Pacquiao Watch: Manny needs to be Manny

Edwin G. Espejo

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Manny Pacquiao wears many hats as the Philippines' most celebrated athlete in history, but columnist Edwin Espejo thinks he should be most concerned with wearing his boxing gloves

PAC IS BACK. Manny Pacquiao lands a right hook on the outstretched punch mitt of Buboy Fernandez at his gym in General Santos City. Photo by Edwin Espejo

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – Manny Pacquiao has a score to settle and he knows outboxing Timothy Bradley will not be enough to erase the memory of his controversial split decision loss to the American in 2012.

An emphatic stoppage win will certainly expunge that loss which also broke a string of 15 consecutive victories. That sorry setback was followed by a shock knockout defeat to perennial nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez.

The two consecutive losses led to an 11-month hiatus for the Pacquiao. These drained his psyche. They also harmed his pockets.

(READ: Does Pacquiao have the killer instinct to fend off Bradley?)

He won his bounce back fight against Brandon Rios in Macau in November last year where Pacquiao once again displayed his boxing skills. But he also left many asking if he still has what it takes to stop opponents in the ring. Pacquiao has not won by knockout since his 11-round trashing of Miguel Angel Cotto in 2009 – a span of seven fights.

On Monday in the U.S., the 8-division world boxing champions promised to be aggressive and revert to his old self. 

In the days when he was still on his way to the top, Pacquiao would simply run over his opponents with his patented whirlwind attack.  He instilled fear right in the opening rounds and reduce his opponents into cowering in defense. 

He rode on that signature style and added refinements along the way to become the top gun of boxing. No other Filipino boxer, or an Asian for that matter, has captivated the very discriminating fans of world class boxing.

And he did it with class and gusto.

Pacquiao needs to rediscover his ferocity.

Fighting more established and bigger opponents, Pacquiao left nothing to be desired.

ROAD TO REDEMPTION. Pacquiao and Bradley pose with company at the kickoff press conference for their April 12 rematch. Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank

Over the years, however, he ran out of conquests.  Along the way, money became the primordial reason to fight.  Then he became the most sought after Filipino celebrity. He did movies, cut records, hosted television shows and soon found himself in politics. Success brought him fame but it also cut into his simple lifestyle.

Deny he must, these outside the ring glories and preoccupations eroded his fierce competitive nature. He has slackened. He became accommodating. He allowed himself to be distracted and even bashed over it.

He was led to believe he was an indestructible boxer.

Until 2012 proved to him some good things never last.

(READ: Pacquiao promises return of aggressive style in Bradley rematch)

On Tuesday, February 4, Pacquiao admitted he lost some of the zeal.

He wants to recover the hunger that brought him the glory.

He showed vestiges of that when he taught Rios a neat boxing lesson in Macau last year. But he again withheld his ferocity.

Against Bradley, Pacquiao needs more than what he displayed against Rios.

He needs to be his old self.

Pacquiao has all the incentives to be the Manny of old. 

He wants payback. He wants redemption and salvation from the ignominy of 2012. He needs to reclaim his box office draw. He needs to settle some old and new debts.

And more importantly, he needs to find his Phoenix again rising. Thrice he tasted defeats before his 2012 debacles. Thrice he rose from the ashes. A decisive and compelling win over Bradley will rest his weary mind. –

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