The transformation of Manny Pacquiao

Carlos Cinco

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Carlos Cinco examines the changes in Manny Pacquiao's boxing style over the years

SINGAPORE — It’s been a little over a week since the controversial Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley megafight which saw Pacquiao lose for the first time since dropping a decision to Erik Morales back in 2005.

By now everyone has to know that though Pacquiao was the clear and decisive winner, Bradley escaped with a bum decision and Pacquiao’s WBO Welterweight Title – a decision that most likely will not be overturned and will go down in history as one of the sports’ most blatant robberies.

It’s a fact that fans just have to accept, and the best thing for all is to move on.

That appears to be just what Pacquiao is looking to do as he leans towards a fourth encounter with arch-nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez instead of pursuing the immediate rematch with “The Desert Storm”.

Bradley for the most part seems unapologetic for the victory — which is understandable — and no one can really blame the guy.

He did his part in training hard for the fight and performing, and although it wasn’t enough in the eyes of nearly the entire general population, it was enough for 2 out of 3 judges who had the best seat in the house on that fateful night. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.

Changes in Pacquiao

But what really happened to Manny Pacquiao?

He hasn’t particularly looked spectacular in his past few fights. Pacquiao hasn’t scored a knockout since dismantling Miguel Cotto back in 2009 and has appeared to have declined, showing a bit of a slowdown in every subsequent fight since then.

At this point, let’s just be honest: Manny Pacquiao isn’t what he used to be.

Gone are the days when he was a bouncing ball of fire and brought hell to his opponents in every minute of every round. Pacquiao used to have boundless energy, the kind he used to decimate opponents via a relentless attack that never let up.

Need proof?

See Pacquiao-Barrera 1, Pacquiao-Diaz, Pacquiao-Marquez 1, Pacquiao-Dela Hoya, Pacquiao-Cotto and Pacquiao-Hatton.

Now compare those fights to his recent outings in Pacquiao-Mosley, Pacquiao-Marquez 3 and Pacquiao-Bradley. Not exactly the same guy,  right?

It’s a combination of multiple factors that led us to this point.

Why the change?

First, Pacquiao’s out-of-the-ring ordeals have finally shown their adverse effects on the boxer’s career – from politics, to religious duties, to business and everything in between.

Second, the gradual transformation of Pacquiao’s style into a more refined boxer slash puncher – and most recently, counterpuncher – due to all the wisdom and experience accumulated in over 50 gruelling battles.

Third, his actual physical decline. Pacquiao’s body at 33 years old and comfortably at the 147 lb. division has not been what it once was back in his Featherweight days.

I like to compare it to what occurred in Michael Jordan’s career when he was a 40-year old man playing for the Washington Wizards. Jordan still had “it” but had to modify his playing style to suit his obvious physical decline – the same thing that’s happening to Kobe Bryant right now. At 33 years old, it happens.

And now it’s happening to Manny Pacquiao.

In light of all this, it’s definitely not to say that the People’s Champ doesn’t have what it takes to beat the best of the best out there anymore – and not only beat them, but destroy them – including Timothy Bradley.

But he is beating opponents a different way.

The Pacquiao of today likes to box. He has better confidence in his counterpunching abilities now more than ever before. He has a complete arsenal of punches at his disposal and a much more improved defense than in any point in his career.

At this stage, Pacquiao opts to use knowledge and wisdom over trying to just merely outpunch and outlast an opponent physically.

The end result is a refined, master pugilist who makes every punch count.

Not a bad thing

He’s still the same exciting fighter that we know and love, just a bit more controlled and a bit laid back – which, as brilliant as he is, in turn makes him more succeptible to losses and being on the wrong end of a bad decision.

Still, Manny Pacquiao at 80% was enough to take care of Timothy Bradley… too bad the judges didn’t see it that way.

Perhaps Bradley was just in the right place at the right time.

There will be others after Bradley. Marquez for example, in the not so distant future, and possibly the next in line to take on the national fist – and he won’t be the last.

However, one thing is for certain: if Pacquiao does not rededicate himself to the sport and get rid of all external distractions, his body will not let him fight at his usual frenetic pace.

Pacquiao still can, no doubt, but he’d have to change a lot of things, that’s for sure.

For starters, I’d like to see him train a full 3 months at the Wild Card Gym, instead of spending a majority of camp in Baguio and then having to shift thousands of miles to L.A. for the continuation of training camp.

That would certainly get his undivided attention focused squarely on preparing for a fight.

In the end, I believe Manny actually said it best. The fight is won in the gym. “If you train hard, the fight is easy.”

If Pacquiao can find that hunger, that passion for the sport once again, then there’s no stopping him from taking out the Bradleys, the Marquezs and of course, if we are so lucky to witness it — the Mayweathers.

It’s either that or fade quietly into obscurity. —

Click on the links below for more on Manny Pacquiao.

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