Pacquiao Watch: The hearts of champions

Edwin G. Espejo

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Pacquiao Watch: The hearts of champions
The super-fight on May 2 may come down to who has more will and desire inside of them

MANILA, Philippines – “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.” 

It was an unforgettable quote from former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich after repeating as NBA champions in 1995 despite just being 6th seeded in the playoffs.

That memorable blurb also applies to both Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao who square off on May 2 (May 3 in the Philippines) for the bragging rights of being proclaimed the best fighter of their generation. 

Mayweather, who is at his best getting under the skin of an opponent, has been repeatedly reminding everyone of the 5 losses in Pacquiao’s professional career. The most recent was a shock KO loss to nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez.

Lately, however, Mayweather has opted to keep his silence, even praising Pacquiao as a skilled fighter. They are, after all, the best in the world today. And they are fighting in the same division. How often do we see the top two fighters in the world fight each other. 

Both are champions. Legitimate. Hall of Famers. Probably high in the Greatest-of-All-Time list.

That is why it is very dangerous to dismiss any one of them in favor of the other when predicting or analyzing who will emerge victorious.

Throw away their boxing records. When the bell rings for the first round, they will be 0-0 against each other. 

But who has the bigger heart as champion?

Mayweather has never tasted defeat although many said he came close to losing one or two if not for some judging accuracy or inaccuracies.

Neither has he been tested the full length of a fight.

He was knocked down only once in his pro career – by Carlos Hernandez in 2001 when the two fought as super featherweights. 

His career is marked by careful selection of opponents. Call it cherry picking but it worked for him. When he finally obliged to fight the bigger names, he was already big and he was in his prime while the likes of Shane Mosley, Oscar de la Hoya and even Miguel Angel Cotto were already over their halcyon days.

Mayweather became the Alpha dog in boxing at a time when talents were already lacking in the division where he reined the longest.

Pacquiao, on the other hand, fought the bests in every division he forayed into after losing his flyweight belt to Medgoen Singsurat, both on the scales and inside the ring. 

His victims list includes at least 5 unanimous first vote Boxing Hall of Famers and 3 more with outside chances of being inducted in Canastota, NY. 

Make that 6 Hall of Famers if he defeats Mayweather. 

Pacquiao came back from 5 career defeats and became even a better fighter.  He came close to losing another but bounced back to capture his first world title against Chatchai Saisakul.  He likewise went down against Aussie Nadal Hussien and Kazak Serikzhan Yeshmagambetov both in the 4th rounds but came back to win by knockout.

He has faced adversity all his life. Having tasted defeat, he is afraid of it no more.

He derived his strength and courage from those defeats – the most humbling was when Erik Morales schooled him over 12 rounds. 

But in the 11th and last rounds, Pacquiao rocked Morales.

The last 2 rounds of the first of their 3 encounters showed the heart of a true champion in Pacquiao. Despite losing by a unanimous decision, Pacquiao was competitive. He was the hunter who fell short against El Terrible. 

He subsequently exacted revenge and twice stopped Morales in devastating fashions – like a true champion who rises from defeats. 

While he lost 5 times, Pacquiao was never really dominated even by Morales.  

He was caught by a Hail Mary punch from Rustico Torrecampo for his first KO defeat. He was dehydrated like a dried raisin when he gave up against Singsurat. He was probably robbed in his split decision loss against Bradley and he got careless against Marquez.

These are what separate Pacquiao from Mayweather – as champions.

Pacquiao fought his way to the top rung of the ladder. He made it on his own. He asked and was given the best competition.

He was bloodied, decked and defeated but never was dominated.

When Mayweather and Pacquiao satiate the fans’ thirsts for blood on May 2, it will be a test and battle of tactical skills. The ability to dominate and impose one’s will against the other.

But when one is tested, it is the heart of the champion that will make them prevail over adversity. 

Mayweather fought his way to the top by dominating opponents he fought and proved he can dwarf over.

Pacquiao dominated foes many thought he had no chance against at all. 

One thrives in adversity. The other in fights that are easy. –

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