The “he oughta retire” column is one that is seen within the realm of other sports, yes, but more often in boxing, for a simple reason.
In other sports, usually, an athlete falls in the moat and gets chewed up by crocs before game time. In the NFL, old legs and a burnt out brain get a guy cut…in the NBA, hoop dreams are cut short, because a coach and GM see that the legs are ragged and the ACL keeps on tearing, and they jettison the player. In baseball, that ERA progression of 3.86 to 4.51 to 5.67 annually is the writing on the wall which tells the pitcher to exit the mound and find another vocational playground.
In boxing, though, those gatekeepers and truth-encouragers are more rare. Think family and team-members, the managers and trainers and such are voices of reason? To the contrary, their motivations are often clouded by love and also an allegiance to the continuation of the chugging along of the gravy train.
Many of you recall or know that Angelo Dundee stated publicly he’d always be there when his guy Muhammad Ali was gloving up. Angie knew it was over when Ali looked a shell against Larry Holmes. But he didn’t do a Pacheco; Angelo trekked to the Bahamas and was there when his guy had it drilled into him that it was over.
Boxers, they aren’t like you and me, they are twice as perseverent and three times as stubborn. Ali thought that thyroid meds had wrecked him going into the Holmes fight. He needed to give it one more shot, against the voices of doubters who sobbed inside at the sight of him getting dissected by Holmes. And though he looked better against Trevor Berbick than he did versus his old sparring partner-protege, it got through to his skull that it was over.
He’d need to find other ways to amuse himself. With that exceedingly healthy ego, he thought he could approximate some of the buzz he’d get from his in ring work by being an ambassador for planet earth…but that feeling would wear off in the half dozen times he’d retired before.
Because there is no substitute. Cocaine isn’t in the ballpark. The surge one gets from having 20,000 gazing at you, cheering for you, chanting your name…combine that, with the over-sized paycheck you get to deposit after the bout…where you gonna get that?
No need to answer; you aren’t.
Which is why I think the last time I wrote a “you oughta retire” column came when Roy Jones got kayoed by Glen Johnson in 2004.
Yeah, I don’t even try to be telling Jones how he should spend his time now, when he keeps campaigning, at age 48. The older I get, the more I realize that all we have is this dress rehearsal. One life to live. And it is easy to be that 30 something young gun opining that this fighter or that should exit the stage..shuffle off, do something else, because his best days are behind him. But after the hair starts featuring some salt, not all pepper, you get a better sense of what it is like to not want to capitulate to the inevitable.
This guy and that is telling Manny Pacquiao to retire. Heck, maybe members of his team and family are behind closed doors telling the Senator to stick to something safe, like the political arena, and exit the square ring. Manny Pacquiao back in the day would have wiped the floor with Jeff Horn, the please pull the pluggers say, and they aren’t wrong. But his fires inside burn, even if the body betrays, the feet stay sluggish rather than obey commands from the brain. He may or may not be able to admit that he has slipped but it is a time honored tradition that fighters need to have the memo delivered to them upside their head, violently, that it is time to go. Bernard Hopkins needed to be knocked out of the ring by a rugged brawler young enough to be (almost) his grandson, Joe Smith.
They have not listened to the outside and inside their head voices which cast doubt on their hopes and dreams for 20 years…and it isn’t so easy to turn off that stubborn streak.
So, my take is this: Manny Pacquiao didn’t look his best against Jeff Horn. But he’s still a world class fighter. He still has the desire to compete, apparently. And he has earned the right to leave when he wants to, on his terms and timeline.
Oh, and one more thing. Did you see the video of Manny giving out loot to countrymen after his scrap with the Aussie? “This is why I still fight,” the caption read, in a video in which Pacman is seen sharing his bounty. Yep, the pay cut a guy like him takes when he retires to inactive status is not easy to embrace.
All in all, ever so easy to suggest someone walk away willingly from the love of their life, one which has made them a revered figure the world over and made them a multi millionaire. But you might be overstepping your bounds when you do it. I won't do it.
Fight on, Pacman, you do you as long as you got the urge.