December 9th, 2012 By Frances MartelNew York, NY— Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before, but Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs) just isn’t that good. Pacquiao, who will be remembered as the greatest Filipino boxer to ever live despite being a contemporary of Nonito Donaire (30-1, 19 KOs), got a taste of his own medicine last night when Juan Manuel Marquez (55-6-1, 40 KOs) avenged his stolen victories with a knockout that left Pacquiao cold on the canvas for almost a minute. With Pacquiao’s career dead—finally, mercifully— boxing is ready to once again thrive.
A SPECTACLE FOR THE AGES
Last night’s was a spectacle for the ages—six rounds heavy on the drama, with several knockdowns, a rapidfire pace and an audience adorned with the brightest gems in America’s pop culture repertoire (well, ok, just Mitt Romney). Had his chin, indisputably Pacquiao’s best quality as a boxer, come through for him, he could have won this match. He, too, put Marquez down. But not hard enough, not as often, and certainly not with the force that Marquez finished the fight– a victory he dedicated to new Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto.
RETURN OF BOXING TO AMERICAN MAINSTREAM
Americans think they don’t care about boxing, but when boxing gives them good reason, the nation collectively cranes its neck to take a look. Within seconds the news of Pacquiao’s demise was all over Twitter; subverting the nefarious work of the PPV crowd, casual fans trading animated GIFs of the perfect knockdown. Interest in our sport peaked last night to a level that it had not seen in at least a decade among people who otherwise wouldn’t bother with the safe, predictable, corrupt racket boxing has become (or always been). That all it took was Pacquiao (and his massive payday) taking a fall tells you all you need to know about the state of the sport today.
LOSS FOR PROMOTERS IS A WIN FOR FANS
We have arrived at a point in our sport’s history where the interests of the fans are directly adverse to the interests of the promoters, to the point that we cheer whenever an industry favorite goes down. Who cares that no one really knows who Austin Trout (26-0, 14 KOs) is? He tore down both Miguel Cotto’s (37-4, 30 KOs) and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s (41-0-1, 30 KOs) big payday, and for that he is a hero. He tore asunder the plans of the people who thought they could charge $60 for a Floyd Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs) ballet recital and expect the sport to thrive. Marquez, after three tries that got so close to victory someone in the Pacquiao camp should have vetoed a fourth, did the same on a much more astronomical scale. That he has repeatedly said he isn’t even particularly interested in continuing his career after making amends for his defeats with Pacquiao makes his victory even more admirable, whether he carries through with that promise or not. Knocking out Pacquiao is like tearing down a million dollar dam in between talented boxers and the fans who want to see them—it forces promoters back to the drawing board.
It forces Pacquiao back there, too. He may have started something he couldn’t finish with this “being the best boxer in history” business, but he will, no doubt, return to the ring to be humiliated like every other champion that has went to sleep before him. But Pacquiao was always too big a fish in too small a pond as a boxer, stealing oxygen away from fish that were actually good at swimming. Pacquiao was a mediocre boxer with a huge personality who, with some PR skills and a little bit of physical “help,” enthralled a nation. He has been his nation’s flagbearer at the Olympics; their best action star; their pop star; their wisest statemen; their most popular game show host; their finest comedian (if you have not seen Pacquiao try his hand at sketch comedy with Jimmy Kimmel, you have not seen Pacquiao’s finest performance). Pacquiao is a charming man with a charmed life who has the world at his feet: why waste time getting his head beaten in for another few years when he can make even more money and be ever as popular conquering the greater media world?
Frances “The Fight Chick” Martel