PACMAN UN-RETIRES | PAGARA FLOPS | PORTUGAL AND EDER SOAR TO EURO GLORY | DURANT TURNS GOLDEN
By Ted Lerner
“Manny Pacquiao will fight again, you can bet on it.”
Those were the words I wrote in this revered space several months back, when Manny Pacquiao was deep in preparations for his self-declared “final” fight against American Timothy Bradley in April. Many of my boxing scribe friends around the world took the bait hook, line and sinker and pounded out nostalgic pieces, extolling the amazing and thrilling career of the once poor kid from General Santos City.
“It’s a true to life Rocky Balboa story,” some said. “We will never see the likes of him again,” others wrote.
“Hold on,” I cautioned. “Manny Pacquiao will fight again. You can take it to the bank!”
Most didn’t believe me, instead choosing to believe Manny himself, who also happened to be running for Senator in the May elections. Manny said the Bradley fight would definitely be it for him, as he wanted to give 100% to his Senatorial responsibilities, should he win. Even though as a congressman he had racked up the worst attendance record in the history of that esteemed body, Manny was adamant that when elected Senator, he was sure to take his duties seriously.
As most of you already know, Pacquiao won that Senate seat. And now, just three months after his historic election victory, take a guess what I am about to write next. (Hint, it has something do with a politician flip flopping on his earlier statements.) Yes, that’s right, Manny Pacquiao wants to “come out of retirement” and fight again.
Pacquiao’s promoter, Hall of Famer Bob Arum, recently came out with the news that indeed he has conferred with the newly minted Senator and has the go-ahead to start looking for dates and an opponent later this year for Manny Pacquiao’s return to the ring. At press time the news was getting ramped up even more, as Arum revealed that he has settled on November 5 in Las Vegas. Pacquiao even said he will train in Manila, so he can also attend to his Senatorial duties while whipping himself into world class shape.
No opponent has been named yet, but as could be expected when one of the greatest fighters of all time decides to fight, there’s no shortage of bar room banter about who should step in the ring with Pacman.
You can forget about a rematch with Floyd Mayweather. “Money” is also “retired”, for now, and has not given any indication that he wants to return. And frankly I don’t know anyone who wants to see that stinker again.
A lot of talk has swirled around Jr. Welterweight Terrance Crawford, who is 28-0. At press time, Crawford was about to step into the ring with another alphabet champ, Viktor Postol, also 28-0. Arum has said that the winner of that fight would be in the front of the line to face Pacquiao. Crawford fights under the Top Rank banner so it would be easy to make that fight.
Another fighter Arum is pushing for is Jesse Vargas, who also fights for Top Rank. I predict Vargas will be the one standing across from Pacquiao when the bell rings in November. The 27 year old Las Vegas resident has a 27-1 record which could make him marketable. He’s also a fairly safe choice for Pacquiao. In 2015 Vargas lost a unanimous decision to the same Tim Bradley that Pacquiao destroyed. That should tell you about all you need to know.
Indeed if you are getting queasy reading all of this, you are not alone. For a legend like Pacquiao to make a “comeback” at 37 years old to fight a relative nobody, just reeks of a blatant money grab for all concerned.
I’m not begrudging another man’s right to do as he pleases and to earn a living doing what he loves. And I understand the boxer’s mentality. The rush, excitement and adulation that a champion like Pacquiao experiences in the boxing ring cannot be duplicated anywhere in his life, not even in the Senate of the Philippines. There’s also no other endeavor in life where Pacquiao can earn a multi-million dollar payday for a few month’s work. The lure of big time prize fighting is truly irresistible to those warriors who toil in that realm. It’s also the reason we see so many punch drunk fighters who age and grow old quickly.
So I’m not going to use this space to say that Manny shouldn’t fight. Even as a part time boxer, he’s still better than 90% of the boxers in his weight division. He can still compete and win at the highest levels of the sport.
He will, however, have to put up with a lot of brickbats from Filipinos who may develop buyer’s remorse for electing him to the Senate, all the while watching him focus on another massive money haul. I have no doubt Pacman will try to spin it to his advantage, saying it’s God’s will, and that he’ll use the fight as a chance to bring more honor and glory to the Philippines.
Whatever. Looking back I only wish that Manny had stuck with boxing and only boxing until he was truly ready to retire, and then taken up politics or whatever he chose to do after hanging up his gloves for good. Boxing at this level requires that you go all-in, all the time. You can’t work on behalf of 100 million Filipinos and fight the best fighters and be at your peak.
Yes, Pacman can still win against top level competition. But count me in as one who has pretty much lost interest.
PAGARA KO’D IN THE 8TH ROUND
If I sound a bit cynical and jaded on the latest goings-on of Manny Pacquiao, rest assured that it wasn’t always this way. I have known and followed Pacman since he was a rail thin 16 year old training here in Angeles City…yes Pacquiao trained in Angeles City for several months in the mid-1990’s---at the gym of legendary raconteur Mick O’Brien in Josefa Subdivision.
What I loved about the old Pacquiao was that he made his way through the ranks the old school way; he fought everyone and anyone they put in front of him. He wasn’t pushed too fast nor fed a steady diet of no-hopers to build his record. He built his reputation by punishing the best fighters from the Philippines and around Asia. He learned the fight game, was tested, hurt and sometimes knocked down, and mostly came out on top, always with a brilliant display of guts and ferocious speed and power.
This recipe of properly moving fighters along is what is sorely missing from today’s fight game in the Philippines. Take boxer Albert Pagara. Pagara, a junior featherweight known as “Prince,” fights for ALA Promotions, the country’s largest promotional outfit, which is based out of Cebu. ALA stages the hugely popular “Pinoy Pride” boxing series that airs on ABS-CBN TV.
As the ring announcer for Pinoy Pride, I have stood in the ring on countless occasions with Pagara. At just 22 years old the speedy and good looking Filipino had built his record up to an enviable 26-0. In the last few years he has beat down a steady stream of Latino’s and his promoters were talking about a world title shot in the coming months.
But while the hype surrounding Pagara was starting to reach fever pitch, I wasn’t so convinced. I never felt that the opponents handed to him have allowed him to develop the mettle and fortitude to fight the very best in his weight division. That’s the same mettle and fortitude that Pacman developed when he was rising through the ranks.
Sure enough when Pagara faced off against his first world class opponent in early July in San Francisco, California, things didn’t go according to script. The Filipino got brutalized by tough Mexican Cesar Juarez, getting knocked out in the 8th round.
The talented Pagara can make a future for himself but he has to hope his promoters take a step back and get him the kind of experience that can help him weather the storms that always come in boxing. Besides making sure he’s in better physical shape, ALA should test Pagara against opponents from around Asia and even from the Philippines. As they start to climb up the ranks, Filipinos rarely face each other in the ring and this is to their detriment. It’s too easy to go for some bogus regional title against a nobody from Nicaragua. Yes it makes the fans feel good and it builds your fighter’s record and confidence. But you do your fighter no favors when he’s taken into those dark corners by the killers in the sport.
That’s how Manny Pacquiao did it. That’s how all great boxers did it. You can’t take shortcuts in the brutal sport of boxing.
EDER WINS IT FOR PORTUGAL
The name Éderzito António Macedo Lopes hasn’t exactly been a household moniker in the world of international football. But fans in Portugal and France, and indeed around the world, now know everything about the man.
“Eder”, as he is known, was sitting on Portugal’s bench for his team’s Euro 2016 final against home favorite France. Suddenly, however, Portugal star Ronaldo injured his knee and had to leave the game in tears. The un-fancied Eder came in to fill Ronaldo’s very big shoes.
Then with the game tied late into extra time and almost surely heading to the dreaded penalty kicks, the 28 year old Eder found himself with the ball, created a space, and thundered home the winner from 30 yards away. The goal gave Portugal its first ever Euro title, and ended the feel good run of “Les Bleus.”
The feel good story of Eder is surely worth noting and is the type of tale that makes sport so compelling. The Portugal substitute originally hails from the West African country of Guinea Bissau, a former colony of Portugal. He moved to Portugal at the age of 2 with his mother to join his immigrant father who was working there.
His parents were unable to take care of him so at the age of eight, he moved away from his family to a care home. He was always in trouble because all he ever did was play football in the streets. One day his talent was noticed and he was allowed to attend a local academy.
He made his way through the club ranks and at 18, Eder signed his first contract for a Portuguese second division club for a monthly salary of $440, which he sent to his mother.
He has played in Portugal’s Premiera Liga and for Braga in France. He made his debut for Portugal in 2012. Just before the start of this year’s Euro Championships, Eder put a prophetic post on his Facebook page.
"Go ahead, underestimate me," it said.
From virtual unknown to hero in an instant. Nobody is underestimating Eder now.
THE WARRIORS SNAG KEVIN DURANT
Kevin Durant shocked the basketball world when he decided in early July to leave the Oklahoma Thunder and head to the Golden State Warriors. As if the Warriors weren’t already good enough, they’ve now added one of the NBA’s best players, a power forward star that is guaranteed to make the Warriors nearly unbeatable next year.
After spending 8 seasons with the Thunder, Durant decided that his future success lay with Golden State, and he signed a 2 year, $54 million deal. But his decision to leave OKC didn’t sit well with many fans, even those outside of Oklahoma. And for good reason.
Durant played 8 straight seasons for the Thunder, racking up all-star numbers, and propelling OKC to near the top of the league. This past season the Thunder were up 3-1 and one quarter away from a spot on the Finals against the Warriors. They eventually blew the series but one had to figure that they were good odds to go even further next year.
Now, OKC will probably be an also-rans, while the Warriors will be literally stacked. Why would Durant give up on a team he helped mold and move to a team that is already loaded? Of course, Durant wants that golden ring, and he figures he has better odds with already great Golden State team. Fair enough and he has a right to play for whoever he wants to play for and to command the highest money he can.
But wouldn’t it be nice sometimes to see even the slightest bit of loyalty from our sports heroes? Durant helped OKC get close to the mountain top. Right when they were about to get there, he leaves and heads to what he believes are sunnier climates.
I feel bad for his teammates and the fans in OKC. They deserve better.