A boxing career is a microcosm of life. As fans, we see young men come into the world of professional boxing with infectious energy and exuberance, brimming with raw potential and we watch with interested eyes and anticipation that we are about to witness the beginning of something special. As time goes on and practised potential becomes polished and perfected, we watch in amazement at their pulsating performances; that potential finally realised and all their hard work recognised with riches and titles. In a crazy way that only us boxing nerds do, we become emotionally attached to these fighters that whilst they’re giving blood, sweat and tears in the ring, we’re watching nervously, shouting encouragement and profanity at our TV screens and jumping up and down like hyperactive chimpanzees after a banana binge. For most of us fans there’s always a spoil sport to ruin our fun and halt our fighters seemingly runaway train of success. When a worthy rival beats our favourite fighter we instinctively clinch to speculative and unreasonable excuses as to why they lost before begrudgingly accepting defeat and giving respect to the victor (unless you’re a Floyd Mayweather fan who following his victories, smugly and raucously chant “hard work, dedication TBE, TBE, TBE!!!” in honour of their undefeated idol). A boxing career just like life is something that grows, it has its fair share of joyous ups and disappointing downs but by the end, you hope to have a dignified end, not an undeservingly sad one.
Manny Pacquiao has had an amazing boxing career full of defining fights. He’s beaten Hall of Fame and future Hall of Fame fighters in exciting and breathtaking fashion and defied odds by dismantling much larger men such as Oscar De La Hoya and Antonio Margarito. In defeat he either lost fights as a novice or against fellow respected greats such as Morales, Marquez and Mayweather. Now that he’s coming to the end of his career, his appetite for delivering viciously violent beat downs no longer appears insatiable and the ability to do so has definitely dipped.
So it came as a slight surprise to me that at this stage of his career he would possibly be facing an unknown Jeff Who? *Checks Google* erm I mean Jeff Horn or a potentially dangerous Amir Khan. Khan is talented, courageous and exciting, but exposed at the elite level and has been knocked around, down and out numerous times. He owned titles and scalps of titlists at Super Lightweight with some superb performances but he hasn’t yet earned a title at Welterweight or beaten a top Welterweight but to do so would have make him a more credible opponent. For Pacquiao a victory over Khan would not further illuminate his legacy but a loss would be a sad end that tangibly represents Pacquiao’s decline. Khan is someone who 6 years ago would have been knocked out from the sheer gust of a Pacquiao punch. However, combined with Pacquiao’s decline, Khan has the size, speed and style to be able to catch Pacquiao at the right time. As fans and with this in mind, one of the hardest things to do is watch fights on YouTube of our favourite fighters being battered by lesser fighters towards the end of their careers. Their famed ability abandoning them in their hour of need against an opportunistic foe, breaking apart the shell that was left behind. I haven’t ever watched Ali-Berbick or Tyson-Williams (I’m not even going to tag the links to those videos) more than once because as a fan it hard to watch the ordinary destroy someone that was once extraordinary.
For Pacquiao to justify continuing his boxing life, he needs a challenge against a worthy successor, where a glorious finale can be granted in victory, or dignity can be found in defeat. The deserving opponent has an opportunity to be the new face of boxing and inherit the torch that Pacquiao carried so magnificently. Someone at the peak of their powers, who has so far been flawless and for whom Pacquiao would find no shame in losing to. Perhaps Terrence Crawford ticks all of those boxes, better than Khan?
For Pacquiao to fight any unworthy challengers now only creates the risk of a sad end and another YouTube video for me to avoid.