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Pacquiao needs a different focus

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I know that many people have been doing some Monday morning quarterbacking on the lackluster victory of Manny Pacquiao over Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez. But I’ve been doing this for many years, and it’s not the time to stop now.

There is no doubt in my mind that Pacquiao won the fight, although not as convincingly as he had promised and as what people had expected him to after clobbering much bigger and much younger opponents in the past several years.

I did some round-by-round scoring on my own, having covered many world boxing championship bouts in the past, including a few of Pacquiao’s fights in Las Vegas, and I had Pacquiao leading by just one round going into the final round, which I gave to Manny.

But it was close, definitely close. I don’t blame the referee who gave an even score for both Manny and Marquez. In some rounds, Manny won the round only because he was more aggressive and landed one or two more punches than the tough Mexican.

I was watching Manny from the time he fist entered the arena, and I could see that he was not acting like the confident champion that we had seen in all his previous fights. Before, he was always smiling and waving to the crowd. And there was fire in his eyes.

The fire was missing when he released his first jab, and wasn’t there throughout the fight. He looked tentative in his every move, every step and every punch. It seemed his thought was not 100-percent in the fight. We probably won’t know the reason, but we can venture our own guess.

Some suggest it’s probably time for Pacquiao to retire. They say he is not the same Manny anymore who batters his opponents to submission, and that it would be better for him to quit now while he is ahead.

I don’t think Manny has lost his punching power and skills. You don’t lose such ability in just six months of not fighting. And during Saturday’s fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, it was clear that he still had the ability to connect solid punches, although we can see that unlike before when they came in bunches, Pacquiao would throw a few and then retreat back at once.

Neither has Manny lost his desire to win and beat up his opponents. In fact, he was emphatic about punishing Marquez for his disrespect and for claiming that he was robbed in the first two fights. Even trainer Freddie Roach said he hadn’t seen Pacquiao more conditioned and more determined to win than he has ever been. Manny trained very hard for this fight, in fact the hardest he probably had ever trained. Roach and his conditioning coach Alex Ariza attested to this.

So what’s with Pacquiao? Why didn’t he box like he did in his previous fights? Why did he seem content with just winning points? Why didn’t he even try to go for the knockout?

I’m sure Manny wasn’t happy with his own performance. Just as in his first two fights with Marquez, he didn’t seem confident of winning after the last bell. In all his other fights, he would raise his fist in jubilation and go straight to his corner to pray. This time, he seemed fazed, and took a few minutes before going to his corner for the usual after-fight prayers.

My guess is that something was distracting Manny’s mind that day, because he didn’t look focused for the fight. The thought brought me back to an article by Inquirer sports columnist Beth Celis who mentioned a report by Chito Trinidad of GMA News from Las Vegas that on Friday, the day before the fight, Manny and Jinkee had a serious fight of their own inside their hotel room. Cell phones were reportedly thrown. Later, Manny also had a fight with Ariza, and he was described as “very angry.” Ariza was reportedly only telling Pacquiao to go to bed and sleep because he had a fight the next day. Something was obviously troubling Manny and Ariza just caught his ire.

For almost a month now, rumors have been swirling about Manny having allegedly fathered a child with a young culinary art student. He even acted as godparent for the child during baptism, photos of which were published by a tabloid. Jinkee tried to evade questions about the rumors, saying that it would distract Manny’s focus on the coming fight.

When Jinkee arrived in Los Angeles, she refused to answer questions, and was rarely seen talking with Manny when they were together, according to some reports.

Let’s hope there was no truth to the rumors and that Manny and Jinkee would patch whatever differences they have. Otherwise, Manny might as well retire from boxing.

Remember what happened to Tiger Woods after his spat with his wife and after their divorce? Although almost unbeatable before the incident, Tiger suddenly couldn’t win a tournament, nor score a decent finish in the tournaments he played in. From the top of the world rankings, he fell below 100.

Manny shouldn’t even think of a fourth match with Marquez, more so of fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr. if he can’t resolve his personal problems. If he can’t focus on his fights, it may be a good time to think of retiring and focusing on his family instead.

By Val G. Abelgas




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