If you needed any confirmation about Manny Pacquiao's performance in the ring Saturday against Yordenis Ugas, all you needed to do was watch Jinkee Pacquiao.
After watching her 42-year-old husband in the ring for more than 20 years since they married in 1999, Jinkee knows. Her face began as a blank slate. By the sixth round, Jinkee looked concerned. By the tenth round, she looked dismayed. By the final bell, she couldn't hide her disappointment.
Mrs. Pacquiao had already accepted the result before ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr read the judges' scores, all for the winner and WBA World Welterweight Champion, Yordenis Ugas.
We're quick to criticize, so let's be just as quick to compliment judges Dave Moretti, Steve Weisfeld, and Patricia Morse Jarman for getting the scores right despite some tricky rounds. The boxing media had their cards all over the place. We scored it 117-111 for Ugas. (Publisher Note: Gayle knows what is happening in a ring, same cannot be said for all boxing media, even some award-winning types.)
Ugas, of Santiago de Cuba via Miami (27-4, 12 KOs) proved worthy of the WBA World Welterweight title originally gifted to him. Ugas kept a slowed down Pacquiao (67-8-2, 39 KOs) at an ineffective distance while he unloaded a pretty jab and a right hand to head and body that couldn’t miss.
What fans always fear when a veteran fighter gets into the ring came to pass. Manny Pacquiao's two years out of the ring weren't kind to him. The hand speed was there, but it was nearly useless without the footwork to put Pacquiao in position to strike. He couldn't get inside on Ugas, and he couldn't get out of the way. And he admitted it after the fight.
“I’m, uh, making a hard time in the ring, making adjustments about his body style. I think that’s the problem for me,” said Pacquiao to Heidi Androl, the Fox reporter. “I didn’t make adjustments right away, and also, my legs were tight. My legs are so tight, it’s hard to move.”
In the bright light of the day after, the question on every fan's mind is whether they've seen the eight-division champion in the boxing ring for the last time.
If you're asking me to bet my hard-earned money on it, I'm betting we've seen Pacquiao in the ring for the final time.
Hail to the Chief: Presidency for PacMan?
Whether Pacquiao ever enters a boxing ring again, his legacy is assured. If any record stands the test of time, it will be Pacquiao’s standing as an eight-division champion who took every challenge available. His rise from a skinny, starving street urchin to worldwide fame at the top of his sport is beyond what any screenwriter could imagine.
Instead, Senator Manny Pacquiao of Sarangani Province will face a challenge of a different kind, but once again punching above his weight. He will need to announce by next month whether he intends to enter the presidential race.
“I know I’m facing a big problem and more difficult work than boxing. But I want to help the people, I want to help them,” said Pacquiao.
Pacquiao is facing serious infighting within his political party in the Philippines, known as PDP–Laban. It has been the ruling party since 2016 under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. But Duterte and Pacquiao have recently had a falling out. With Duterte's six-year term ending, the party is urging him to run for vice president, and this won't be possible unless the two resolve their differences.
Will he run? Pacquiao dropped a big clue at the post-fight news conference in Los Angeles. For the first time in 70 fights, Pacquiao read a written statement.
“I want to thank God for keeping us safe in the ring … I did my best tonight, but my best wasn't good enough.
“I've done a lot for boxing, and boxing has done a lot for me. I look forward to spending time with my family and thinking about my future in boxing. I want to thank all my fans that came to see me tonight. I want to thank all of you in the media for telling my story, what Manny Pacquiao has done in boxing. For many decades, you press and media and the fans, always behind us, supporting us. That's why we're here, to become popular, and we accomplish our dream as a fighter because of you.
“I am a fighter inside and outside the ring. I look forward to getting back to the Philippines and serving the Filipino people as this pandemic continues to affect millions,” said Pacquiao.
“In the future, you might not see Manny Pacquiao again to fight in the ring. I don't know. For how many decades, I'm so happy what I've done in boxing. I contribute a record in boxing also, and bring honor to my country. I'm so proud to be a Filipino and thankful to the fans all over the world. May the Lord keep you safe, especially in this pandemic.”
It certainly sounds like a farewell speech to me.
It's unimaginable President Pacquiao could continue his athletic career. Can you imagine the Philippines equivalent of the Secret Service allowing their country's President to get into a boxing ring, with all of the risks that go with it? Oh, hell no.
That we're even discussing the possibility should put Manny Pacquiao's remarkable life into perspective. Yes, he lost a fight on Saturday. Certainly, his many fans and admirers are disappointed. But it's a moment that doesn't take away from his many accomplishments.
No one needs to cry over Manny Pacquiao's fate. And no one should be disappointed with Saturday's fight outcome. Although Manny Pacquiao lost a fight, he’s a winner in every way that counts. To quote the philosopher, Dr. Seuss, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”