THIRD MAN IN: An open letter to Manny Pacquiao

Behind the Bench/Sports by

Dear Manny,

When you retired Oscar De La Hoya in 2008, how long did it take for the media to start downplaying your victory? A day? He was old, drained, and unfit. You had to win. When you ended Ricky Hatton’s career with one of the most devastating left hooks in boxing history, the haters still refused to crawl back into the woodwork. Hatton was a barroom brawler, not a boxer. He was slow, stubborn, and already damaged. How could you have lost? Even when you transformed Miguel Cotto’s face into a bruised and bloodied mask just a few months ago, there were those who were quick to dismiss the win as predictably lopsided.

Throughout your illustrious career, there have always been individuals who have sought to make excuses for your winning ways. And time after time, you’ve shrugged off their criticism and negativity. You’ve never been one for excuses; you’ve put your faith in your family, your religion, and your people, and for that, you have become one of the most respected athletes in the world.

And this is why I’m so upset with the events that have transpired over the past two months. In case you have missed out entirely on the media firestorm that has surrounded you and your camp from the moment the final bell sounded at the MGM Grand on November 14, let me bring you up to speed.

The history books will show that you beat Cotto by way of TKO in 12 rounds, but everyone who watched saw that the fight was over in the fifth round. With the victory, you paved the way for perhaps the biggest showdown in the history of boxing: Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather Jr. All the pieces were in place for a matchup unlike anything ever before, and the entire boxing world began to shake with anticipation. Then, the drug testing issue came up. Floyd’s camp wanted Olympic-style blood testing instead of the usual urine tests performed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Strangely, your camp refused. The “Pac-roid” chants began, and despite attempts at mediation and some concessions on both sides, the fight was declared dead three weeks ago.

Your detractors levied new charges against you, more grievous than ever before, and for the first time that I can recall, you made excuses. Fear of needles. Superstition. Come on. I agree with what your trainer, Freddie Roach, said in an interview with ESPN last week: it’s ridiculous that any fighter should get to dictate the medical formalities surrounding a fight. However, it’s also borderline ridiculous that you and your camp could not put personal discomfort aside and save the biggest fight of your life.

How often do two opposing forces meet at full strength with the eyes of the world upon them? As much as I hate the term, this fight would be absolutely epic. Not epic in the Toronto vernacular sense, but Paradise Lost-epic. Heaven versus Hell epic. Yoda versus the Emperor. Harry versus Voldemort. Simply put, this is a fight that needs to happen if we want the Earth to keep spinning.

I’m still a believer. I cannot accept the possibility that you cheated your way to seven world titles in seven different weight classes. Driving in and out of Manila for over a decade, I’ve seen your face on billboards, TV screens, and newspaper covers. I cannot imagine that you would risk the faith of 90 million people by juicing up. I believe that you have it in you to stop making excuses, and do whatever it takes to fight Mayweather.

Manny, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by agreeing to the blood tests and fighting Floyd. But right now, the Pretty Boy is up on the scorecards, and lumilipas na ang oras, Manny. Time is running out.

All the best,Kailan LeungSports Editor, The McGill Tribune