“If you go to Troy, glory will be yours. They will write stories about your victories for thousands of years! And the world will remember your name.” – Thetis.
“Manny, Manny, Manny” was the deafening chorus that rang through Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night. As they did in the latter stages of Muhammad Ali’s career, fans prayed for the safety of their hero rather than wishing for a victory.
This all changed with one magical moment in the first round of the fight, a well-placed shot to the body set up a perfectly timed right hook to the jaw of Keith “One Time” Thurman, it was a punch that floored Thurman and then lifted the 14,356 in attendance to their feet in realisation that the Filipino warrior was on the verge of another glorious night.
After 12 hard fought rounds and a brave and stellar performance from the previously unbeaten Thurman, the split decision verdict did not do justice to Pacquiao’s supremacy. It was another career defining moment in the illustrious career of the “Pac Man”, a vintage and dominant display that ultimately relieved Thurman of his WBA Super World Welterweight championship.
Prior to the first bell, many in the boxing fraternity felt that the speed, youth and power of a hungry young lion would be far too much for boxing’s only ever eight-weight world champion to handle at his advanced age, but as the great Roy Jones once said “y’all must’ve forgot”. Manny Pacquiao is cut from a different cloth. Manny Pacquiao is a sporting icon, Manny Pacquiao’s legend is already written.
As is usually the case, the opportunity to bask in his triumph was short lived. The questions of what or who is next did not take long. Will you retire? Will you fight Errol Spence? Are you avoiding Terence Crawford? There can certainly be no shame in retirement on the back of his most recent accomplishment, but in reality, as great a performance as this was, Keith Thurman was simply a precursor to the battles that lay ahead. He maybe the wrong side of 40 but Pacquiao still has the desire to test himself against the elite of the division and if he is to lose, he will lose with honour, only too happy to pass the torch to a worthy successor.
He himself has made no secret of who he would like to fight next. One can rarely mention the name of Manny Pacquiao without mentioning the name of a nemesis he has had for well over a decade. Floyd Mayweather Jr. Revenge of the defeat suffered by Pacquiao at the hands of Mayweather during their 2015 mega fight would be the perfect setting for him to leave his sport knowing that he had left no stone unturned in the quest for immortality.
Pacquiao and Mayweather are without doubt the two best fighters of their era, both should have left this unforgiving sport many years ago. Why do they continue? It is because something deep inside the pair of them says that they must. If these two giants of the sport were to meet again in 2020 or beyond they would have both fought and beaten the best boxing has had to offer over the last four decades. A rivalry both Hector and Achilles would be proud of!
(*) The Maharlika were the feudal warrior class of the ancient Philippines, they were trained in Arnis, a flexible martial art that can be applied to both armed and unarmed combat. The art is heavily reliant on footwork and quick hands meaning that the Filipino will be quick on his feet throughout the duel – Lawrence Caga.