This morning, much of the Philippines will be in a standstill as World Boxing champion local idol Manny Pacquiao goes back into the ring.
As a former boxing enthusiast (during my teenage days), I’d say that Manny Pacquiao is past his prime and will likely succumb to a younger player than he is, perhaps as days go by.
I’m not predicting that he will lose this or today’s match. But I am saying that the chances of continued victories will likely diminish if he persists to fight. This will be pronounced especially when he gets to fight younger boxers. It’s simply called the law of diminishing returns brought about by ageing.(unless technology comes to Mr. Pacquiao's rescue)
As a physical contact sport, age and mental condition are what fundamentally matters. Others like physical conditioning, ring technique and tactics are subordinate to this.
Unknown to many, most of Manny Pacquiao’s great victories came against pugilists older than he is (Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar de La Hoya, Joshua Clottey, Shane Mosley) or at his age level (Ricky Hatton and Antonio Margarito). Only Miguel Cotto has proven to be the younger player whom Pacquiao recently beat.
In addition, the typical retirement age of many boxing legends is at the mid-30s.
The unbeaten Rocky Marciano made a comeback and retired by age 36. The great Muhammad Ali, my favorite hang up his gloves by age 39, but this came amidst back-to-back losses and the emergence of his Parkinson’s disease.
In short, based on the track record of great boxing legends, Pacquiao’s window of boxing greatness has been narrowing.
And there is always the psychological factor. Mike Tyson has been a great of example of a champion consumed by psychology particularly of hubris.
Mr. Pacquiao’s record as politician has not been smooth either. Corruption has been attributed to him, a recent dispute with the local tax agency the BIR shows that he is not an ally of the incumbent administration, and lastly, “God told me to retire”, for me, is a sign of admission of the actual state of his physical condition and of mental stress, where religion becomes his escape mechanism, or as means to endear himself with voters.
In reality, contrary to the popular opinion, it would not be Floyd Mayweather Jr., who will likely beat him, who again is older than Pacquiao and who is more mentality stressed than he is and will likely lose to Pacquiao, but some younger foe.
Of course reality bites, Mr. Pacquiao’s fame, fortune and political career have all been tied up with his boxing career. Once Mr. Pacquiao retires this privilege will erode overtime, as with all of the local celebrity sporting forebears.
So he may push his boxing career to the limits or take unnecessary risks in order to struggle to preserve this privilege.
[UPDATED to ADD: 28 years old Tim Bradley split decisions 33 years old Manny Pacquiao]