Keep going? Or retire? It’s Manny Pacquiao’s call

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It was a few years ago and I was in Los Angeles at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club watching Manny Pacquiao prepare for a fight.

He was already in politics, having been elected as a congressman in his native Philippines. He was an eight-division champion. He had made millions and millions inside and outside the ring. He had come a long way from an impoverished childhood, hustling cigarettes on the streets of Manila to help his family survive.

Pacquiao was on top of his game. The idea of retirement was not even broached. However, I asked Roach if had he given any thought as to when Pacquiao should hang up his gloves.

He paused. He had stayed in the game too long, took too many shots. Roach has been dealing with Parkinson’s disease for the last couple of decades. He knows first-hand what happens when you overstay your welcome.

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“It’s Manny’s decision,” Roach finally said. “It doesn’t matter what I think or what I want.”

I asked Pacquiao the same question later that day. He was equally evasive.

“God will tell me,” he said.

After his performance last Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden where he overwhelmed and handled the then-undefeated Keith Thurman with relative ease, the answer was likely, “Not yet.”

But is it the right answer?

Pacquiao is 40. And while on one night, his skills had not shown the erosion of a man his age and with his battle scars, he still took enough punishment from Thurman. It will also go down as one of the highlights of what has been a Hall of Fame career. It was a wonderful moment for Pacquiao, now a senator with possible presidential aspirations in his country.

If he walked away from boxing today, no one would fault him. He would be relatively healthy, though neurologically speaking, who’s to say? Perhaps a trip to the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health should be on Pacquiao’s docket on his next trip to Las Vegas and have a date with Dr. Charlie Burdick, who has conducted years of testing on the brains of combat sports athletes.

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And while we are reminded that Saturday’s win came via split decision as judge Glenn Feldman saw it Thurman’s way, the fact is Pacquiao was the superior man and even Thurman, to his credit, acknowledged as much.

Every high-level athlete should want to go out gracefully, on top, without embarrassment. We don’t need to see a repeat of Willie Mays stumbling around center field at Shea Stadium or, an even more depressing image, that of Muhammad Ali getting whupped in the ring at Caesars Palace by Larry Holmes. We like our heroes on pedestals, not limping off into the sunset.

For Pacquiao, that time may not be at hand. Despite 71 professional bouts (62-7-2, 39 KOs) He’s going to continue to fight. Whether it’s for the money or the added prestige, who knows?

But among the 14,356 spectators in the Grand Garden Saturday was another pretty good welterweight. And he may be the reason Pacquiao stays active and motivated.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. last traded punches nearly three years ago when he took care of MMA star Conor McGregor. He beat a one-armed Pacquiao in 2015. Pacquiao was performing hurt that night with a bum shoulder and he has wanted another shot at Mayweather ever since.

At 50-0, Mayweather has remained retired. He is 42 years old. He likes his life. For him to lace up the gloves again and fight Pacquiao would be a business decision more than a boxing decision.

And of everyone who was in attendance, no one watched the Pacquiao-Thurman fight the way Mayweather did. He was in the front row, as our Bill Krackomberger can attest, and he was scouting the opposition.

If Mayweather decides to give Pacquiao another shot, it’s with the knowledge that in his heart and in his mind, he can beat Pacquiao again. And unlike their first fight, which took years to make and was filled with animosity between the promoters, such wouldn’t be the case this time. Al Haymon holds the deed to the bank and both fighters are in his safe deposit box. If Mayweather really wants to do this, it’ll take all of about five seconds to make the deal.

Pacquiao would be well compensated. Not as well as Floyd, mind you, but well enough to make it worth his while. And given his performance Saturday, he may have convinced the public that putting up a hundred bucks for another pay per view might actually be worth doing.

Boxing, unlike any other sport, tends to make for strange bedfellows. Where once Mayweather spoke of Pacquiao with disdain, today, he treats him with the utmost respect. And Pacquiao doesn’t diss Floyd. Rather, he gently chides him, hoping he’ll take the bait, step in the ring and go at it with him once more.

If I’m advising Pacquiao, I’m not taking a fight with Errol Spence Jr., Terence Crawford or Shawn Porter. It should be Mayweather or nothing. And the clock is ticking. For as we all know, Father Time always wins in the end. 

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About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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