They say that in the “squared circle”, the truth always finds you.
Boxing, at its brutal best, provides pleasure and pain, in equal doses to the viewer and the combatants.
Last week, in the bright lights of Las Vegas, the quiet grasp of Father Time that has been sneaking up on Manny Pacquiao nabbed its victim, under the wide-eyed gaze of the world. Sadly, the electricity that the Filipino used to scorch his opponents with is fading.
And it has been for a while now. The robbery against Timothy Bradley was harsh on Pacquiao, but for the last seven years, he hadn’t even allowed the judges to be a factor. In his prime, he simply steamrolled his opponents, overwhelming them with a flurry of furious combinations.
How the wheel turns.
For years, Juan Manuel Marquez had insisted, protested even, that he had never lost to his long-term rival.
While the world gasped at Pacquiao’s mighty fall, they forgot to properly acknowledge his 39-year-old slayer’s own road to revenge. The Mexican took four bites, but eventually he got his cherry.
And with a broken nose, how much sweeter must it have tasted?
The short right that Marquez sent Pacquiao to the canvas with was brilliantly efficient, but it was the first knockdown, in the third round, that had already spelt out the danger. At his best, “Pacman” bounced away from long-range shots like that with grace, before swiftly delivering his own punishment.
But there, just eight minutes into a fight, he insisted he needed to set the record straight. He could do little but stand and take it like a man. Like the champion that he is, he rallied against that initial storm, and even looked to be back in control.
And then, and then, and then…
In the aftermath, the cameras honed in on Pacquiao’s weeping wife, and not Marquez’s merry mob. What is it about our nature that we are drawn to failure far more easily than we are to joy?
Since the fight, the two most important women in Pacquiao’s life have begged him to give it all up. After all, what more can he achieve? His promoter, Bob (or “Gob”) Arum seems to think the world would like a fifth instalment of Marquez-Pacquiao.
For the first time in a long time, there was no mention of a possible meeting with a certain Floyd Mayweather. The combination of Mayweather’s reluctance and Pacquiao’s diminishing fire may mean that we will never see what was supposed to be the definitive fight of this decade.
Boxing aficionados will have to go up a few divisions to get their fix. The likes of Mikkel Kessler, Carl Froch and Andre Ward are all in their prime, and the super-middleweight division promises much for 2013.
On recent evidence, “Pacman” would do well to steer clear of the defensive genius, anyway. Marquez was made to look pedestrian against a rusty Mayweather, yet the Mexican easily found his range against Pacquiao in their most recent bouts.
That combination, coupled with Mayweather’s own blinding speed, would most likely mean another night of misery for the Filipino hero. After all the rich entertainment that he has provided, surely he doesn’t deserve to go out on a string of damaging losses.
More than any other sport, boxing is all about timing. In the ring, a half second can be the difference between glory and gory. Outside it, though, timing one’s departure can mean the difference between a life of leisure, enjoying the fruits of years of success or, like others who went on for too long, a life of compromise and constraint.
One can only hope that, upon reflection, the Filipino legend realises that his legacy is already secure, and that there is plenty of life for him to live outside the ring, away from the relentless turning of the wheel against his considerable talents.