For some reason, whenever legends receive criticism a vast legion of zombie-like fans come out of the woodwork to defend their idol. It happened when Floyd Mayweather Jr. fought Andre Berto in his swan song. It happened when Oscar De La Hoya fought a Steve Forbes in front of a hometown crowd. It happened with the declines of sports greats such as Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods. Legends fade and Father Time is the only undefeated star in this game.
We as fans, expect our legends, our idols, to always strive for greatness. That is why we watch sports, to see world-class athletes achieve physical and mental greatness through their actions. However, there comes a time when those legends fade and each respective legend takes a different route.
Mayweather chose to take an easier path out with Andre Berto than a rematch with Pacquiao or a fight with a young undefeated champion like Keith Thurman before Father Time could claim him as a victim. Men like Muhammad Ali and Roy Jones Jr. were products of the demise of physical excellence we all suffer from at some point but chose to continue their careers in spite that. De La Hoya chose to take a route of “cashing out,” by interchanging big money bouts that he would lose then taking soft touches; he went 4-3 in his last seven bouts.
With Pacquiao always flirting with retirement, and Bob Arum’s recent comments to the LA Times about Pacquiao’s plan for 2017 and his retirement, it seems we are quite close to the end of a career for the legend that is Pacquiao. “We plan to have Manny fight four times this year – we have an offer in Russia in July, another offer in Europe for September and in the U.S. against [unbeaten two-belt junior-welterweight champion] Terence Crawford in November or December. That will be Manny’s last fight.” So is the man who didn’t duck anyone, the man who took on all challenges, taking an easy way out?
Jeff Horn, while an undefeated prospect, just isn’t on the level of Manny Pacquiao. While he is ranked #2 by the WBO, sanctioning body rankings are something that can be bought. Horn’s trainer/manager is also a multi-millionaire. The best names he has beat are a past their prime, over 40 years old, Randall Bailey and Ali Funeka, each man knocked down Horn as well. Are the likes of Jessie Vargas, Brandon Rios, and Chris Algieri worse than Jeff Horn? No, and it’s not even close. Those are names Jeff Horn should have fought before facing a Manny Pacquiao.
Next up on his schedule is a bout in Russia according to Arum; whom that could be against is completely unknown. However with his next bout being in Europe, most likely in the U.K., names have been thrown out. The one that was mentioned by Pacquiao’s team is Ricky Burns. Let that sink in for a second. A man that hasn’t beat a credible name in four years and lost to Terence Crawford three years ago is going to get a shot at Pacquiao before Crawford. This is if Burns gets passed Julius Indongo in April. Another name thrown out by Eddie Hearn was IBF champion Kell Brook, but there’s been no receptiveness from Pacquiao’s side to that matchup.
Then finally after those mismatches and cash grabs in other markets, Terence Crawford at the end of the year to be Pacquiao’s newest swan song. Some, maybe most, will look past those awful fights with a guarantee of Pacquiao vs. Crawford in the fall. However, Father Time has already shown itself in Pacquiao’s recent fights. He isn’t the same devastating volume puncher he used to be earlier in his career. Though in his wins against Tim Bradley and Vargas he showed that he still had a little gas left in the tank. That he still had some greatness left to achieve.
Only Time will tell if taking two or three unnecessary bouts across the world at his age in the game will adversely affect him trying to achieve greatness one last time against Terence Crawford, and only time will tell what our perception on Manny’s last tour around the world will be. Whatever it will be, that doesn’t take away from the Hall of Fame legacy he has created. Whichever way our legends fade, it’s always hard for one reason or another.