Pacman should call it a day, his legacy is secure
Boxing's cash cow has nothing left to prove and fight fans can always get their fix on smaller cards – like that in HK this week
For such a brutal sport, boxing can be so damn sexy. A night at the fights is like few other sporting events. From scintillatingly attractive femmes to crusty curmudgeons, the boxing scene runs the gamut and a good card is going to be a memorable and colourful affair.
Tuesday night’s “Road To Glory” bill in Hong Kong was no exception. Pugs and pug wannabes, suits, ties, dapper cats and dapper kittens, ring girls, copious amounts of beer and a ribald crowd of a couple of thousand eating it up. Who knew Hong Kong had it in it for such a riotous night of real fights?
icky Hatton, that’s who. The former welterweight champion from England is now in the fight biz and promoted his first card in Asia featuring Hong Kong hero Rex Tso Sing-yu with a 10th-round TKO over Kyrgyzstan’s Timur Shailezov for the Asian flyweight title in a ridiculously entertaining slugfest.
The amiable Hatton hopes to bring more of these cards to Asia and Hong Kong is high on his list. He wears his career like a badge. His face says it all – boxer. A few years back most of the features on that face were re-arranged by Manny Pacquiao in a brutal two-round knockout that left Hatton in such rough shape he eventually admitted he almost committed suicide after losing.
The fact that Hatton – composed, charming and business-like promoter – brought his first big card to Asia two days after Pacquiao absorbed his worst career beating in a shocking sixth-round knockout to Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez was lost on no one.
So much of the talk on the night centred on the fate of the Filipino demi-god. Hatton, for one, hopes Pacman calls it a day. “The only advice I could give Manny Pacquiao is his legacy is already secured,” he said. “The thing is, with us fighters, there is always one more fight. What’s he going to achieve by having one more fight? Probably nothing. He’s an eight-weight world champion. There’s nothing more to be said.”
And Hatton is completely right about Pacquiao’s legacy. I can’t think of an Asian sportsman who has had a bigger impact globally. The only one close might be Yao Ming. But Yao was never the greatest basketball player in the world. Pacquiao has been the indisputable best boxer in the world, not to mention the primary cash cow for the industry over the past five or six years.
I just don’t see him retiring any time soon. Pacquiao will be 34 tomorrow and if people continue to pay to see the man fight and the man still wants to fight, it’s pretty much a fait accompli, regardless of whatever pious indignation Filipino media commentators may heap upon him. And it’s not like Pacquiao can’t fight anymore. He was decked by a once-in-a-career punch that would have felled a forest of redwoods.
There are still very few fighters who can beat him, maybe three or four if they show up on that day. He had broken Marquez’s nose and was definitely winning the fight before the haymaker hit the hay. But there is absolutely no question every punch he takes from here on out will have an effect on him for the rest of his life and it’s a pity because there really is nothing left for him to prove in the ring. Nothing.
He has been the best fighter in the world and no one can ever take that away from him – as a boxer. But Pacquiao is also an industry. He still brings more money to boxing than any other fighter today and you just don’t shut down an industry like that overnight.
Who gets causal fight fans excited on a global pay-per-view level these days? Only Pacquiao. And who knows what forces he faces going forward. Marquez is almost six years older and please tell me how many 39-year-old fighters in the history of boxing have gained that much muscle and power at such an advanced age? There is endless suspicion about Marquez using performance-enhancing drugs and there should be. There will be a few more like Marquez waiting for Pacquiao, who is a couple of years removed from his aura of invincibility and has now lost his past two fights, including a controversial decision against Timothy Bradley.
At some point Pacquiao will be gone though and the big paydays for all involved may go with him, at least until another meal ticket is found. But if fight fans need to get their fix on smaller cards, it won’t be the worst thing to happen to boxing. I can certainly vouch for that.