Manny Pacquiao: Is 'PacMan' Losing His Edge?

Lee Cleveland Updated
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Has Manny Pacquiao lost his 'eye of the tiger?' Is the great Pacquiao evolving from a fighter of unmitigated destruction to a kinder, gentler human being inside the ring?  Is Manny losing his edge?

Killer instinct is a euphemism for ruthlessness.  

The killer instinct is the ability within a person to hurt another person for non-self defense defense purposes. Fighters are typically thought to innately possess this nature, at least inside the ring. After all, how many people are capable of inflicting inflict serious pain on humans who have not hurt them?

Its been argued this ability or 'instinct' separates boxers and mixed martial artists from all other pro athletes. The root cause of 'killer instinct' is not yet known but many psychologists would probably assert its a combination of genetics and one's life experiences. Moreover, some would even argue its an inborn nature unique to some humans that can only be brought out through struggles and painful and/or extremely negative environmental influences and experiences.

It takes a very, very special person to excel as a fighter.

Boxing is replete with superstars and legends, like Manny Pacquiao, with humble backgrounds who, in one way or another, experienced a few doses of adversity long before stepping in a ring.

If, as some psychologists assert, a killer instinct is an inbred nature in a chosen few that can be brought about by environmental influences, can that same instinct also be mitigated by environmental influences as well?

Enter Manny Pacquiao.

Not long ago, Manny Pacquiao was a ball of furious fire who reeked havoc on opponent after opponent in division after division, slicing and dicing his way to boxing immortality. However, the fighter known as 'Pac Man' hasn't scored a knockout since 2009. And to some, Manny seems more like a "really nice guy" than "blood-thirsty gentleman" these days.

Coinciding with public doubt about Manny's ranking as top pound-for-pound fighter in the world are his frequent hints of retirement. With his desire to work on behalf of the Catholic Church, his political pursuits and his singing career, many are curious about Pacquiao's devotion to boxing. Some even believe he's becoming soft and has lost some of his 'killer instinct,' a trait that's arguably a prerequisite for success in boxing.

Church representative, Member of Congress, humanitarian, singer, actor, product endorser, husband, father... and... boxer. Is Manny Pacquiao spreading himself too thin?

Couple all of his endeavors with his immense fame and monetary wealth and its easy to see how a fighter could lose his edge in the ring.

Has the world seen a different Manny Pacquiao since his bout with Joshua Clottey? Some would argue we have, in fact, seen a different Manny. Some would contend the legendary Pacquiao, while occasionally showing flashes of his former self, doesn't possess the ring fierceness that helped spawn his meteoric rise.

"Now, when we fought, you had that eye of the tiger, man; The Edge! And now you gotta get it back, and the way to get it back is to go back to the beginning. You know what I mean?"  

- Apollo Creed, Rocky III

Pictured: Miss World 1st runner-up Gwendolyn Ruais, left, and Manny Pacquiao

As "Man of the Decade," Manny Pacquiao was chosen to be the cover in People's Asia magazine for the special "People of the Year"
(December 2011-January 2012)

Eye of the Tiger
Incidentally, Jimi Jamison, the former lead vocalist of the band Survivor sang "Eye of the Tiger" during Manny Pacquiao's ring walks for his last two bouts with Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Is Manny's selection irony? Is it coincidence? "Eye of the Tiger" is arguably the perfect selection for a fighter who's losing his edge but needs something to inspire him.

Pacquiao vs Margarito, Nov 2010
Were there hints of Manny softening in his bout with Antonio Margarito? In the 11th Round,

'PacMan' had his opponent badly hurt. The Pacquiao of old would have seemingly unleashed a furious attack to close the show but the latest version of 'Pac Man' kindly stepped back and asked the referee to stop the fight. When the referee refused, Pacquiao seemed content to let Margarito go the distance.

Pacquiao stopped Miguel Cotto in the 12th Round, Marco Antonio Barrera in the 11th and Eric Morales in the 10th. In the past, Pacquiao wasn't adverse to knocking out a thoroughly beaten opponent late in the fight. Has something changed?  Manny's detractors will point to Pacquiao's bouts against the aforementioned fighters and answer in the affirmative.

Pacquiao vs Mosley, May 2011
Shane Mosley was arguably competitive with Pacquiao until the Sugar Man was floored in the 3rd Round. After getting a dose of the explosive Filipino's power, Mosley went into 'survival mode,' refusing to engage with the onrushing Pacquiao. While some argue the retreating Mosley's defensive posture was purely to blame for the lackluster bout, Manny Pacquiao's critics will point to Round 10 in retort.

With 1:09 left in Round 10, Pacquiao went down from a Mosley push. Seemingly enraged the referee incorrectly ruled it a knockdown, Pacquiao, showing flashes reminiscent of the 'Pac Man' of years past, tore into Mosley with a short but vicious assault. After the round, Mosley attempted to retire on his stole as a result.

Although Manny Pacquiao pot-shot Mosley here and there and convincingly dominated the Sugar Man, was he capable of laying the smackdown on Sugar Shane? The final minute of Round 10 and Mosley's actions following it may be all fans need to know.

Even more unusual, and perhaps unprecedented in a fight of this magnitude, was the repeated touching of gloves after every round. Touching gloves is a ritual that's usually performed at the end of the final round. Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley, in their repeated extension of personal pleasantries, arguably more resembled two old friends playing golf than two boxers in a superfight.

In between one of the rounds, trainer Freddie Roach asked Pacquiao, "Why are you touching gloves? Is he your friend? You're supposed to knock this guy out."

Pacquiao vs Marquez, Nov 2011
The time had come for Manny Pacquiao to convincingly defeat his arch rival, Juan Manuel Marquez, once and for all. A top pound-for-pound fighter himself, Marquez gave the Filipino superstar all he could handle for twelve rounds. And although Pacquiao won a close, controversial decision, Marquez appeared to have Pacquiao off-balance much more often and his punches were more accurate and appeared more crisp and eye-catching. 

During the the middle rounds, Manny Pacquiao seemed as tentative as he's looked in years, unwilling to engage Juan in an all-out assault and seemingly content to stay out of harm's way. Marquez on the other-hand, jolted Pacquiao several times in the 4th, 5th and 7th Rounds. 

Although Manny showed tremendous heart and a fantastic chin, he seemed to lack the tenacity he possessed in bouts one and two against Marquez. Perhaps if Pacquiao had been victimized by another no-knockdown knockdown (a la Shane Mosley) we would have seen what an angry Pacquiao was capable of... at least for a round or two.

Is Manny losing a step?
Some will argue Manny Pacquiao has lost a step but his speed, agility and footwork appear in tact. During Round 1 of Pacquiao vs Marquez III, famed trainer and HBO commentator Emanuel Steward said:

"Manny's fighting very, very intelligent. Notice he's keeping his balance, doing a lot of feinting before he punches, so he doesn't get counter-punched so easily. He looks very, very strong. Seems to be just a little bit faster with his coordination and his movement at this stage, even though no one has landed a punch, he seems to be better balanced."

In Round 4, the famed trainer added, " This is maybe the fastest that I've saw Pacquiao, myself."

And always fascinated by Pacquiao's footwork, HBO Commentator Jim Lampley raved about Manny's ability to get from 'Point A' to 'Point B' so quickly and effectively, even showing highlights to support his opinion.

Based on HBO's commentary in Manny Pacquiao's most recent bout, 'Pac Man' is far from slowing down from a technical and athletic standpoint. 

With his physical abilities and technical prowess well in-tact, perhaps its Pacquiao's pacifism that kept him from knocking out Margarito and hindered his performances against Mosley and Marquez?

In a recent interview, Pacquiao suggested he no longer wanted to make a career out of beating-up others? 

Seriously?  Was this the same man who successfully launched a reign of terror on the sport of boxing in the previous decade?

  • Is today's version of Manny Pacquiao as hungry as he was in 2001 when, as a last minute replacement, he mauled highly-favored IBF Super Bantamweight titlist Lehlohonolo Ledwaba?
  • Does today's version of Manny Pacquiao have the same grit as the 'PacMan' who signed, sealed and delivered Marco Antonio Barrera and Eric Morales?
  • Does he possess the same ferociousness as the 'Pac Man' who showed no mercy for a past-his prime De La Hoya?

Is Manny Pacquiao losing his edge?


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