It certainly was an eventful weekend in boxing and most of the spotlight was centered on the event taking place in Brisbane, Australia that featured Manny Pacquiao’s defense of his WBO welterweight title against his mandatory challenger Jeff Horn, broadcast on ESPN.
Now, I wasn’t able to view this live as I was ringside with Beto Duran calling the Thompson Boxing Promotions card from Phil Jackson’s favorite city Sacramento.
Coming into this event – which was thought to be much more of an event than actual fight – it was believed that Pacquiao would handle the overlooked Horn with ease.
But as we were waiting to go live from the Omega Products International, I got this text from “Mr. Soapbox” Matt Swider (a Pacquiao loyalist for years): “Dude, Manny looks horrendous.” And as I perused my Twitter timeline, I saw the man from “Down Under” was troubling Pacquiao and making the fight much more difficult than expected.
However, after 12 rounds, the consensus was that the “Pac-Man” had done more than enough to retain his title. But much to the shock of nearly everyone – especially ESPN’s Teddy Atlas – Horn had his hands raised as judges Chris Flores and Ramon Cerdan scored the bout 115-113 in his favor, while, most noticeably, Waleska Roldan had it 117-111 for the new champion.
Yeah, some have labeled this a blatant robbery and, personally watching this bout on Sunday morning, after I got home, my card had Pacquiao winning by a few points. Bottom line, he landed the cleaner, sharper punches and, while Horn was more competitive than expected – that alone should be a criterion for scoring rounds for a particular fighter. Horn certainly gave a great effort and tried his damnedest but, as John Wooden once stated, never mistake activity for achievement.
Now, that said, what I really took away from this bout was that Pacquiao is now old. Yeah, yeah, he’s been “old” for awhile by prizefighting standards (and he’s 38 now) but it’s clear that he no longer has the legs he used to and he can no longer pull the trigger with the type of quickness and accuracy that once defined him as a fighter. There was a time when he could throw mind-numbing combinations with ease and simply swarm and overwhelm his foes.
After a strong ninth frame, in which he buzzed and battered Horn around the ring, he simply didn’t have a finishing kick for the championship rounds.
The 2017 version of the Pac-Man is one who can still sting you with left hands but the volume punching is now basically a remnant of his glorious past. During his prime, Pacquiao could seemingly levitate on the canvas like a two-fisted hummingbird and unleash a blinding array of punches from various angles. But now the ability to set, plant and explode is like his “No Fear” apparel – long gone. They say that the first thing to really go on a fighter is the legs. Well, Manny has lost his and, from that point, there is no turning back.
Pacquiao is now Michael Jordan as a Washington Wizard.
Although some on Twitter go even further:
No. This is Kobe scoring 10ppg at below 30% fgm in his last season.
Pac-Horn 2. Does Manny have a 60-pt game left in him to end his career?
— TurtleTrend (@TurtleTrend) July 2, 2017
Like many other great boxers of the past, during the late stages of their careers, he can see openings but no longer exploit them consistently. The Pacquiao of 2015 – never mind the one from 2008-2002 – would’ve have disposed of Horn in the first half of the fight. The current version slogged through 12 rather sloppy and awkward rounds.
Based on the strong ESPN ratings, it’s clear that Pacquiao is still a marquee name in the sport but he is no longer an elite boxer. It says here that WBC/WBO junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford, IBF welterweight titlist Errol Spence Jr. and WBA/WBC welterweight champion Keith Thurman would be prohibitive favorites over this future first ballot Hall-of-Famer.
Perhaps this result was the best thing for everyone involved. Seriously, hear me out: Pacquiao, who is certainly in the twilight of his career, really didn’t want to tangle with the aforementioned trio and, with the controversial nature of the rendered decision, the strong viewership Stateside and live gate in Australia, a rematch (who knows, maybe on ABC this time around?) sounds like a natural.
Maybe this is what Leon Spinks was to Muhammad Ali, late in Ali’s career.
The hope is that there isn’t a Larry Holmes in Pacquiao’s future.
– For all the outrage over the Horn-Pacquiao scorecards (and even Aaron Rodgers and Kobe Bryant chimed in on Twitter), I was actually more upset with the shenanigans surrounding the cards for the Robert Easter Jr.-Denis Shafikov fight on Friday night from Toledo, Ohio.
This bout, broadcast on Bounce TV (and yeah, having Spectrum Cable, I get it), was a very good scrap with the (much) taller “E-Bunny” trying to establish distance from the outside, with the shorter Shafikov moving inside with constant pressure and volume punching. And the fight was one that was contested at a high level with both men having moments throughout but as the crowd at the Huntington Center grew quiet for long stretches, you got the sense it was Shafikov’s type of fight.
Unlike his past title efforts against Miguel Vazquez and Rances Barthelemy, Shafikov finished strong in the late rounds and many observers – including this scribe – believed he had done enough to take the IBF lightweight belt from Easter. Well, it turns out that, short of scoring a KO, Shafikov never had a shot as both Eugene Grant and Jaime Garayua inexplicably had the fight a shutout for the hometown Easter at 120-108. Carlos Ortiz Jr. was a bit more generous with a 116-112 ledger for the defending champion. Yeah, Grant and Garayua may have turned in their scorecards beforehand.
All I can say is: Holy Toledo.
At least a guy like Pacquiao will have the opportunity of doing a lucrative rematch with Horn and other options, which will be readily available, given his profile and stature. This doesn’t exist for the hard-nosed Shafikov, for whom a title belt (which isn’t nearly as easy to win as some think) means everything and, given how tough he is, I don’t see a lot of lightweights giving him a shot unless they absolutely have to – like Easter did, as Shaifikov was his mandatory challenger.
Late on Friday night (actually very early Saturday morning), I texted Shafikov’s trainer Abel Sanchez, expressing my opinion that his man had won that fight.
Sanchez replied simply, “Not in Toledo.”
– Meanwhile in Sacramento, welterweight hopeful Taras Shelestyuk improved to 16-0 (10) by stopping journeyman Jesus Alvarez in three rounds. Now under the guidance of trainer Joel Diaz (I love that guy!), he did seem more aggressive and was fighting off his front foot a bit more. It will be interesting to see how this union works out.
The best boxer on this card was featherweight prospect Ruben Villa, 7-0 (4), who once again showed some real skills in outpointing Jonathan Alcantara over four rounds. Villa says he is heavily influenced by WBO junior lightweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko and you can see it in how he moves around the ring and creates angles for himself.
The reason the ESPN2 card on Friday night was cut short by an hour was because some of the production equipment melted in the desert heat of Indio, California…OK, I get why Stephen A. Smith is on the ESPN coverage of boxing but a guy on that platform covering this sport better have some knowledge of Ali Funeka and Randall Bailey…The ESPN ratings for the Pacquiao fight are impressive, given the late start time on the East Coast…We are taking a Fourth of July hiatus from both “The Next Round” and “The 3 Knockdown Rule”…I was once again a guest on the CanesInsight.com with Peter Ariz talking Hurricanes football…Zima on ice is great on a warm day, isn’t it? (Editor’s note: Damn straight, Brother)…How much is JJ Redick getting from the Sixers?!…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.