Manny Pacquiao's legacy in boxing - world titles across eight divisions, titanic tussles against the greats - is secure, but the longer he goes on the more he risks tarnishing it.
After another loss, Manny Pacquiao should heed Freddie Roach's pre-fight advice and call it a day
What next for Manny Pacquiao, then? Sunday’s fight against Jeff Horn in Australia was supposed to represent a precursor to another major bout in a career swollen with them, but instead the Filipino departed Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium with a unanimous points defeat and questions regarding his future in the sport.
Irrespective of your take on the contest – many have claimed Pacquiao was robbed of victory – the truth is that it should never really have come to this. Granted, Horn is a capable boxer, moving to 18 unbeaten professional fights, but he is one of limited experience, his victory against Pacquiao now the only real mark on a CV that does not stack up against the most skilled welterweights in boxing.
Pacquiao, although 38 and with his best days understandably behind him, was expected to brush past Horn and push towards a clash with the division's premier talents: a Keith Thurman or a Danny Garcia, maybe a Terence Crawford. Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, had even mentioned a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr, however unnecessary a fight that seems.
Yet Brisbane simply provided another example that "Pac-Man’s" powers are on the wane, that one of boxing’s greatest exponents does not any more possess the oh-my-gosh knockout quality he once did. A rematch is apparently in the offing, and both sides appear initially keen to do it, but the reality is Pacquiao should now legitimately consider where he really does go from here.
His contribution to boxing is unquestionable and his legacy secure, thanks to those titanic tussles with Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto. But go on too long and he would threaten to tarnish, even a little, his reputation as one of the sweetest purveyors of the sweet science.
Against Horn, for long spells Pacquiao laboured, no longer possessing the zip and the zeal that took him to multiple world titles across multiple divisions. He is 38 in a sport full of careers stretched too far, but it is an old 38. He is battle-hardened but battle-weary, too, beginning to display the effects of the epic encounters and the 68 pro fights and the 455 pro rounds.
Unlike Mayweather, Pacquiao did not bob and weave his way to the very pinnacle of the fight game, instead ploughing on in, always seeking the hammer blow, prepared to give it out and take some in return, too. After all, it is what made him one of the greats.
Pacquiao is 13 fights without a knockout, though, some way short of him in his pomp. Without that dynamite left, he has lost four of his past nine bouts. Yes, he rocked Horn in the ninth, but he did not finish the job. He could not.
As it is, Pacquiao should heed the words of Roach last week. The veteran trainer, a long-time coach and confidant, said in the build-up to Horn that he would encourage Pacquiao to retire should he lose. Well, Pacquiao has lost and thus has much more to contemplate.
Fortunately, he has already another career, as a senator in his homeland, as someone who can actively affect change. There is another calling, another passion that can consume him the way boxing has since his formative years in the Philippines. Given the significance of the role, it could do just that - it most probably has done just that - limiting his commitment to boxing, shifting his focus.
Pacquiao can look forward to that now and look back on a scintillating contribution to his sport. From the outside at least, there seems no obvious need to persist inside the ring.