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After one of the best careers the boxing world has ever seen, the only thing left for Manny Pacquiao is retirement, after his loss to Yordenis Ugas.
And the eighth defeat of his career didn’t feel like the other seven. Manny Pacquiao can justify, explain and even erase those defeats from his mind. Injury. Poor preparation. Carelessness. Bad judges. He knew better than anyone that the next time he stepped into the ring, he could fix the record. But the 12-round setback he suffered at the hands of Yordenis Ugas will be significantly harder for the Filipino veteran to ignore.
Ugas was neither the most overwhelming nor the most punishing. However, the eighth defeat came with something Pacquiao will never forget: a full stop.
At 42 years old, with a 62-8-2 career record, and after a decade of ups and downs, setbacks, and triumphs, Pacquiao’s decline gave the first warning when he fought Shane Mosley at the MGM Grand, in 2011. And that was finally confirmed last Saturday, August 21 at the T-Mobile Arena. “In the future, you may not see Manny Pacquiao fight in the ring,” said one of the commentators after two scores of 116-112 and one of 115-113 were announced in favor of the impressive Cuban Ugas in Las Vegas.
“This is boxing. I had a hard time making adjustments in the ring. My legs were tight, but I did the best I could,” said the defeated Pacquiao.
Admitting that the effort was insufficient, that he did his best, and that this is the best form he can achieve at his age, tells the Filipino that the time has come and the clock will only move faster from this moment on.
Ugas’ victory will be labeled, but at the same time may go down in history as Pacquiao’s last painful defeat. Being the replacement on the roster when Errol Spence Jr. pulled out with an eye injury 10 days earlier, the 35-year-old Cuban was perhaps the most dangerous replacement for Pacquiao’s return to the ring.
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Veterans who resist
Throughout its history, boxing has seen too many veteran assaults: Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick beating Muhammad Ali, William Joppy finishing off Roberto Duran, Mike Tyson losing to Kevin McBride, and, 14 years ago, even Pacquiao himself retiring Oscar de La Hoya.
Although there are more lines on his face now and his skin denotes his four decades of life, from a distance Pacquiao looked like the almighty Pacquiao. With his trademark smile and a physique that looked fit for battle, Manny stepped into the ring with his famous calves.
Sadly, it was all a false illusion. Halfway through the first round, those old legs were making mistakes, denoting that something was wrong. As a consequence, Ugas took advantage and struck following his strategy. It was evident that Pacquiao could not punch like he used to. The Cuban was punching and tightening his defense. After four rounds, Pacquiao won just one of them, but the alarm bells had gone off: the fight was unlikely to go in the legend’s favor.
Freddie Roach, Manny’s trainer, did everything he could to get his pupil back on track. Thrown to unleash more combos before the fifth episode, Pacquaio dutifully tried to follow instructions. Ugas blocked four punches and threw one of his own. The right hook, as effective as his straight right, hit Manny and rocked him backward. Ugas stuck to his plan: his forward hand was almost always aimed at the target. Pacquiao, meanwhile, was already nursing the swelling in his eye.
Pacquiao had no ideas. He kept doing what he’s always done: moving forward, throwing punches, but nothing was working the way it used to. It has to be said: Manny Pacquiao has never looked so poor in a fight of this scale.
On his side of the ring, Ugas used clever footwork and rarely allowed his defense to drop. The opportunities came of their own accord and when Pacquiao tried to resuscitate in the ninth, the Cuban struck with two right hands to close out the session.
Pacquiao needed to win the final rounds to have any chance, but against an inspired Ugas, the chances were slim. With a cut below his right eye and another above his left, Pacquiao gave his final effort and although it left his opponent’s face swollen, the judges’ decision and time had already been made.
“I apologize,” Pacquiao said. “I lost the fight.”
Despite this, the Filipino fighter received a standing ovation from the public.
It was then when reality hit boxing and the sport: the end of the legend has inevitably come, and must be accepted.
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