Pacquiao uncaged

Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank Promotions

Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank Promotions

 

He may not be the whirlwind or the force he was several years ago but as Chris Algieri discovered this past weekend in Macau, China, it’s still going to take a certain level of fighter to topple Manny Pacquiao. Algieri – who was sent to the canvas six times – was in many ways the perfect foil in this promotion. He was well-spoken, eloquent, good looking and hit the right demographic (i.e. he was white) and ultimately non-threatening.

 

Top Rank Promotions’ Bob Arum couldn’t have gotten a better B-side from central casting.

 

But this much is clear: the much-talked about demise of the “Pac-Man” from a couple of years ago was greatly exaggerated. He may not be the world’s best anymore but the class he’s in…well, as Bum Phillips once said, “It don’t take long to call roll.”

 

At age 35, Pacquiao is still very much an elite prizefighter.

 

From the very beginning, he flashed his trademark blend of speed and power and his two-fisted attack simply overwhelmed Algieri, whose relative lack of pop (just eight stoppages in 20 professional contests coming in) left him virtually defenseless against the bouncing in-and-out attack of Pacquiao. If you can’t hit hard enough to keep Pacquiao honest, you have no chance of holding him off. You don’t run into a hornet’s nest with a flyswatter.

 

And as Algieri hit the floor twice in the second (the first more so from a wet spot on the canvas in Pacquiao’s corner), any thoughts of him pulling the upset quickly evaporated. The bottom line is Algieri needed to box well early, build an early lead and slow the pace. By falling behind early, he had the unenviable task of having to take risks which, quite frankly, he never did. The bout fell into a familiar pattern: Pacquiao attacking whenever he wanted, Algieri futilely trying to fend him off and hitting the canvas so often that he started to blend in with the Tecate logo.

 

Things reached a hilarious apex when in the ninth round, Algieri’s trainer, Tim Lane stated to Max Kellerman that they had Pacquiao right where they wanted him and that Lane was on the very cusp of letting his charge “out of the cage.” And as if on cue, a sharp left had Algieri staring up at the lights of the Cotai Arena (yeah, that sequence has gone viral. Just Google “Tim Lane, out of cage” and you’ll see what I’m talking about).

 

To his credit, Algieri was able to see the final bell. But it was small consolation as he was on the losing end by the lopsided tallies of 119-103 twice and 120-102. If this were a soccer game, this was Germany-Brazil in the last World Cup. But this really accentuated the difference in class between the two. Algieri is a pretty good boxer, one good enough to defeat Emmanuel Taylor and upset Ruslan Provodnikov in his previous two outings. But Pacquiao is several notches above his level and Algieri was never in this contest.

 

Yet for some reason, this point is lost on many pundits and the storyline in recent fights has been more about what Pacquiao once was and not what he still is. Perhaps it goes back to his winless 2012 campaign but upon further inspection, was that year really indicative of a steep decline? The overwhelming majority of observers believe Pacquiao outpointed Tim Bradley in their first encounter. Then before he hung a curveball and was struck by the shot heard ‘round the world by Juan Manuel Marquez in their fourth match-up, Pacquiao was actually having more success against the classy Mexican counterpuncher than at any point in their rivalry since the first round of their initial encounter in 2004.

 

Since that forgettable year, he has blanked Brandon Rios, gained “revenge” on Bradley and has now dominated the previously unbeaten Algieri. Again, not to make too much over this most recent victory, after all, there was a reason Pacquiao was originally as high as a 16-to-1 favorite as this fight was consummated. But great fighters are supposed to dominate foes like this – and that’s precisely what he did.

 

Don’t call it a comeback.

 

Algieri said it best when he said in the immediate aftermath of this fight that Pacquiao has perfected the art of fighting like Pacquiao. He isn’t flawless from a technical standpoint but his many other attributes (speed, quickness, combination punching and an underrated ring I.Q.) more than make up for it. Call it flawed perfection. You can have all the Andre Wards and Guillermo Rigondeauxs with their supposed superior fundamental precision; give me the “Pac-Man” all day.

 

In reality, Pacquiao has legitimately lost one fight since 2005 (his first go-around with Erik Morales). Just think about that. And as you fast forward to the upcoming year, other than Floyd Mayweather Jr., who would you favor between 140 and 147 over Pacquiao?

 

Marcos Maidana?

 

Lucas Matthysse?

 

Adrien Broner?

 

Danny Garcia?

 

Jessie Vargas?

 

Keith Thurman?

 

Kell Brook?

 

Anybody?

 

If you do, I think most of the wise guys in Las Vegas would disagree with that notion. The version of Pacquiao who showed up in Asia is still an incredibly tough out.

 

And speaking of Mayweather, yeah, those talks are already percolating and it seems like even Foot Locker (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wS8WJ6Lz1AU) has gotten into the trolling with its most recent ad campaign. It’s a clever bit of marketing from both Pacquiao and everyone else involved but what’s that saying? “Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me 10 times; shame on me”? Just my opinion but Pacquiao and Bob Arum are goading Floyd right now knowing he will not bite. Therefore Mayweather would lose in the court of public opinion and, in essence, win the public relations battle.

 

The reality is Mayweather still has two fights on his incredibly lucrative deal with Showtime and he’s made it crystal clear in the past that he simply won’t break bread with Arum. Yeah, this is boxing’s version of “Groundhog Day.” Have hope and optimism at your own risk.

 

But back to Manny. If this fight never comes to fruition, the reality is he will have to bear some of the blame (let’s face it; both have made numerous excuses) but he will continue to do what he has done for years: entertain fans. Pacquiao is still who we thought he was. Yeah, crown him.

 

It turns out he never went away and it looks like he’ll be here for awhile.

 

 

FINAL FLURRIES

 

Vasyl Lomachenko-Nicholas Walters looks like the fight to make at 126 in 2015…Do you think Zou Shiming can beat any of the champions in his weight class?…Ievgen Khytrov is a prospect to look out for. He blew out Louis Rose in one round in Tulsa on Friday night…Look for Terrence Crawford to be in the mix to face Pacquiao in ’15…UCLA is playing like that team that was so highly touted at the beginning of the season…That Odell “Grab it like” Beckham touchdown catch versus the Cowboys just might be the greatest catch I have ever seen…Miami has way too much talent to be a five-loss team – and the NFL Draft will prove that in May…I can be reached at steve.kim@ucnlive.com and I tweet (a lot) at http://twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at http://instagram.com/steveucnlive.

 

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