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Manny Pacquiao: The Last Dance

Mark Villanueva

KO Boxing Forum

They both led off turning clockwise for a while, hands to a timepiece in melodic movements, returning to a time in my mind when Manny Pacquiao was just starting to make it big in boxing. I watched his fight with Antonio Barrera for the first time in a bar in Cagayan De Oro and some people were just starting to know about him. Those who already loved boxing were understandably rowdy to an infectious degree, so the heads of the crowd inside concertedly swayed side to side to synchronize somewhat with his punches shown in the television. Then there was the trilogy with Morales that gave him longer exposure locally and abroad, and then Dela Hoya which was a major turning point to the legend that Pacquiao is now.

Tim Bradley, considered by many followers of the sport as a dubious choice for an opponent, tried to make Pacquiao’s farewell dance a tactical one. He came out with a bigger physique at the weigh-in schedule, and from that I discerned he was apt to be aggressive on fight day. On the other hand, Pacquiao was obviously slimmer than he had ever been for some time, that worried his fans. Many had not recognized this as a strategy for his team to prioritize his daunted speed over power. This is an element in Pacquiao’s game that Bradley first got taste of in the seventh round.

After three rounds Bradley turned up the heat against the Filipino prizefighter. For the first time since the match had been promoted many spectators started to regard him as a serious threat. Manny Pacquiao slinks back to the ropes to attenuate the brunt of Bradley’s punches and this terrified many of his fans thinking he must have been hurt. If my mother had been around I am sure she would be one of them, watching in horror doubled for the lack of technical understanding. In fact, a good number of those who come to watch Pacquiao fight over the years, I reckon, aren’t hardcore boxing fans– to the annoyance of those who are proudly such. They do not have the time to watch Boxing, but they pay hard earned cash to watch Pacquiao fight once a year. Tricycle, Taxi, and Jeepney drivers halt diurnal tasks to watch him from outside small openings, windows of a hotel, like my old coffee shop once in Cabadbaran City with their faces crowding against the pane with the sun burning behind their backs. For a brief moment in their economically oppressed lives money is clearly devalued by one’s spirit.

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It would have been wiser for Tim Bradley not to slug it out, and close to the end of the fifth round he saw himself swinging top-heavy. He was drawing heavy breaths as he walked back to his corner, where his stagy coach Teddy Atlas, known for his dramatic and popular fireman speech, was getting ready to inject more passion into his game. But Bradley went down on the canvas the following round after being caught with a hook. It was a pivotal point of the match where he could have decided to change his style, but opted to remain aggressive– a style that fits Pacquiao, to the crowd’s liking.

He pushes it and counters with a underhand. He was hell bent on spoiling Pacquiao’s retirement fight. When they got caught in a wax the crowd was treated with sweet remembrances of glorious days past; of times of awakened consciousnesses when the Filipino knows the Filipino can, and so the Filipino must…

Pacquiao’s cat reflexes caught up with Bradley once again in the 9th. It was an awkward punch, thrown partly off balance, only Pacquiao knows how. It seems Bradley had shaken the crust off with his attacks and the Filipino great had shone once more despite his efforts of strategic restraint and maturity as a seasoned boxer. The speed was back, finally, the trademark bursts of defiance, without a sign of exhaustion. He bumped his fists before he dove into the fray. His audience loved it just as it was, as I remembered it in 2003 with Barrera and many fights thereafter. Chortles of laughter ensued as they watched Bradley turn turtle in the ring. People were chanting his name. More than victory, Manny’s fans badly wanted to see if he still had that blinding speed and power in his hands hardcore boxing fans argued he had long lost. But it was there alright, I thought, when sparked by an opponent with just the right aggression. Style makes fights, as we usually say in Boxing, but many had come not for the sport. When I left the hotel and headed back home, the hope of a people lingered.

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