BOXING

Manny Pacquiao to burn the last pages of a historic boxing career

Yordenis Ugas handed Manny Pacquiao an eighth career defeat, potentially sending the 42-year-old into retirement.

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Manny Pacquiao: The final chapters of a storied boxing career

Have we seen Manny Pacquiao fight for the final time?

The Filipino legend announced he will rest, relax and reconsider his future plans after surprisingly losing to Yordenis Ugas in Las Vegas. Time, however, is not on Pacquiao's side.

The eight-division world champion, who had been due to fight Errol Spence Jr but instead faced a late stand-in, turns 43 in December. It may well be the end of the road for one of boxing's biggest superstars who, after 72 bouts and numerous titles, has little left to achieve between the ropes.

He has demonstrated age is just a number in recent years, producing some outstanding wins ever since losing in the 'fight of the century' against long-time rival Floyd Mayweather Jr in May 2015.

If it is all over, Pacquiao bows out as one of the all-time greats, an undoubted national hero who continued to produce when so many thought his best days were long behind him.

An all-time star's last ovation... or not!

Nearly a year after the long-overdue Mayweather fight, Pacquiao returned to action to face a familiar foe in what he claimed beforehand would be his boxing swansong.

"I'm so happy to be hanging up the gloves after this fight because of what I have done," he told the media ahead of facing Timothy Bradley for a third time. "I'm sure I will be sad after that fight. That's life."

Pac-Man had his eyes on becoming a senator in the Philippines at the time, but did not look beyond Bradley, who had won their first meeting via a controversial split-decision verdict, back in 2012.

Pacquiao had prevailed in a 2014 rematch and would also come out on top in the final episode of the trilogy, dropping his opponent twice on his way to a points triumph.  

That was meant to be that, according to the man himself, except before the end of 2016 he was back in action again. Jessie Vargas was no match as Mayweather watched his former opponent from close quarters at ringside, adding fuel to talk of a rematch.

Victory secured the WBO welterweight title for Pacquiao, who demonstrated that despite being just shy of his 38th birthday, he still had plenty left to give. "He's not done fighting yet," said trainer Freddie Roach – and he was right. 

The mother of all upsets

Jeff Horn was due to be nothing more than a stepping-stone to bigger things. The Australian nearly missed his big opportunity – Pacquiao at one point seemed set to face former gym-mate Amir Khan instead – but had the benefit of home advantage. It was about all most experts felt the underdog had going in his favour ahead of the bout in Brisbane.

However, Suncorp Stadium witnessed the mother of all upsets in July 2017, in part thanks to some questionable scoring.

Horn did more than just surpass pre-fight expectations just by making it to the final bell, though. He showed a willingness to stand and trade with a legendary name, as well as coming through a ninth-round storm that looked at one stage certain to sweep him away.

He finished strongly too, but it was still a surprise to most when the challenger was declared a unanimous winner on all three cards. The verdict raised questions over the judges' scoring, as well as Pacquiao's future in the sport.

The WBO conducted a review into the outcome at the behest of the Philippines government, but a secondary check only vindicated the original outcome. Was Pacquiao done?


Rising from his own ashes

If there were doubts over what Pacquiao had left in the tank after losing to Horn, he emphatically quashed them with a late renaissance that further enhanced his already impressive CV.

A year after the unexpected setback Down Under, and with Roach replaced by Restituto 'Buboy' Fernandez in his corner, a refreshed and focused fighter stopped the dangerous Lucas Matthysse in the seventh round in Kuala Lumpur.

Having claimed before the first bell to be the underdog, Pac-Man dissected an opponent admittedly there for the taking, knocking him down in the third and fifth rounds before a left uppercut finished the job. "I'm still here," he said afterwards, as if a first stoppage win in nearly a decade had not made that point clearly enough.

After Adrien Broner managed to go the distance to lose on points in January 2019, Pacquiao gave a demonstration of his abilities when dealing with Keith Thurman just six months later.

The Filipino dropped Thurman in the first round on his way to a split-decision outcome that showed, despite this being the 71st outing as a professional, he remained one of the biggest stars in a stacked welterweight division.
 

The final stand

The impact of coronavirus and his commitments outside the ring led to a lengthy gap in his next outing after the impressive triumph over Thurman.

His eventual return was due to be against Spence, though the undefeated IBF and WBC welterweight champion was forced to pull out due to an eye injury - Ugas stepped in as the late replacement.

The Cuban was given less than two weeks to prepare, though had been training to fight on the undercard at the T-Mobile Arena. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Pacquiao, but I am coming to win this fight," he said, having received an unexpected opportunity to take centre stage.

Ugas showed little respect once the bell sounded, though. Fighting for the first time in over two years, Pacquiao was too often beaten to the punch.

While he made it through 12 rounds, there was a resigned look on the veteran’s face when the scores were read out - 115-113, 116-112, 116-112, all in favour of the understudy who had just stolen the show.

Pacquiao was gracious in defeat: "I congratulate my opponent Yordenis Ugas for making it tough tonight and winning tonight. That's boxing."

The points loss may well be the final chapter in the Pac-Man story, but it will not overshadow what he achieved throughout a hall-of-fame career.