“Time management,” Manny Pacquiao would answer every single time he’s asked how he juggles all of his responsibilities. A few years ago, it was not that much of a problem. The boxer-turned-actor and TV host would be late for shoots and appearances but it didn’t matter much. Then he started taking on more serious responsibilities, first as the Congressman of Sarangani, then as a Senator of the Republic of the Philippines.
Time management then started being more of an issue. Then, it was his time he was managing and the time of the companies and TV stations who decided to hire him. Now, it’s ours. As an elected official, Pacquiao works for us. The money he makes as a Senator is paid for by our taxes.
However, with his lifestyle, especially with the people he surrounded himself with, his salary is not nearly enough to cover all his needs and that’s why he still chooses to be a boxer. After earning millions in one of the best runs in boxing history, Pacquiao still needs to fight at the ripe age of 38.
With blood dripping from both the sides of his face in Brisbane against Jeff Horn, time management had a whole new meaning for Pacquiao. In the first few rounds, he allowed Horn to get going. The Australian former Olympian did not do anything particularly well except move forward. But Pacquiao made him look successful as the Filipino fighter sat on the ropes and took punches.
Yes, he’d smile after every Horn barrage which mostly hit Pacquiao’s arms and gloves but the Australian gained confidence and maybe the judges even started believing he belonged in the same ring as the legend.
From the start of the match, Horn knew his job was to make Pacquiao feel uncomfortable. He did his homework. If you take a look back at Pacquiao’s past fights, he had trouble with fighters who pushed the rules to the limit such as Nedal Hussein and Agapito Sanchez. Horn used his elbows and head. He pushed Pacquiao’s head down, had him in headlocks, and even sent him down with a leg sweep.
After two nasty headbutts, Pacquiao’s back was suddenly against the wall. Chances were he was down in the scorecards and a stoppage would lead to a sudden ending via decision, most likely resulting in a loss.
On top of the ring, with the sun beaming from above, Pacquiao decided to strip himself down to the core. He was not the politician, not the legend, not the future Hall-of-Famer. He turned into just another boxer, tasting his own blood, needing to do something to survive. He didn’t fight like a defending champion in front of 50,000 people in Australia. He fought like he was a desperate man fighting in front of 500 people inside the Mandaluyong Gym.
Pacquiao turned back the hands of time in Round 9. For three minutes, it looked like he forgot everything he learned from Freddie Roach and went back to his old one-dimensional self. One-two. One-two. One-two. Nothing else but jabs and straights from boxing’s only eight-division world champion. It felt like a sign. After failing to stop all of his opponents after Miguel Cotto, his Round 9 performance made us want to believe that there is still fire in Pacquiao’s fists.
After the round, the referee even went as far as approaching Horn’s corner, telling them that he’d stop the fight if the Aussie takes any more damage.
In Pacquiao’s corner, Roach told his fighter that another round like that and the fight would be over. The streak of fights without a stoppage will be over. All the doubts that he could continue to fight while being a Senator will be over.
As the bell rang for Round 10, there was anticipation among Filipino fight fans. When Pacquiao smelled blood before, he went for the kill and Horn, who was out of his feet the round before, was ripe for the picking.
And then, almost nothing. A two-punch connection here. A lead left there. That was it. Pacquiao had Horn reeling and he let him survive.
When Michael Buffer announced read the first scorecard, when he said 117, I knew Horn was going to be crowned the new WBO welterweight champion. Judge Waleska Roldan submitted a preposterous scorecard with Pacquiao winning only three rounds in the fight but I could not say I was surprised because something similar already happened before, specifically in Pacquiao’s first fight against Timothy Bradley.
Boxing judges seem to reward Pacquiao’s opponents for surviving against him. If Pacquiao fails to hurt them, even if he had more connections, even if he had the cleaner punches, they’d score the fight for the other guy. I have to admit that I’m guilty too. We were so spoiled during Pacquiao’s heyday that we’re punishing him for not living up to our expectations, for not being the fighter he was before. After all this time, after all he’s given to Philippine boxing and to the sport itself, we still need him to prove himself time and time again.
There’s no denying the fact that Pacquiao has considerably slowed down. Gone are the days of The Pacman throwing 800 punches in a fight. His hands and even his feet have obviously slowed down. Maybe because of the wear and tear of more than two decades of boxing. Maybe it was trying to squeeze in being a fighter with his packed schedule as Senator.
However, he deserved more than a 117-111 card. There’s a case to be made for the 115-113 scores. Maybe the judges gave Horn the rounds where he landed the cleanest punch even if Pacquiao landed more. Maybe they rewarded him for his aggression or for taking Pacquiao’s punches in stride. But 117-111 meant another thing altogether. It meant that for Roldan, Pacquiao had no chance of winning the fight. Maybe it was being in Australia. Maybe it was being in the biggest boxing promotion the country has even seen. Maybe the sun was in the judge’s eye causing the unexplainable. (She scored only the 3rd, 8th, and 9th rounds for Pacquiao. Horn landed all of three punches in Round 11.)
There was enough blame to go around from Filipino fight fans. Most was thrown towards the judges some towards the referee. There were some who stepped over the line and involved Horn’s family.
However, I think we all need to step back and take a look at the bigger picture here. Top Rank Promotions did not take care of Pacquiao. After beating Jessie Vargas for the WBO title last year, all Bob Arum could come up with was a possible fight in the Middle East against Amir Khan and this fight in Australia against Horn.
It left a bitter taste for me as Arum decided to take shots of Pacquiao being a Senator, something he did not have a problem with before instead of blasting the 117-111 scorecard. Calling the match a 7-5 (rounds) fight, is perfectly fine but when your fighter was judged unfairly, as a promoter, it is your job to call it out.
But should we even be surprised at this point? I guess not because Arum will now be co-promoting Horn. Like how he promoted Bradley before. Top Rank will do everything in its power to make sure it will continue to be a profitable business after Pacquiao. And now they’ll parade him all over the world and offer up him like a carnival attraction to every country that’s willing to pay him, and more importantly pay them, for a piece of his legacy. It’s an even better deal when the fighters who get into the ring with Pacquiao will end up making more money in the future for the promotion.
Turns out Pacquiao did not manage his time in boxing too well. He should have cut ties with his promoter when he still had time to shine on his own (I guess, Floyd Mayweather was right about this all along).
For Top Rank, Pacquiao is now like a cigarette almost burnt to its butt. They’ll take their final few puffs before they flick him to the ground and step on him to extinguish his light.