For its millions of followers, boxing is the ultimate sport - a contest that pits one human being directly against another with a minimum of equipment, a maximum of muscle and the unambiguous goal of being the last man standing. Its heroes stand tall in the annals of extreme physical achievement.
Among the most admired and best-loved pugilists of the modern era is Manny Pacquiao. The Filipino superstar has fought and won across weight divisions, and has been a firm favourite both with fans and boxing writers, who named him Fighter of the Decade for the 2000s.
It came as a shock yesterday when Juan Manuel Marquez knocked Pacquiao out in the sixth round of their non-title welterweight match in Las Vegas. Fans who watched the fight on television in the UAE yesterday were among those stunned at the defeat. Inevitably, there was immediate speculation that the champ has fought his last.
Pacquiao is only 33, and this may just be a blip in his brilliant boxing career. If he fights on he may enjoy further success or, as other greats have shown, struggle in the ring. But if he does hang up his gloves now, there will be no shame. His career options are numerous and varied. Both Hollywood stardom and further involvement in Philippines politics beckon. Whatever he takes on, he'll undoubtedly pursue it with enormous vigour and passion.