By Ingming Aberia
People went out in droves to watch the fight. It was a shame they did not get half of what they expected. And much of the blame was on Shane.
It was a fight that hardly looked like a fight. And for one so hyped up that probably even my folks at the remote Pul-as Tribe got themselves talking about it, this once-derided match-up deserved to be derided once more.
If a boxing match was about trading gloves and busting beaks like boxing fans know it, then the WBO welterweight fight between Manny Pacquiao and Sugar Shane Mosley last Saturday at MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada was a disappointment. It looked more like a dance than a fight. If a boxing match was about entertainment and not of the morbid kind as defined by Pacquiao, then this one looked like a scripted comedy.
The contest held some promise at the start. With barely a minute left in round one, pound for pound king Pacquiao got an idea of Mosley’s pounding speed and power when a right straight slid through his raised gloves that smacked right onto his forehead. Other than that, however, Mosley, 39, seemed paralyzed at analyzing his opponent. It was as if he was thoroughly contented in his wait for the miscue on the part of his opponent that never came.
Then, as both fighters appeared getting warmed up in the third round, Pacquiao fired shots in rapid succession that sent Mosley down. It was a game-changing flurry. Although Mosley was visibly shaken, he was not groping for balance. In fact he quickly found his sanity by opting to save his life, rather than risk it in an honest-to-goodness combat against that smiling, hugging and cross-signing demon in front of him. Ever on the lookout for any sign of danger, he was like an antler with legs designed to flee. And fly he did from that point onwards.
Part of the derision that went the match-up’s way was the perceived lack of balance by which Team Pacquiao picked opponents in a context where quality opposition was well under its command. The aging Mosley, whose last two fights that preceded this one did not advance his cause to merit being a ring partner with Pacquiao and the hefty pay that goes with it, had been criticized as a choice with money above anything else in mind.
Mosley had every opportunity to prove his doubters wrong. “Mosley will shock the world!” went one pre-fight hype. Instead, he shocked the world by conveniently forgetting his role as a fighter.
“I am faster than Margarito,” Mosley bragged in training camp, “and if Margarito can hit Pacquiao, I can hit him more.” Mosley did show how faster he was than anybody else, but with his feet and not with his fists. He soon reminded how Marco Antonio Barrera elevated running into an art form when he faced Pacquiao the second time.
“Anybody Shane hits, he hurts,” Naazim Richardson, Mosley’s trainer, reminded all days before the fight. The problem was how to hit one who hits you better. After three rounds, Mosley realized Pacquiao could hit him at will and he could be hurt.
By this time, Pacquiao had already landed 14 power punches as compared to Mosley’s 6, according to Compubox. The cruelty ratio would hardly change, and always to Mosley’s disadvantage when it did, throughout the fight.
“When you take risks, you are susceptible to get knocked out,” Mosley reportedly said after the fight. No wonder the fans felt let down by his performance. He and Top Rank, the fight promoter, sold the fight on the theory that a great fighter he once was had what it takes to pose a serious challenge to the seemingly invincible Pacquiao.
From round four onwards, Mosley has hopped from one defensive sanctuary to another, electing to throw punches only when Pacquiao allowed him to by raising his arms that said “hit me.” These instances were reminiscent of Pacquiao tackling the likes of Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey in previous fights; offering himself to be punished as reward for the opponent to bring it on and initiate some action.
“Mosley did not fight to win,” Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer and coach, complained. He fought to survive and live long enough to enjoy his retirement pay. I suspect Mosley did not miss the wisdom behind the Filipino saying aanhin pa ang damo kung patay na ang kabayo (roughly translated as “what is the grass for if the horse is dead”). It really is easy to criticize the likes of Mosley, or Oscar de la Hoya in 2008, or Barrera in 2007. What is hard is to stay in front of the greatest fighter in the planet today, and probably of all time. One has no idea of how fast and powerful the Pacman is until he gets hit.
Mosley had actually lost the fight even before it started. Boxingscene.com’s David Greisman wrote that Mosley thought aloud if he really had advantages over Pacquiao hours before the fight. He simply had no business being in the ring with such a deflated confidence.
Summoned to the center of the ring by referee Kenny Bayless for the customary pre-fight instructions, Mosley tried but failed to outhustle Pacquiao even before the fight started. As mentioned in my book “Story Bigger Than Boxing,” Pacquiao has symbolisms (interpreted by many as superstition) inside the ring that I think is meant to psyche himself up. No, this is neither the signing of the cross nor the silent prayer in his corner. This is about how he touches gloves before both fighters are unleashed in the center of the ring. I wonder if Mosley had taken note of this little trivia, but he did try to tap his gloves on top of Manny’s, except that the latter raised his gloves high enough that Mosley could only win the symbolic contest in a very awkward manner.
Mosley had drained the emotional and mental anchor of his approach to the fight. He lost everything when he found himself too beatable in the third round. It confirmed his doubts on his own abilities.
And the sad part of it was he let the fans down.
By round six the crowd for the first time had let its displeasure known when the two fighters appeared to be taking more time patting each other than devouring each other. Even Pacquiao’s effort to press the action at some points in the late rounds was not enough to dispel notions by some that a multitude may have found the wrong arena to watch boxing’s greatest performer today. Pacquiao, after all, has a diversified menu of talent from which the fans may derive entertainment.
And so, while Mosley disappoints, some have turned their attention to Pacquiao himself. Is he a growing oddity inside a fight ring?
After Saturday’s pseudo-duel, there may be a need for Team Pacquiao to communicate its agenda to its publics. I believe there are as many believers in non-violence as there are millions of crazy boxing fans. But Pacquiao needs to be forthright with either, or both, of them; if he has found it hard seeing fellow prizefighters getting maimed, people would understand. If he wants to hit a note more than he wishes to fire with his fists, then that, I guess, would be fine as well. If he wants to advocate for social equity and the environment, then his congressional role would be a compelling vocation for him. But when people converge in a fight arena to watch him fight, nothing is expected of him but war.
If they were not half naked, people might have mistook them for diplomats instead of warriors. They touched gloves 44 times, which was lesser only by 24 in the number of times (68) that Mosley was able to land a punch on Manny throughout the fight.
The Filipino in Manny (not to mention his being a politician) is probably getting in the way of the killer in him. Most Filipinos feel that being refused when one offers goodwill is the equivalent of losing face. And Pacquiao, the personification of respect to friends and foes alike, must have found it hard to refuse Mosley’s cue of touching gloves.
But unlike other sports competitions, boxing requires its competitors to claw at each other to be of consequence. It is not a race to the finish line; it is a fight-to-the-finish combat. One stands out by knocking down the other. Boxing fans seek the ultimate tests of athletic ability in the fighters they support; they want to see and feel the limit of human endurance, and of how one gives his all in the defense of his dignity and of his life. Such a stringent demand is what separates boxing from the rest of the sporting world. Only a few are up to the task, and Manny Pacquiao has managed to excel in it.
Make no mistake about it, though. The Pacquiao-Mosley show was not rubbish. It was good enough, not to mention the more than redeeming output of the undercard, for a night of boxing. Pacquiao’s flair for fighting was there. The staccato of brilliant offense electrified the audience. Juxtaposed with either the 2007 Oscar de la Hoya-Floyd Mayweather fight or the 2010 Mayweather-Mosley fight, this one at least had more activity. Mayweather, for example, managed to lob a total of only 477 hostile leather at Mosley; compared to the 727 by Pacquiao on Mosley.
The only problem here was Pacquiao. The fans have been used to getting more from what Top Rank’s Bob Arum calls as “the phenomenon.” Mosley came out of the fight-and-dance fracas with a more bruised face than he had from the Mayweather fight. That’s no big deal—busted faces and broken ribs were what the fans had lusted for.
It is probably Pacquiao’s fault that his obras had set the standards of prizefighting at such a high level, concededly too high that he himself could not match it at times.
For years this fighter has built a reputation inside the ring that surviving his aggression and ferocity alone already looked like one was a winner. For twelve rounds Mosley did survive, but not a few would wonder if three years ago de la Hoya did a more honorable act by quitting rather than running like he did, and sparing the fans the long wait of when the marathon would end.
Compared to Mosley, acrobats risk more—and yet are paid less—by being true to their craft. And they are not even in the fight game.
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Hermilando “Ingming” Duque Aberia is a sports fan and a literary enthusiast. He has written a book titled “Manny Pacquiao: Story Bigger Than Boxing.” He has a master’s degree in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management and is a practitioner in social development work.