We have seen enough to know that if you sustain victory across seven years with all boxing can hurl your way, you have done something Herculean, writes Chuck Culpepper.
Manny Pacquiao: take it on the chin and roll with the punches
As we eulogise Manny Pacquiao's unbeaten span from March 19, 2005, to June 9, 2012, there is a glaring fact we should remember whenever we remember.
His sport is boxing.
Boxing forever tiptoes at the edge of lunacy and always reserves the right to plunge in, and that winds up adding an extra dollop of remarkableness to any seven-year streak.
Streaking boxers must overcome not only their vices, their extensive down time, their compromised bodies and their rugged opponents, but also they must elude the lunacy.
The lunacy will lurk and then pounce and bite. It will bring an evening in which everybody in the world will rate you the winner of a fight except for two people, and in a funky coincidence those two people will happen to be among the commissioned judges for your very fight. What luck.
The wisdom of CompuBox might show the statistics at 190 power punches to 108, 63 jabs to 51, and 34 per cent of punches landed to 19, yet these two judges will gladly snub poor CompuBox.
The Associated Press might call it 117-111 to Pacquiao, with Yahoo! going for 117-111, the Las Vegas Review-Journal 117-111, ESPN 118-110 and HBO 119-109, yet Pacquiao will lose to Timothy Bradley.
Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times might call it "a stunning slight to punch statistics and the naked eyes of everyone else", and Tim Smith of the New York Daily News might spot "one of the worst decisions in recent boxing history", yet Pacquiao's streak that dates back almost 87 months to Erik Morales does end.
Promoter Bob Arum might say he has "never been as ashamed of the sport of boxing as I am tonight," but really now, who could possibly rate such a thing? A mathematician? An astronomer?
Keen observer Floyd Mayweather Jr might give no opinion, having been in jail for the ninth straight evening with 81 more such evenings to go.
And now Pacquiao has spent the last two bouts winning one almost everybody thought he lost (last November to Juan Manuel Marquez) and losing one almost everybody thought he won (last Saturday night to Bradley). In some quarters, they call this "justice".
Farcical justice usually doesn't rank among the cherished justices, but this is boxing. Look at the evening it just bestowed upon the world.
One theme in the lead-up to the fight went that Pacquiao had reined in the wild life, curbed some personal hypocrisies and restored rectitude. He had corrected the relative laxness of preparation that supposedly had cost him last autumn against Marquez.
He had prompted this once-in-a-lifetime sentence in the New York Times: "He said he no longer owns the more than 1,000 roosters he raised, fought and bet on."
Then, fight time came, whatever time that was, apparently calibrated to the ending of a big NBA play-off game. Fight time came, and nobody could find Pacquiao, with the seekers including his trainer, Freddie Roach. Nobody could find Pacquiao for 45 minutes. Somebody finally found him in some room other than his training room, on a treadmill, stretching his calves, hoping to stave off potential cramping.
You almost have to read these things twice to process them.
Once they had located the two people whom 14,206 spectators crammed inside the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas had come to watch box, a good bout came.
It went 12 rounds, and when it ended, Pacquiao had won handily, with some limitations. One of the limitations was the scorecard of Duane Ford, which gave Bradley the nod by 115-113. The other of the limitations was the scorecard of CJ Ross, which liked Bradley by 115-113. The limitations did not include the scorecard of Jerry Roth, who gave a narrow 115-113 vote to Pacquiao.
In another astonishing turn, Mr Ford and Mr Ross happened to be among the official scorers.
Soon thereafter, Arum offered to take Mr Ford and Mr Ross to an accomplished eye doctor in Los Angeles.
What a Saturday evening at the MGM Grand, all told.
Of course, none of this comes as shattering to us anymore, for we have seen the beast in question. We have seen boxing for years, and we know that some of its nights just seem to stir up into some sort of indescribable ether. We have seen enough to know that if you sustain victory across seven years with all this game can hurl in your way, you have done something Herculean.
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