(Editor’s note: Yahoo! PH Sports looks back at the year that was with a series of blogs recalling the highlights and lowlights of Philippine sports.)
BAGUIO CITY—It’s always great to return to your roots to reflect on the year that was and to gear up for the coming salvo of 2013. Here in the City of Pines—where my clan sprouted eons ago—I can sit back and relax while my family plunges into the battlegrounds known as Ukay-Ukay and I enjoy my Mountain Coffee and Biscuits with Butter and Jam at a popular and uncommonly pricey tourist restaurant near Burnham Park, the number above quickly looms as an ominous headliner in a year of mostly triumphs for Philippine sports.
It has never happened before. Two setbacks in a row for the seemingly indestructible People’s Champion Manny Pacquiao is something that is hard to accept for any Filipino, let alone one of Pacman’s biggest fans—myself. The eight-time world titlist is already assured of his place in boxing folklore and his legend as one of the greatest prize-fighters in the history of mankind is definitely set in stone. But 2012 was a year that will go down in infamy for our countrymen as the crowning glory of our sports season, well, is without a crown.
His record is still stellar: 54 wins with 38 victories coming by way of knockout to go with only five losses and two draws. That’s still (percentage-wise) still better than some of those already enshrined in Canastota like Carmen Basilio (56-16-7), Wilfred Benitez (53-8-1), and even the great Floyd Patterson (55-8-1). It’s also not like Manny has never been KOed before. Three of his five defeats came in stoppages: his first loss at hands of Rustico Torrecampo in his 12th professional fight (still his only loss at the hands of a fellow Filipino pugilist), Thailand’s Medgoen Singsurat and the most recent fall against Juan Manuel Marquez. It’s interesting to note that in Pacquiao’s losses to Torrecampo and Singsurat, he did not make weight and was deemed to be out of shape for the bouts—hence the abbreviations. Against Marquez, Manny was in tip top condition—albeit the shortened training camp. So what happened? Let’s get to that later.
On June 9th, Pacquiao staked his WBO Welterweight title against upstart Timothy Bradley; a fight many viewed as a mere formality of a defense. Bradley appeared in the undercard of the Pacquiao-Marquez III tiff and his name cropped up after his sterling performance versus Joel Casamayor. To everyone’s surprise, Bradley engaged Manny in a spirited duel and although the fight looked extremely close throughout the entire duration, nobody expected the verdict of the American youngster taking the decision and blemishing the more than six year winning streak of Pacquiao.
It just floored all analysts. The result was so controversial that the WBO conducted an inquiry into the judges’ scores and commissioned a five-man panel to review the fight. It resulted in a unanimous decision victory for Pacquiao. Yet the official word was not overturned and Bradley still owns the belt but hasn’t defended the title since. So what happened? Let’s take a few more steps backwards…
When Pacquiao and Marquez clashed late last year, notice the demeanor of both fighters as the final bell rang. Marquez had his arms raised in victory and Pacquiao was sheepishly walking over to his corner shaking his head. Pacquiao thought he lost, Marquez believed he had won. When Michael Buffer announced otherwise, a look of relief universally flashed across the faces of the Pacquiao camp—they knew they had dodged a cannonball. But there was something different that night about Manny and the boys. Allegations then surfaced of Pacquiao and wife Jinky having spats days preceding the bout, tension between star conditioning coach Alex Ariza and the other members of the team also added to the mix and distractions left and right for Pacquiao, etc., etc., etc. These indications pointed to something amiss in the chemistry of not only the entire camp, but within the man himself.
Then the bombshell: Manny Pacquiao embraces a renewed faith in Christianity in an attempt to right the wrongs of his fast-paced, edge-living life.
This is supposed to be a good thing for Manny. His marriage is no longer on the rocks, his devotion should give him more strength to face foes with an added ally and the distractions of the past would now be buried in the past.
Yet in his 0-2 run, that conversion was always at the centerpoint of all the debates.
After the loss to Bradley, Pacquiao used it to profess that God was teaching him a lesson in humility. After the loss to Marquez, Pacquiao took a more philosophical route saying “sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.” Many got the sense that the “fight” was no longer in the fighter and that Manny had seemingly lost his touch—after being touched by God.
I am in no position to join the bandwagon on this one. I still think that Manny is one the greatest—if not THE greatest boxer that ever lived. I will not second guess what he says or will I ever suggest to him how to run his affairs. However, it is hard to ignore the evidence left by the 0-2. Is he indeed losing his appetite for boxing? Has his new found faith weakened him as a boxer—although strengthened him as a man? Or is this all blown out of proportion coupled by the fact that a more sensational sidebar is developing now between Mommy Dionisia’s blaming Manny’s conversion and his rebuke of his Rosary and religious images and Jinky’s protecting Manny’s decision and bringing their union out of jeopardy. Also, of how Top Rank head-honcho Bob Arum is said to be continually using Pacquiao to pursue his own interests as a Pay-Per-View magnate. How about Freddie Roach? His wards have had their worst year of his coaching career in 2012.
All these controversies do not sit well with the Filipino people, that’s for sure. Manny has been silent since that December night in Las Vegas. Mommy Dionisia has not. Us so-called sports analysts have been speculating, to no avail. Manny has declared he will re-enter the ring again as every as the second quarter of 2013. Against who remains to be seen. Arum says he expects Manny to lace-up four more times before hanging up the Cleto Reyeses. Whether or not this becomes a reality is still up in the air.
The best part about an impending end to a year is it also brings an air of hope that the year to come carries with it a rebound and an and-one. Manny’s legend is not in danger—at least not yet. He still is the best boxer in the history of the sport—at least in my eyes. Most Filipinos still look up to him as their champion—most. 2013 is a clean slate, and an entire nation and boxing community will be very interested to see how Manny Pacquiao picks up the pieces from his first ever 0-2.
I, for one, am optimistic. Join my bandwagon.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.