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Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pacquiao a work of art but still in progress

Bob Arum is beginning to look at Manny Pacquiao the way an artist sees unfinished work that has potential to be a masterpiece.

"A grand painting," Arum said after Pacquiao began to show signs of enduring greatness Saturday night with a second-round stoppage, stunning and scary, of Ricky Hatton. "It's not all about the money. At least, that's my thinking."

Other than perhaps money, a canvas is about the only thing boxing and art have in common. From Floyd Mayweather Jr. to Miguel Cotto, Arum is more likely to paint by numbers preceded by dollar signs.

But there are elements in Pacquiao's brilliant emergence that suggest a future without any apparent limits. The next couple of years will determine whether he becomes an all-timer. A celebratory Arum said he has the chance to be the best ever, which on the promoter's long list of famed clients includes Muhammad Ali. Any parallel that includes Ali is a dangerous one and in Pacquiao's case might not be accurate, much less fair.

Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach compares the Filipino to Henry Armstrong. But unforgettable fighters make their own history mostly because there just has never been anybody quite like them. Pacaquiao, with his sixth title in a sixth weight class, has a chance to do exactly that. They are all-timers for the way they fight, but also for what they say about their own times.

Consider Ali. Roach thinks Pacquiao is a better all-around fighter than Ali, who Roach says often coasted through fights because of his terrific talent. But Ali is an all-timer, also because he was the face and mouth for a noisy, politically charged era in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 2005 film Cinderella Man, director Ron Howard and actor Russell Crowe resurrected the idea of what it means to be an unforgettable fighter with the portrayal of James Braddock, a mediocre heavyweight champ yet a man who staged a comeback that reflected his times, the Depression. After Braddock, there was Joe Louis, remembered for a victory over Nazi Germany's Max Schmeling in a 1938 rematch that was followed by world war.

Then there was Mike Tyson, who won't be remembered as a great fighter, yet is -- and I suspect always will be -- unforgettable for the crazy, profligate ways in which he represented the excesses of the late 1980s and 1990s.

Now, there is Pacquiao, a quiet Filipino who unlike Tyson would never assume he knows it all. Pacquiao's humility is a match for tough times in a world struggling to find ways to combat a lousy economy. There's no way to bully or trash-talk your way out of a nasty recession, although you would never know it from listening to the me-me-me Mayweathers.

Only the cool and collected Pacquiao throws punches and takes the very few that have landed over his past two bouts. But he always speaks as though he doesn't do it for only himself. He thanks instead of mocks the loser, who after all is a business partner. Next to the Mayweathers, Pacquiao's evident selflessness looks and sounds quaint. But during times when a lot of people have been humbled, Pacquiao's humility works. Also, it's echoed by Roach.

"You know, I'm only the best trainer in the world because I have the best fighter in the world," said Roach, who predicted a KO within three rounds before Pacquiao knocked down Hatton three times within two rounds in his first bout at 140 pounds.

From bout to bout, that Pacquiao humility is the definition of a fighter always looking to learn. There's been some talk that Pacquiao has only improved since his loss in 2005 to Erik Morales in the first of their three fights. I'm not sure that's accurate.

There was an evident plateau in a so-so decision over Marco Antonio Barrera a couple of years ago. Pacquiao wasn't spectacular on that October night in 2007, but the lesson plan in defensive tactics was played out perfectly with in-and-out, side-to-side movement that he has used with such effectiveness since then.

The guess here is Pacquiao, now 30, will surprise us again with even more new tricks against a long list of dangerous possibilities, also including Sugar Shane Mosley and Edwin Valero. Mayweather, the leader in the pound-for-pound debate, looms as Pacquiao's defining fight if all of the details can be worked out. In at least one Las Vegas sports book, the speculated fight already is listed as pick'em.

First, Mayweather has to get past Juan Manuel Marquez on July 18 in a bout announced Saturday despite some confusion about the contracted weight. Marquez said they had agreed on 143 pounds, give or take a pound. Mayweather adviser Leonard Ellerbe would only say "it was a welterweight (147-pound) fight.

The Mayweather-Marquez winner presumably moves on to Pacquiao, although I'd like to see Pacquiao face both, regardless of what happens on July 18 at Las Vegas' MGM Grand. Marquez lost a split decision in March 2008 in the rematch of a 2004 draw with Pacquiao. But the fight was close and the post-fight debate remains unresolved. A lot people still believe Marquez won. There's only one way to resolve that one, although I suspect Pacquiao would prefer to move on and beyond Marquez, who might be that one fighter with the right style to stop his ascent.

Meanwhile, the Mayweather possibility is the piece that could complete Arum's vision of a masterpiece if -- and there are at least couple of those -- Pacquiao can beat Cotto and perhaps Mosley at a catch weight a few pounds lighter than 147.

But negotiations for Mayweather-Pacquiao look problematic at best. Arum said last week that he would not deal with Mayweather representative Al Haymon. Arum did say that he would bargain with Golden Boy promotions CEO Richard Schaefer.

In announcing the Mayweather-Marquez fight, Schaefer acted as Mayweather's promoter and even staged an argument with Golden Boy owner Oscar De La Hoya, who spoke for Marquez. It looked like a gimmick. But if it means Schaefer will speak for Mayweather in negotiations with Arum, it's pretty good gimmick. Maybe even an artistic one.

Source: cbssports.com

1 comment:

apple said...

Pacquiao is a great fighter but down to earth man. He always making history in every fight. He deserves to be the world's pound for pound boxer!

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