|Manny Pacquiao: The New Star In Boxing? Hardly!
By Coyote Duran, DoghouseBoxing.com (Dec 12, 2008) Photo © Laura De La Torre
The media was rife with the vibe of discovery late-Saturday night/Sunday morning. Fans and writers galore hit the keys with the exuberance of an archaeologist; digging up the find of their lives: Manny Pacquiao.
It's a frequent discovery, apparently. It seems that every single fight 'Pac-Man' wins yields the very same result; the throngs go wild with the coronation of a new king who will someday save the kingdom from the dragon which is mainstream obscurity.
What no one realizes, with the exception of The Philippines, is that Pacquiao, 48-3-2 (36), has already done as much saving as he can handle.
With Saturday's systematic destruction of mainstream god, Oscar De La Hoya, Pacquiao has catered to the masses who already knew what many pay-per-view buying fanatics are seemingly just discovering. Pacquiao is and has been a force to be reckoned with. A force to be reckoned with for years? That depends and is a much more relevant quest for discovery than Pacquiao's status in the here and now.
It must be frustrating for Pacquiao's fans in The Philippines to have known so much about their prodigal son before we in The States did. Home team fans of World Super Middleweight/Light Heavyweight Champion Joe Calzaghe can relate. What Pacquiao and Calzaghe share is, not just the adoration of their geographical support system, but how long it took us before we fully began to appreciate them. Now, with Calzaghe talking retirement instead of facing new WBC super middleweight titleholder Carl Froch, we soon may only have Pacquiao left to appreciate.
Pacquiao's acclaim here in the United States has been appreciated way too late by those who aren't of the hardcore set and those who work close to him watch him just as closely. While so many see him as a savior to a broken sport, some of us are preparing our goodbyes. Pacquiao's long shelf life, a life since 1995, needs a final chapter; with no looking back through the previous chapters. He never had the benefit of an Oscar De La Hoya and the amateur accolades, Olympic gold medal and numerous privileges that come with the name. With the long road 'Pac-Man' has traveled to get where he is today, a light at the end of the tunnel (and soon) is just what Pacquiao needs to avoid the inevitable downward slide most fighters slip down.
Pacquiao is more than familiar with fighters on the downward slide. He's fought many of them and most of those fighters he, himself, has pushed down the slope. De La Hoya was already headed down the slope when Pacquiao whacked him around for 24 minutes; but with as many observers that saw a De La Hoya win as a foregone conclusion, Pacquiao's win is seen as nothing short of a miracle for the sport.
"Long live the king!" they shout. The reality is that the king was always here; regardless of De La Hoya's influence on Our Sport's status quo. If this isn't true, then why has Pacquiao ridden the top of many pound-for-pound lists for at least the past two years, regardless of Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s alleged grip on the vaunted list? He was fighting the best thrown in front of him; that’s why. He fought with hunger, bravery and fallibility. Pacquiao has chinks in his armor and that’s one of the things that makes him great because coming back from danger and winning makes a sports hero. This is especially sad since heroism in boxing takes the hero nowhere in the realm of mainstream sports. If it did, the man on the street would know about Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward I through III and Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo I
What's also kind of sad is that with as long as Pacquiao has been on the top, his talent, opposition and unmatched fighting style still haven't made a dent in the ignorant, widespread perception that boxing is dead.
So, if Pacquiao couldn't have 'saved' boxing with each opponent he's kicked down the slope, why on Earth can't he do it by beating 'The Golden Boy'? Because the legend of De La Hoya won't die with any defeat he sustains. You know the spiel. Six weight classes. The way-generous designation of '10 world championships.' The aforementioned amateur kudos. Looks. Business acumen. The legend of Oscar De La Hoya is bigger than Oscar himself. Few have matched or eclipsed what De La Hoya has done; save for Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson. What the aforementioned share is their country of birth; for not all share the same qualities. But that's them, not Pacquiao.
A star who couldn't be any further from 'new.'
You can't blame American fans for going through the roof when a main event fighter like Pacquiao runs roughshod through a legend; even if that legend is past his best. The last and best example is former Undisputed Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis' sick hammering of former champ Mike Tyson in June 2002. Like Pacquiao, the Tyson win was Lewis’ star-making turn. He didn’t need it; just like Pacquiao didn’t need the De La Hoya win to be a star. Like Lewis, Pacquiao was already a star.
Unfortunately, no matter how much the masses who just discovered the swath of destruction ‘Pac-Man’ has laid or those loyal ‘Pac-Maniacs’ who knew all along converge in the middle of Filipino God Square and shout at the top of their lungs, there won’t be another Oscar De La Hoya for a long, long time. Maybe that’s a good thing because if every wonderful commodity Our Sport has to offer stays anonymous to the mainstream sports media -and it will if we don’t get meaningful fights back on network (or at the very least, basic cable) television; while simultaneously removing ‘Merry Christmas, Drake And Josh’ star, Kimbo Slice forever- it means we get to start over without the lingering template of ‘The Golden Boy’ staring us our faces everywhere we turn.
Maybe having a superstar of some sort in the sport is an anomaly in itself. Maybe we’re not supposed to have someone of such magnitude representing boxing because, as it has, a superstar will always raise the bar; lowering our success in finding ‘the next great champ.’
Maybe without Oscar De La Hoya, boxing can be normal again. And maybe Manny Pacquiao can just go back to doing what he does best: Beating the crap out of top (or not-so-top) fighters while being the idol of millions without ever really being known by the world at large.
We know the truth and that’s all that really matters anyway.
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