquiao’s next fight, especially if was going to be a fourth bout with the Mexican Marquez.  When Mayweather suddenly became available, May 5 was suddenly “out of the question.”

“June 9 is perfect,” Arum told The Times from The Philippines. “May 5 is out, that’s impossible.”

To make the excuse less pathetic, Arum said he would be willing to chip in for lawyer fees to try and postpone Mayweather’s jail sentence until after 9 June 2012, but everyone could see through it.

Other lame justifications Arum proffered included the cut Pacquiao suffered against Marquez (even though it would be completely healed by May) and the fact that Mayweather would need to be re-licensed to fight again in Nevada (even though there is ZERO chance of that not happening).

Arum basically shot the whole thing down: “We’re fighting in June, one of the four guys,” he said to ESPN.  “My mission is to go over to the Philippines and talk about these four guys. If Manny feels he wants to go in May, he will tell me. I want to make sure Manny’s cuts are healed. We won’t fall under this kind of pressure. June is much more likely for Manny’s fight, not May.”

When pressure persisted, Arum came up with alternative “reasons” for why 5 May would not work.  This time, it was because the date made no “economic sense”.  According to Arum and Pacquiao advisor Michael Koncz, the MGM Grand’s 17,000-seat capacity was too small and that they ought to wait until a 45,000-seat outdoor stadium in Vegas is completed in late May to host the fight.  This larger arena would fetch an estimated additional $30 million.

For whatever reason, reports later surfaced that Arum was no longer pushing the new arena “reason” and was willing to stage the fight at the MGM Grand, but he still wanted a date in late May as opposed to Mayweather’s scheduled May 5 date.

He also added a new potential excuse: Mayweather will need someone to guarantee his fight purse (as Golden Boy Promotions isn’t going to do it), something which he will do for Pacquiao.  It’s not really something he needs to be concerned with as this will need to be worked out from Mayweather’s side.

Manny Pacquiao speaks out

Manny Pacquiao, for his part, has received a lot of flak from critics and fans alike for “hiding behind his promoter”.  In the past, Pacquiao simply said that he left the matchmaking up to his promoter (Arum), and that it was his job to fight whoever they put in front of him.  That stance is no longer working, because at the end of the day, Arum works for Pacquiao, and if Pacquiao wants to fight Mayweather, all he has to do is tell Arum to make it happen no matter what.

Initially, Pacquiao’s camp was defiant, posting this statement on the Examiner.com: “We don’t take MAYWEATHER’S tweet seriously, and are always ready to fight the undefeated AMERICAN anytime. Sign the contract, sign a statement. If you really want the fight, we say yes.”

Later, perhaps due to mounting pressure, Pacquaio has become more vocal, telling Filipino news outlets that Mayweather is definitely the one he wants.  “I’ve said this over and over before and I’m saying this again, I want Floyd Mayweather Jr to be my next opponent and I haven’t changed my choice despite recent developments,” he said to PhilBoxing. “I am meeting with my promoter, Bob Arum on Tuesday and I will insist that the fight with Mayweather be given the preference than the four others in the list I will fight next.”

Pacquiao also added: “I will abide by his [Mayweather’s] demand for drug testing. I am even agreeable to get lesser purse just so the fight would push through. In other words, as far as my side is concerned, there will be no problem.”

Perhaps Pacquiao spoke too soon, because shortly after he backed off the “lesser purse” comment.  In a later interview with ABS-CBN news, Pacquiao said: “To all my fans, we are still waiting for Mayweather to say ‘yes’ to a 50 percent split of the revenue and the fight is on.  He should be the one to say ‘yes’ because he has so many representatives. If he accepts it, he will make $50-60 million.”

However, it was also reported that if Mayweather does NOT accept a 50-50 split, then the fight will not pull through and Pacquiao will fight one of the four pre-named opponents.

So now we wait for Mayweather to respond, though given the history of this debacle, a number of other “issues” could potentially pop up at any minute and derail the whole thing again.  But one thing is clear: both the Mayweather and Pacquiao camps are running out of excuses to make the fight happen, and if the fight is not made by the end of 2012 (some would say May), both men’s legacies will be tarnished forever.

Thoughts

If what Pacquiao says is to be believed, the only thing holding up the fight is Mayweather agreeing to a 50-50 split, something he is bound to do regardless of whether he believes he is entitled to the lion’s share.  After calling out Pacquiao in such a public fashion, there is simply no way that Mayweather can allow the fight to fall, certainly not for something like the purse split.  Everyone has always assumed the split will be 50-50, and suggestions of anything else will be met with the condemnation of the whole boxing world.

Sadly, reality is much murkier.  Pacquiao makes no mention of the bigger issue, the date.  There is a real possibility that something as silly as the date of the fight will stop it from happening this time (after all, all other excuses have been exhausted).  The crux of the matter appears to be whether Mayweather can genuinely get out of his 5 May 2012 commitment.

First of all, we know there is no real reason why Arum cannot accept a 5 May 2012 date.  Sure, a later date and a bigger venue might make more money, but if it comes down to it, the fight is going to be the biggest fight of all time no matter where it is held.  Earning say $50 million instead of $70 million is better than not earning anything at all.  If Mayweather can legitimately prove that he cannot budge from the May 5 date for contractual or court-stipulated reasons, then Pacquiao and Arum will become the “duckers”.

On the other hand, there is not enough information out there about the flexibility of Mayweather’s arrangements with the MGM Grand.  Is he contractually locked in to 5 May 2012?  What will happen if he doesn’t fight on that date?  If they were just “holding” the seats for him and it’s not really that hard to get out of it, and with jail not commencing until 1 June 2012, there is no real excuse for Mayweather not to agree to a later date either.

News outlets outside the US appear to be siding with Pacquiao, saying that he has “called Mayweather’s bluff”, but if you ask me, both sides are trying to test each other.  Both sides want to be the one left standing at the end, the one that can say, “I told you, he was the one ducking ME!”

Both sides to blame

The truth is, this fight could have been made back in 2010, after Mayweather defeated Juan Manuel Marquez and after and Pacquiao dismantled Miguel Cotto, when both men were at their peaks.  Even if they do fight in 2012, Mayweather will be 35 and Pacquiao 33, and it’s arguable that the best years of both men are now behind them.

Now disgruntled fans have become sick and tired of all the posturing and mind games and criss-crossing accusations from these two very wealthy athletes and all the false hope and broken promises they have delivered over the past few years.

Initially, the fans were split.  Probably more blamed Mayweather for the fight not happening the first couple of times, but some also blamed Pacquiao for not accepting the blood testing protocols.  Then the tide shifted, and while Pacquiao still has his loyal supporters, the blame has gradually but surely shifted to him and Bob Arum.  Arum’s latest excuses has only worsened the situation for the Filipino superstar, who is already going to be fighting off PED accusations for the rest of his life, thanks to baseless accusations of the Mayweathers, of course.  More recently, a large contingent of fans in the middle has emerged, fans who see both of them as co-conspirators in this tiring charade.

Despite the passionate rantings of supporters from both sides, the objective truth is the both camps are to blame.  It comes down to two egotistical sides who want to make the other side look bad and their life difficult simply because they hate each other and simply because they can.

The first time around, the fight fell through because Pacquiao refused be submitted to Olympic-style random blood testing up to the day of the fight.  Mayweather deserves blame for making up his own rules by insisting on testing not required by the sanctioning bodies.  Whether or not random blood testing SHOULD be introduced in boxing (of course it should be), it is not Mayweather’s job to force it upon others and it’s not something Pacquiao ought to be forced to accept.  If Mayweather did not make such demands, the fight would have happened already.  What the demands did do, however, was plant seeds of doubt about Pacquiao, which has slowly but surely grown into an army of people who are, despite not having a shred of evidence, utterly convinced that “Pacroid” either used or still uses PEDs.

Conversely, Pacquiao also deserves blame for refusing Mayweather’s demands.  As many have pointed out, why refuse if you have nothing to hide?  Why turn down a potential $50 million pay day because of a few needles, needles Mayweather would also be subjected to?  For whatever reason, whether it’s superstition or because Pacquiao believes it “weakens” him, he turned it down, and for that, he must bear some of the blame, and he must also accept the backlash and rumours that have accompanied it.

On the whole, the blood-testing issue was arguably more Mayweather’s fault and reflected an unwillingness to seriously put his undefeated record on the line — at that time.  Many people have forgotten that Mayweather implemented a “sliding” cut-off date in negotiations.  Mayweather initially wanted a 14-day cut-off for random testing while Pacquiao wanted 30, though he was later willing to drop that down to 24 days as some pointed out that he had blood drawn 24 days out from a previous fight.  By the time Pacquiao agreed to 14 days (this was around the second fallout), Mayweather had begun to insist on random testing up to the day of the fight.  If 14 days was good enough before, why not the second time around, especially it would have essentially ruled out any PED usage anyway?  Seriously, what can one hope to achieve with 14 days of PED usage that would not be detected in post-fight tests?

Of course, when Mayweather decided to embark on one of his famous “vacations” when the time was ripe for negotiations, that would also be his fault.  He is obviously entitled to take time off when he wants, but when the whole world wants to see the fight, it’s certainly a curious decision, one that does not help his “ducker” status.

There was also that whole bizarre debacle when Arum stated that he had been negotiating with Mayweather advisor Al Haymon through HBO’s Ross Greenburg, while fellow Mayweather advisor Leonard Ellerbe refuted that any negotiations took place at all.  Greenburg eventually backed Arum, but given Arum’s history of lies and the dispute over what actually constituted a “negotiation”, it was safe to say that even if “negotiations” took place, they didn’t get very far at all.

At the time, it was easy to label Mayweather as “running scared”.  After all, Pacquiao had demolished in superior fashion former Mayweather foes such as Oscar de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton, and was coming off an impressive victory over Miguel Cotto, a guy some say Mayweather also “ducked.”  Mayweather faithfuls clung on to Mayweather’s right to a break and not be pressured into a fight when he isn’t ready, the opinion that Pacquiao was feasting on Mayweather “leftovers”, and the always useful “take the test” line to shift the blame back to Pacquiao.

Shifting blame

It’s difficult to recall when the momentum shifted in Mayweather’s favour, but there is no doubt that it did.  Perhaps it started with Pacquiao’s decision to fight and his lacklustre win over a seriously declined Shane Mosley on 7 May 2011, another Mayweather “leftover”. Remember, Mosley was thoroughly outclassed by Mayweather a year before that, and had shown nothing in a stinker of a draw against Sergio Mora.  No one wanted Pacquiao to face Mosley and yet he did, over better alternatives in Marquez and Andre Berto.  Pacquiao copped flak for the decision and deservedly so.

Not long after Pacquiao announced his next fight against Marquez, Mayweather made a comeback statement: he was going to take on young lion Victor Ortiz.  Many people applauded the decision — Ortiz was a dangerous opponent, young and strong and a southpaw, meaning he could be viewed upon as a Pacquiao tune-up.  At the time, Ortiz was certainly considered a more dangerous opponent than either Mosley or Marquez.

And then, Mayweather dominated and KO’ed Ortiz, while Pacquiao put in another disappointing performance against Marquez, an opponent most thought he would steam-roll the third time around as catch-weight welterweights.  The fact that Pacquiao got a majority decision when many thought he lost only added more fuel to the Pacquiao hate-wagon.  The defiant “Pactards”, who defend Pacquiao no matter how unreasonably, only made things worse for the Filipino congressman’s reputation.

Pacquiao had been at the top for too long and people were starting to wonder whether he still deserved it.  While Mayweather was tackling dangerous foes, Pacquiao was still allowing greedy Arum to dictate his every move and forcing the public to endure his crappy fights against unworthy opponents.  It is no wonder why several news organisations replaced Pacquiao with Mayweather as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, a position Pacquiao had held ever since his impressive victory over De la Hoya.

Coupled with the latest developments, where Mayweather has called out Pacquiao and Arum has responded with some unconvincing and transparent “excuses”, it ‘s easy to see why Pacquiao has switched places with Mayweather as the person to blame for the fight not happening.

Nevertheless, just as it was harsh to put all the blame on Mayweather at the beginning, it’s not quite right to say it’s all Pacquiao’s fault this time.  Mayweather did, after all, lock in a date and place before even speaking to Pacquiao’s camp.  It’s the biggest fight of all time and Mayweather isn’t exactly allowing much room for negotiation.  If Mayweather was entitled to “take a break” to avoid the fight for no good reason, why can’t Pacquiao refuse Mayweather’s arbitrary date?  Why can Mayweather make his own rules all the time and why does Pacquiao have to accept them?

Then again, this harks back to the previous failed negotiations just before the Pacquiao-Margarito fight, when the two sides were reportedly close to agreeing to a deal, only to have everything fall apart at the last minute.  That time, Arum was the one making the ultimatums and forcing Mayweather to “take it or leave it”.  If Arum can do that, then why can’t Mayweather?

But like it or not, the bigger share of the fault WILL lie with Pacquiao this time if the fight falls through.  For years they have been saying that Mayweather doesn’t really want the fight.  Well, Mayweather has made it crystal clear that he not only wants the fight, he wants it to be his NEXT fight.  He even has a date and venue locked it.  Sure, Pacquiao and Arum can come up with all the excuses in the world why May 5 or the MGM Grand is not a good time or place, but unless they can come up with a legitimate reason to shift the burden back on Mayweather, no one will forgive them if the fight doesn’t happen.  And they know it.  May 5 or late May — either way, it’s got to happen.

The waiting game

Notwithstanding all of the above, the fight can still very well be made for May 2012.  This is the closest they’ve been, and all that’s required is for Mayweather to agree to 50/50 and late May, or Arum and Pacquiao to agree to May 5.

Pacquiao will likely go in as the underdog in this fight, and there is a good chance he will be outclassed (or “exposed”, as some Mayweather fans like to say), but it’s better to see him take the beating of a lifetime than to not step into the ring with Mayweather at all.  If he truly fights for the fans like he says, then he’s got to make the sacrifices necessary to make the fight happen.

The same can be said for Mayweather.  While he will be the favourite (as he always is), there is still a sizeable risk of losing, but having an “L” on his record against Pacquiao will do far more for his legacy than to retire undefeated but with that big question mark hanging over it.

And so we wait.

Pacquiao-Marquez III Locked In For November!

May 19, 2011 in Boxing, Sport

Promo pic taken for Pacquiao-Marquez II back in 2008

That was a surprise.  Just a couple of weeks after Manny Pacquiao thoroughly dismantled a pathetically timid Shane Mosley, Pacquiao’s promoter, Top Rank’s Bob Arum has announced that a deal has been reached with Mexican warrior Juan Manuel Marquez to take on Pacquiao on 12 November 2011, most likely at the MGM in Las Vegas.  All Pacquiao has to do is sign, and it assumed that he will.

With Floyd Mayweather Jr now looking more and more unlikely to never fight again, the Marquez fight was the one that most wanted Pacquiao to take instead of Mosley (Andre Berto, who has since lost, was the third alternative).  It made sense, considering Marquez was the last guy to give Pacquiao any real trouble in the ring.  In their two previous wars (May 2004 and March 2008), Marquez came away with a draw and a split decision loss despite being knocked down four times in the two bouts, though many ringsiders and boxing analysts believe Marquez won both fights.

However, Arum coaxed Pacquiao into accepting the easier and probably more lucrative option in the ageing legend Mosley, and Marquez was left to wait on the sidelines.  That said, even before the Mosley fight, there were rumours that Arum had made an offer to Marquez for Pacquiao’s next fight — rumours that turned out to be true.

Terms of the fight

The bout, scheduled for 12 November 2011 (probably at the MGM), will be for Pacquiao’s welterweight title, but it will be a catch weight bout at 144 pounds.

Marquez, idle since a November 2010 KO of Michael Katsidis, will take an interim fight on 2 July 2011 against David Diaz, the man Pacquiao beat the crap out of just before the De la Hoya fight.  Of course, if Marquez loses, the Pacquiao fight will be off.

Marquez gave Pacquiao all he could handle in their first two fights

Under the terms, Marquez will get a guaranteed $5 million for the bout, a percentage of PPV earnings over a certain amount, and a $10 guarantee for a rematch in the event Marquez wins.

Marquez’s own production company will promote the bout.  His promotional contract with De la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions expired earlier this year, even though Golden Boy had the right to match any offer given to Marquez.  Golden Boy declined to match Arum’s offer.

Seems to me Arum has planned all of this pretty well in sticking it to Golden Boy.  Arum and Golden Boy have had a horrible history, most of it stemming from the rights to promote Pacquiao, which Arum won and now controls.

Arum has been quite ruthless in keeping Pacquiao money away from Golden Boy since the Ricky Hatton fight.  Cotto and Margarito are both from Top Rank’s stable, and Clottey was not a Golden Boy fighter.  Shane Mosley used to be a part owner of Golden Boy, but gave it up to take on Pacquiao.  Now Marquez, a former Golden Boy man, will also go into the fight with nothing to do with them.

Early pre-fight analysis

Very interesting match up, at least on paper.  There are those out there who think Marquez will win this time because he appears to have ‘figured out’ Pacquiao’s style.

Pacquiao advisor Michael Koncz said: ‘It’s the same old story — styles make fights, and, for some reason, I believe if we fight Marquez 10 times, we will have controversy 10 times because he’s figured something out about Manny that no other fighter can do.  We’ve had him down three times [sic — it was four], but he’s able to adapt and adjust. I think it will be a very close fight again if we decide to pick that fight.’

Pacquiao’s long-time trainer Freddie Roach said: ‘I’m a little bit scared of that fight.  I think Marquez might have our number.  He can do well with certain styles and he seems to do well with our style.  I think we’re bigger and better now, but that’s my good solution, that we’re bigger and better now.’

Having said all of that, Roach finished with: ‘I actually want this fight.  I love this fight.  I would love to shut them up.’

Pacquiao is 1-0-1 against Marquez

To be frank, notwithstanding all the supposed success Marquez has had with Pacquiao in the past (albeit being 0-1-1 on paper), I think this third time around will be a mismatch.  You can’t discount Marquez’s skills and heart, but my early instinct tells me Pacquiao could be the first to knock him out.

For me, the two biggest factors for this fight are: (1) it will be at 144 pounds; and (2) Pacquiao is a different fighter now to the one from 2005 and 2008.

The 144 pound catch weight is significant.  Pacquiao’s weight for his last few bouts have been: 145 (Mosley), 144.6 (Margarito), 145.75 (Clottey), 144 (Cotto).  In each of these fights Pacquiao apparently had to take extra meals to boost up his weight.  The last time Pacquiao fought below 140 was when he came in at 138 against Hatton for a junior welterweight fight.

On the other hand, Marquez’s weight for his last few fights: 134 (Katsidis), 133.5 (Diaz II), 142 (Mayweather), 134.25 (Diaz I), 135 (Casamayor).

What is telling about these weights is that Pacquiao has looked absolutely sensational at around 144, and if the extra meal before weigh-in reports are true, then 144 would be a perfect weight for Pacquiao to fight at.

On the other hand, with the exception of the Mayweather bout, Marquez came in at 135 or below for each of his last five bouts.  In the Mayweather fight, which Marquez lost in convincing fashion, he looked slow and flabby around the middle at just 142 pounds. (Marquez apparently had to drink his own urine just to get up to 142!)

The 144 catch weight is optimal for Pacquiao, and from the only instance we’ve seen, not very good for Marquez.  This is not necessarily fair, but Pacquiao is the big name here and should hold all the cards and the advantages.  That’s just the way it is.

This brings me to my second point: Pacquiao is a different fighter to the one that struggled against Marquez in 2005 and 2008.  Manny Pacquiao didn’t really become the Manny Pacquiao he is known as today until he made the jump to 140+ pounds.

Not only has he maintained his trademark speed from the lower weight classes (and arguably he has been even faster), Pacquiao now punches harder than he has ever punched, including enough power to KO Hatton with one punch, seriously hurt Cotto with another, and break Margarito’s orbital bone with a third.  Pacquiao has also become a more disciplined and more versatile than before, with an apparently steadier chin and a fortified defense.  Whereas before he was more of a reckless brawler (see video below), he is now technically sounder and knows how to follow Freddie Roach’s game plans to perfection.  Whereas before he was more of a one-handed fighter (with the left), he has now developed into a two-fisted punching machine.  Whereas before he was more of a predictable one-two puncher, he is now an unpredictable combo throwing machine that launches power shots from unorthodox angles.

The two fights against Marquez were 3 and 6 years ago, and were at 126 pounds (featherweight) and 130 pounds (super featherweight or junior lightweight).  Pacquiao will be a month shy of his 33rd birthday by the time the fight rolls around, whereas Marquez would have passed his 38th birthday.  Don’t forget Shane Mosley, who clearly slowed down a heap against Pacquiao, was 39 when he stepped into the ring a couple of weeks ago.

Besides, the two fights with Marquez were close fights, not outright robberies as some claim.  They were fights either fighter could have won, which is why they were controversial decisions.  And remember, one judge erroneously scored the first round 10-7 for Pacquiao instead of 10-6 (which is what should have been the score for a triple knockdown round), meaning that on paper, Pacquiao really should be 2-0 instead of 1-0-1 against Marquez.

If the two fights were close at 125 and 130 and when both fighters were 3 and 6 years younger, will they still be close now, at 144 pounds, and at the ages of 33 and 38?

Stylistically, Marquez could still pose problems for Pacquiao, but everything else points to a brutal beating.  If Pacquiao could take heavy blows from the likes of Cotto and Margarito on the chin, will Marquez’s punches still hurt him like they did before?  If Pacquiao’s punches could cause so much damage to De la Hoya, Hatton, Cotto and Margarito, would Marquez be able to take them like he did before?

Time will tell.