It’s All Too Possible
By Coyote Duran, (Nov 19, 2008) Doghouse Boxing  
There's a wacky irony in being either The Ring World Lightweight Champion Juan Manuel Marquez or WBC lightweight titlist Manny Pacquiao. Fewer rivals throughout boxing history were better made for each other but both Marquez and Pacquiao make their own post-fight histories of war on two entirely different paths; both perhaps meant to converge just one more time. As fight histories go, that might not be so great for Pacquiao.

As present-day goes, when Pacquiao faces Oscar De La Hoya at welterweight on December 6, he'll be
giving up 12 pounds at the weigh-in; 24 hours prior to the fight. It's popularly conceived that Manny's gain, so to speak, will be Oscar's loss; should 'Pac-Man' win. One has to wonder what direction the Filipino crusher-of-hopes will drive toward on December 7.

Marquez, 49-4-1 (36), fresh from his September championship victory over the crafty Cuban Joel Casamayor, has options; but the only option he really wants went 12 pounds north.

That option seems like 'the one that got away' from 'El Dinamita.' After defeating Marquez at for the vacant Ring World Junior Lightweight Championship via spilt decision in March, Pacquiao wasted no time in targeting David Diaz for the WBC 135-pound strap three months later. Dissatisfied to no end, Marquez left 130 with the mission of facing 'Pac-Man' for a third go-round.

In September, Marquez, in a way, got what he wanted; in the face of what Pacquiao has achieved, without facing Pacquiao himself. Immediately migrating to lightweight, Marquez challenged Casamayor and, in a battle that was even on two of the judges' scorecards into the 11th heat, TKO'ed 'El Cepillo' for the real lightweight championship. It's probable that the hopes were high that the win would bring Pacquiao back for the rubbermatch.

Those hopes were dashed for the once-silly premise that became De La Hoya-Pacquiao.

Still silly (and a total waste of pay-per-view dollars) to some fans, De La Hoya-Pacquiao went from ludicrous mismatch to serious undertaking/money manufacturer in no time flat; due to, not what it means for any paper title or legitimate world championship, but how it might affect the potential lure of the mainstream set. At the very least, the effect of how the outcome of the fight changes anyone's pound-for-pound ratings is up for grabs. In the end, it all comes down to the best fighter in the business against the biggest fight name in the fight game. Who wins? Who loses? Who gives a s**t? The more important question is who gets richer and still has a career left when it's all over?

What can be expected is that both fighters will carry on because this is merely a fistic dalliance. There are too many variables in check to make this even money and that's what truly makes this event novelty fare, at best. The fact that De La Hoya-Pacquiao is what fans could delight in, in the fantasy fight vein, is great in itself; but the theory always works best when a couple of fans wax stats in, preferably, a beer-soaked think-tank session. Dude, I've been there.

Both fighters can and, considering Oscar's non-committal to determining a career finale, probably will continue fighting at or near their respective weight classes. All well and good for 'The Golden Promoter', but for Pacquiao, a return to the lightweight division can prove devastating. Just ask Roy Jones Jr.

Jones, who just dropped a very decisive decision to World Super Middleweight/Light Heavyweight Champion Joe Calzaghe two Saturdays ago, could offer Pacquiao a speck of advice about 'too much, too soon.' Over five-and-a-half years ago, it was Jones, very much the Undisputed Light Heavyweight Champion (He had alphabet straps on top of alphabet straps. Some NO ONE ever heard of...), who decided to pick the heavyweight titlist best suited for a light heavyweight to conquer at the time. That titlist? Then-WBA titlist John Ruiz. Less than six months prior to the Ruiz fight, Jones was busy making perennial contender Clinton Woods look amateurish. Next thing you know, in a classic bug-up-your-ass move, Jones was 'making history' beating a 'world heavyweight champion' on March 1, 2003.

In a sense, Pacquiao's already been there; picking the lightweight titlist (in Diaz) best suited for a junior lightweight to conquer at the time. Yeah, it's apples-to-oranges based on merely a five pound difference but selection was still key in Pacquiao's strategy in moving up.

The same strategy is in place for De La Hoya-Pacquiao but the boxing shoe is truly on the other foot with Oscar being the wearer of The Golden Shoe.

Many pundits have Pacquiao pegged to win. Is that so wrong? Nope. Pacquiao has just as much a chance of pulling off the win (notice I didn't say 'upset?) as De La Hoya does? But will the after-effect parallel the direction Jones drove toward on March 2, 2003?

Howlers, it's more than possible. There's been so much speculation scattered about as to where Pacquiao will go after December 6. An extended stay at welterweight can't seriously be advised; although Antonio Margarito vs. Pacquiao might be a really groovy notion. Still, should Pacquiao prevail in his Golden Quest, there's not a damn thing, strategically, statistically, or otherwise, that dictates Pacquiao will fare just as well against 'The Tijuana Tornado.' IBF titlist Josh Clottey? Forget it. Probably soon-to-be WBO titlist Miguel Cotto? Perish the thought. Kermit Cintron? Well, it's remotely possible that Pacquiao might have a chance against 'The Killer' but that's the best you can have: Remote. Too big. Too strong. But not too old.

So let's chalk up Pac's visit to a one-night stand with the 147-pound division; only to return to the faithful-yet-unwitting wife that is 135. Will that wife forgive and take him back? If you gauge Pacquiao’s assent and return home comparatively to Jones’, odds are good that (as far as fight histories go) Pac’s pound-for-pound status is just as endangered as Jones’ was when facing Antonio Tarver the first time.

Eight months after the Ruiz win, Jones came back home to the 175-pound wife to pick up where he left off and was greeted with a tiresome, albeit successful, majority decision defense against Tarver. With the win, Jones very well could’ve done whatever he wanted. Going back to the heavies to face then-IBF titlist Chris Byrd would’ve been solid. What’s not to like? A battle between two quick-fisted-yet-blown-up middleweight/light heavyweights? Like I said: Solid.

No, Jones gave in to his pride and self-image of invulnerability and when Tarver pissed and moaned about a rematch, Super Roy gave it to him; though his body wasn’t ready then and it wasn’t gonna be ready six months later, when Tarver hammered home an exclamation point on the championship sentence which was Jones.

When Jones fell to the left that was seen around the world in two rounds, six months later, the theories started coming out of the message boards and blogs like bullets from grassy knolls. Jones got too big for his trunks. Jones cut too much muscle weight and way too soon; at that. Jones should’ve stayed here and shouldn’t have gone there. You know. The usual kafuffle. Maybe some of it was true. Maybe none of it was. But what was evident was that Jones made a drastic change; thinking he was bulletproof and forgetting there was Kryptonite right around the corner.

Such is learning about one’s humanity and how readily accessible it truly is…

Jones fell to Tarver and never came back. Well, he tried. Even after getting starched by Glen Johnson, there was a certain denial in place that claimed supremacy; no matter how deluded said denial may have been.

Manny Pacquiao is in a similar position and destined to face the same fate; should he not play his hand right. Used to weighing 122, 126, 130 and 135 pounds 24 hours prior to a fight, it's not unusual for him to gain five to ten pounds (or more) in the hours leading up to the fight. Depending on what Pacquiao walks around at, coming down with lesser effort isn't the issue. Having packed on too much that you're not used to is. If Pacquiao steps into the ring at 152, 154 or even 160, then he falls into true De La Hoya territory. You think Pac's lost some speed on the way up? Think again when the context changes against a fighter who's been there for years. Yes, Oscar has lost some speed but he's still fast enough and he still hits hard enough. If Pacquiao can get out with his skin intact, then the easy part's out of the way.

Getting back home isn't that simple a trip. Like Jones at light heavyweight, the plot at lightweight is the same but with a whole different architect: Marquez. The man who chased Pacquiao.

Should a third Pacquiao-Marquez (or, very reasonably, Marquez-Pacquiao; since Marquez is the champ), come off, would it be unreasonable to think Marquez will prevail by an astounding margin; perhaps even a knockout? If recent history serves as our precedent, then no. When De La Hoya-Pacquiao is done and over, maybe it's best that Pacquiao never returns to 135. Perhaps 140 is the best, firm option; a division where the challenges are varied, much like every new challenge that awaited Pacquiao each time he jumped a class.

If World Junior Welterweight Champion Ricky Hatton gets by number one contender Paul Malignaggi this coming Saturday, timing couldn't be more perfect for Pac to invade 140. It's not like he'd have to fight an eliminator. Short of Junior Witter, there's no challenge Hatton won't take and Pacquiao would just get invited right in. If you're a fan that thinks Hatton's nearing the twilight of his career, then you might just believe as well that Pac couldn't time it better.

And speaking of Hatton, whether you dig it or not (and after some seriously quiet contemplation), there's a redeeming strategy to Floyd Mayweather’s ‘retirement’, post-Hatton/De La Hoya. Although, Mayweather dipped back down one weight class to his welterweight ‘home’, he didn’t stick around. Could he have really acknowledged his own limitations and eschewed the inevitable? If he’s as astute an observer of his contemporaries as he might lead you to believe, then it’s all too possible. Maybe Mayweather’s time was near after all and he pulled the plug at the right time. Who knows?

As fans and observers, we’re often wondering when Manny Pacquiao will pull the plug on his career. After 52 fights, including 47 wins (35 by way of knockout), three losses and two draws, the age of 29 gets a little stretched. And if Pacquiao does return to lightweight, he might just get stretched too.

Just ask Roy Jones Jr.

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