Continuing our analysis, now 30 days out from the biggest boxing match of our generation, we take a look at Manny Pacquiao. Please do take a look at the quick treatise we made for his opponent, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
I’ve started talking in the previous post on how us, the BMB team, started this blog to document the sport through it’s transformative years with Floyd Mayweather Jr. as a focal point. Just as Yin cannot exist without a Yang, Manny Pacquiao has also been a main BMB focal point in a style that cannot be any more different to Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Manny, in contrast, is similarly difficult to write about amongst other boxing journalists in the sport because of the weight of his name, his image, his legacy, and especially, his country. It’s hard to speak about him as a fighter when he is literally and figuratively representing humble beginnings that are still happening in the nation of the Philippines. As a Filipino-American, I struggle, because hyphenated identities are still defining their legacy, but Manny had arguably moved that legacy forward since moving to Los Angeles. Filipino-Americans welcomed him with open arms and joined to train with him and (hopefully) respecting his desires to focus on this fight. It was telling to see Manny fly early to the Wild Card gym to train for this fight, maybe not as an eager move to prepare, but to escape the pressures of a whole nation that desperately pleads for his victory. I feel Manny is truly grateful to fight the best, and is eager for a chance to prove himself, and would rather focus on that feeling once he is across the ring with the champion rather than feel the weight of his country on his shoulders. He finds solace in his light personality and is trying to enjoy the event, rather than be reminded that at one point he was fighting to feed himself and his family.
Looking past Manny as an icon, I believe we see someone that truly any Filipino and immigrant could relate to. “Manong” Manny, as his crew calls him now is 2 years younger than Floyd Mayweather, but has to his claim a family of kids almost as tall as he is now. He commands respect in circles not necessarily political because he’s put the work and earned it many times over. However, he graciously polite to anyone as he would be polite to any stranger. His energetic humor is something that quite isn’t represented in American channels just because the general public likes to think of him as a cosmopolitan, but I just see him as supremely restless and ravenously hungry for opportunity. It’s as if his appetite for experience has scaled up proportionately compared to his wealth and status, starting from fighting as a young, homeless boy. He still retains a world-view as light as a kid with a whole day of adventure and opportunity ahead of him.
This is why the matchup is tantalizing, electrifying, and beyond predictable. If Floyd is a spiteful retaliator, Manny is an “Opportunity Maximizer”, as his volume-punching style hides the fact that every one of his punches immediately changes his outlook and informs his next action, within milliseconds. His feints shake opponents to the core, allowing him to capitalize with blows that could fall a man twice his weight. Over the years he’s also been able to change his game by introducing better feints, head movement, and foot placement. People talk about his speed, but what really makes Manny a threat is his eye for offense, offense, and continued offense. If Floyd is training to fight one fight 3 times over, Manny is training to fight 3 times the opponents in one fight.
Applauding Manny’s style is not fair without comment on his knockout in the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez. I could’ve written of the similar contrast in styles with Marquez and Pacquiao, but I think all commentary of this argument actually undervalues the preparation and work Marquez displayed, and the deserving result of that fight and arguably his fights with Manny before. In the end what I see is 30 rounds to 18. Manny still consistently shows evidence of a world-beater, and his knockout is just him playing the cruel numbers game. Marquez was focused on redemption and he got it.
What is upcoming is 12 rounds on May 2nd. If Manny isn’t as focused in those 12 rounds on redeeming the 47 other fighters that couldn’t pull off a win, he will not succeed. But I believe the styles for that night are perfect, and I just hope the execution reveals character and action in both fighters that we have never seen before. Manny’s outlook on recent media has been nothing but happy and eager, and to me, that’s a good sign. It’s a telling signs that understands what Mayweather is capable of doing and how he may in turn respond. Will Manny see opportunities in the best boxer in the world? Or will he too, fall to Mayweather’s traps and his authority of confidence? It seems like even though Manny is the Vegas underdog, the world is behind him, and cheering for his victory, including myself. However, even though I’m scared, I take comfort in Manny’s knowing smile, that everything will be OK.