Two years is a long time in boxing. At the end of 2011 Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather were in different places in their career.
Both were seen as the two top boxers in the world but the luster on Mayweather had worn off. The perception, rightly or wrongly, was that he hadn’t fought the best over the years and that he’d been taking the “easy paydays.” Floyd was still dominating guys he should, and showed knockout power against Victor Ortiz in a bizarre fight, but there were always detractions and distractions when he fought. We knew he was elite … but no one had really pushed him to show of just how elite he was.
Again, perception and reality usually aren’t the same.
Pacquiao was about to face his toughest opponent, Juan Manuel Marquez, for a third time. Rightly or wrongly Pacquiao was perceived to have taken the tougher opponents and the tougher fights. He was fighting the tough outs for substantial paydays. There was a respect Manny had from many fans, right or wrong, because his level of competition was perceived to be better.
The perception about why the super fight between the two wasn’t happening boiled down to one of two reasons from many. Either Floyd was ducking Manny for any number of reasons, protecting his undefeated streak more than anything else, or Manny didn’t want the Floyd fight and made up reasons as to why he didn’t want it. Rarely were both camps blamed; either Manny or Floyd were to blame and there was no middle ground for the most part.
Fast forward to 2013 and we’re in a wildly different place. Floyd is the pound for pound king, having drubbed Saul Alvarez in convincing fashion in a PPV bigger than Mayweather/De La Hoya. He’s managing the end of his career spectacularly, looking for a handful of big fights to close out one of the most stellar campaigns in modern boxing history. Mayweather may be close to being retired officially, as opposed to just taking an extended break, and he’s cleaned out the cabinet of challengers for the most part.
Manny, on the other hand, has had a pretty crappy two years. He may have gotten the scorecards against Marquez the third time but most scored it against him. A fourth time was set up between the two and Marquez, sporting a chiseled physique and stopping power for the first time in his career, turned the lights off on Pacquiao in devastating fashion. Timothy Bradley received the judges’ nod against Pacquiao in between the Marquez fights in a highly disputed fashion, as well, has left the Philippine congressman in a precarious spot.
He has to win in order to continue to stake his claim as one of the elite boxers of his generation.
Pacquiao needs to beat Brandon Rios, and needs to do so in emphatic fashion, to still be mentioned in that same air as Floyd on a historic basis. Floyd has been cruising ever since Manny barely won the third Marquez fight and the doubts are seeping in on his career now. Floyd is seen as without peer when once it was a debate between who was 1a and who was 1b. Manny is clearly #2 and people could argue that he’s been surpassed by Marquez, who took the final leg of their fight series. Manny may have been one of the elite fighters for many years but how he finishes his career will be key.
Manny’s in the same point as Floyd and the two are forever to be linked for being elite, being in roughly the same weight class and never having fought. The debate will be, many years from now, centered on who was better. If Manny wants to be in that argument he needs to win more than anything else. That’s all Floyd has been doing.
Tags: Boxing, Brandon Rios, Manny Pacquiao