By Steve Lewis
After Manny Pacquiao’s dominant performance against top welterweight, Miguel Cotto, to capture a championship in a record-breaking 7th weight class, numerous Pacquiao skeptics became “converts.” Or at least, they were willing to finally give some due credit. Of course, you will never win them all completely because there will always be the few individuals who will, after the fact, give excuses and justifications as to why Pacquiao’s accomplishments need to be tempered down.
Enter the Monday Morning Quarterbacks, those who share their hindsight analysis and their revisionist history. And as we all know, hindsight is 20/20. It is rather amusing, and often times irritating, to see these Monday Morning Quarterbacks vehemently and adamantly proclaim why Pacquiao will fall short in “fill-in-the-blank” endeavor. And when Pacquiao disproves them, and even surpasses all expectations, the excuses come pouring in.
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Now some Monday Morning Quarterbacks have agendas, and thus are typically in denial. Others are just plain contrarians, doing so for the sake of being contrarians, whose sole purpose is to attain notoriety by making outlandish remarks and wanting to merely see a reaction from the Pacquiao fan base.
Prior to the Pacquiao-Lehlo Ledwaba title match, Pacquiao’s first fight in the U.S., no one gave Pacquiao a chance. Even the Las Vegas casinos did not bother taking wagers for this fight. Result: Pacquiao TKO win. Monday Morning Quarterbacks’ excuse: Pacquiao was a last minute replacement and Ledwaba had been preparing for a different kind of fighter.
The same argument can be made for Pacquiao: he was a last minute replacement and was not training specifically for Ledwaba either. He probably wasn’t training much at all. Yet, he won.
Prior to Pacquiao-Barrera I, Barrera was the heavy favorite, still ranked among the top pound-for-pound. Result: Pacquiao TKO win. Monday Morning Quarterbacks’ excuse: Barrera was already old, had battled Erik Morales, distractions in camp, had a metal plate in his head (years prior to the fight!), etc.
Apparently, all those excuses did not prevent people from favoring Pacquiao before the fight. Again, hindsight is 20/20. Barrera evidently was not too old to still remain in the pound-for-pound rankings, evidently still had enough in the gas tank to subsequently win against the likes of Paulie Ayala, Erik Morales (again), Robbie Peden, and Rocky Juarez. But apparently, he was already too old for Pacquiao, a justification after the fact.
Against Erik Morales, the critics marveled at how Morales “schooled” Pacquiao in their first encounter (though on most scorecards, Morales won by 2 points, but it was apparently a schooling). Hail the Pacquiao conqueror! Yet a mere 10 months later, less than a year, Morales would apparently go from Pacquiao conqueror to Grandma Moses. Results: KO wins for Pacquiao in the rematch and rubber match. Monday Morning Quarterbacks’ excuse: Morales was already old, washed-up, wars with Barrera, loss to Zahir Raheem.
Again, how does one go from being a 130-lb hotshot/Pacquiao conqueror to Grandma Moses in a span of 10 months? And it’s not like Raheem “softened” Morales up for the rematch with Pacquiao. Raheem is a finesse fighter. He did not do serious damage to Morales. Rather, Morales took Raheem lightly and was caught looking ahead to the Pacquiao rematch, a thing that sometimes happens even to the best sports teams when facing a relative cream puff (i.e., Lakers losing to Hornets, USC losing to a Stanford or an Oregon State). Even Pacquiao himself is not immune to “looking ahead” and taking the competition lightly. Go back and watch his fight in the Philippines against former titlist Oscar Larios.
Morales, they would say, was already washed up when he first fought Pacquiao. So what was the difference between the Morales in the 1st fight, and the Morales of the 2nd & 3rd fights? Some will say that Pacquiao got to use the gloves he wanted (coincidence?), but it seems apparent that Pacquiao learned from the 1st fight and showed who was superior. Critics constantly treat Pacquiao as if he had not improved or transformed to a better fighter, but he has.
Against Juan Manuel Marquez, many would say Pacquiao lost those battles. The subjective scoring of judges can be a topic for another day, but the one objective thing that most Pacquiao critics fail to address is the admittedly erroneous scoring of judge Burt Clements in the 1st fight, who said he did not know that a 10-6 score could be awarded to a fighter who scores 3 knockdowns! Had he done so, like the two other judges did, Pacquiao would have won by majority decision. And Marquez should be thankful that the 3-Knockdown Rule was not in effect. Otherwise, the record would have shown a 1st Round TKO, and this discussion about his comeback in the later rounds would be moot.
The Pacquiao-Marquez fights were close fights. Arguments can be made for both sides. The critics and the Monday Morning Quarterbacks will go ahead and treat these fights like it was a Joel Casamayor-Jose Santa Cruz robbery! It was not! They were close fights that could have gone either way. But ultimately, one who gets knocked down 4 times in a closely contested fight should not later complain about losing a close one.
Against Oscar De La Hoya, the critics called it a farce, a circus, a total mismatch! Oscar was favored to win, the size advantage too great. These were their conventional wisdoms before the fight. Result: Pacquiao TKO win. Monday Morning Quarterbacks’ excuse: Oscar was drained, he’s a shell of his former self, too dehydrated, etc. That apparently wasn’t foreseen before the fight! Once again, it’s after the fact. If Oscar improperly trained himself and overdid it, that’s Oscar’s fault, not Pacquiao’s.
I am not sure why the critics also get on Pacquiao’s case about this catchweight against Oscar. Pacquiao was essentially a superfeatherweight (nevermind the pitstop at lightweight against David Diaz) going against a former middleweight titlist. Did people really expect Pacquiao to go 4-5 weight classes up to meet Oscar? That would be stupid. Oscar wanted the match, so they had to meet halfway at welterweight. And Pacquiao “schooled” him. As I may have stated before, a former middleweight champ, only a year removed from hanging with then boxing’s best, Floyd Mayweather, has no business losing like that to a superfeatherweight. I can try to drop 15 pounds, but does that mean I should be losing to my 9-year old nephew in a session of fisticuffs? I better not!
Against Ricky Hatton, many people were saying how Hatton is not weight drained and will be able to use his physical advantages against Pacquiao. We were supposed to get a bona fide rough-houser in Hatton. Result: KO win for Pacquiao. Monday Morning Quarterbacks’ excuse: Hatton was an overrated, glorified club fighter who just walks in face first. Again, many of these Monday Morning Quarterbacks say this after the fact. Prior to the fight, Hatton was considered a top 10 pound-for-pounder, the king and undefeated lineal champ at 140 lbs. Yet overnight, he goes from 140 lb king to overrated club fighter…a club fighter who apparently couldn’t be put away by the likes of boxing veterans Kostya Tszyu, Luis Collazo, Jose Luis Castillo, Juan Lazcano, and Paulie Malignaggi.
Against Miguel Cotto, despite Vegas favoring Pacquiao, many were saying how Pacquiao had never felt the power of a true welterweight, that Pacquiao may have bitten off more than he can chew. Result: Pacquiao TKO win. Monday Morning Quarterbacks’ excuse: Cotto was damaged goods, thanks to Antonio Margarito, cutting down to 145 lbs took its toll (though he has made 146 just fine in previous fights), and the one that is an obvious stab in the dark: Pacquiao must be on steroids!
Cotto looked fine, did not look drained. In fact, he was doing a great job in the first couple of rounds. Cotto getting dropped by the 3rd and 4th rounds were unexpected by most. If the Margarito beatdown theory were to hold, it would be seen in the later rounds, not the early parts. And allegations of steroid use is pure grasping for straws. It would be one thing if it were feather-fisted fighters like Malignaggi who, all of a sudden, develop power in their punches. But Pacquiao always had “pop” in his punches, dating back to the lower weight classes, where Pacquiao scored knockout wins within 5 rounds or less in 15 of his first 25+ fights. He would also go on to floor Juan Manuel Marquez 3 times in one round, lift Fahsan 3K Battery off both feet with an uppercut, floored the triumvirate of Marquez, Morales and Barrera a total of around 11 times, not including several other close calls where they were saved by the bell or held up by the ropes. So it’s not like Pacquiao’s power came out of nowhere.
And then, against Joshua Clottey, the Monday Morning Quarterbacks commented on how the fight was boring (like that was supposed to be Pacquiao’s fault, when Clottey refused to engage) and how Pacquiao was unable to knock out a stationary opponent who just stood there like a scared turtle in his shell. But what these Monday Morning Quarterbacks are unable to give you is a name of any other boxer who was able to knock out Joshua Clottey. There is none. It has never been done, even by more legit welterweights like Cotto, Margarito, and Zab Judah. So if they could not do it, with the benefit of Clottey engaging against them (i.e., opening up for solid hits), what makes these critics think that a pseudo-welter like Pacquiao can knock him out when he won’t even open up at all during that fight?
If anything, that fight was a testament to how tough of a chin (and ribs) Clottey had, a fighter whom the Monday Morning Quarterbacks will dismiss as a 3rd rate nobody, despite taking Cotto to the brink, beating Judah (Mayweather’s one of only two “legit”…and I loosely use that term here…welterweight opponents – Carlos Baldomir being the other), and hanging with Margarito, despite breaking his hands early in their bout, and being a consistent top 5 welterweight in the Ring rankings. The fight was also a testament to Pacquiao’s paralyzing speed. No one else had ever shut out Clottey like that before. Clottey even conceded that the loss to Pacquiao was his first legit loss (having disputed his split decision loss to Cotto and his premature DQ against Carlos Baldomir).
And against Mayweather, if that deal ever gets done, I am certain that if Pacquiao were to come out victorious (and a lot of big “Ifs” abound), even if Pacquiao concedes to Mayweather’s USADA-style testing, the flock of Monday Morning Quarterbacks will still come out in full force to offer their variety of hindsight justifications. That’s just the nature of the animal. Mayweather may point to Pacquiao’s 3 losses and boast about his own undefeated streak, but he will not point out that he has lost in the amateur ranks (while Pacquiao did not have the benefit of competing in the amateurs, and instead, jumped straight to the pros, where 2 of his 3 defeats came early in his career).
In sum, Pacquiao is a great fighter, one we may never see again in the years to come. And we can always berate him before a fight, but when he disproves us, let’s give credit where credit is due, rather than going back in time and having the benefit of hindsight to nitpick after the fact. But again, can’t win them all. But conversely, the majority could care less about the fussiness of a few.
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