>> Sunday, December 14, 2008

Edison L. Baddal
Dream ‘mismatch’

BONTOC, Mountain Province -- Manny Pacquiao has just added Oscar de la Hoya to the growing list of Mexican boxing legends that he pulverized. For the ninth time, despite his abhorrence for being tagged as a “Mexicutioner”, he has just proven himself as that.

On the sidelight, the victory came at a time when, as usual, nothing positive are hogging the headlines in major dailies as the government is running the gauntlet of facing recycled charges of corruption and dorky impeachment raps composed of ridiculous offenses.

This imbroglio is not surprising as oppositionists are taking every opportunity to hurl potshots at the government for easier recall come election time that is just 16 months away. By itself, the victory scuttled even just for a day or two, the perennial bleak news that a nonchalant people has been hitherto constantly bombarded with.

Thus, Manny will always be regarded agape not only for his exploits in boxing but also for his ability to unite Filipinos, regardless of race, calling, education and the like after every victory in slugfest.

The smashing Pacquiao victory debunked all favorable predictions of an Oscar win by a sensational media overhype over his ring exploits. Pacquiao may not have been uptight prior to the face-off even as he kept a low profile in the media blitz although he might have felt uneasy.

There’s no doubt that Oscar’s ebullient hangers-on parlayed the favorable predictions of an Oscar win by noted boxing aficionados, including Oscar’s tormentor Bernard Hopkins, either to intimidate Pacman or to send a subtle message that victory was simply a touch-and-go on his part. It sort of suggested that he was a small hawk trying on spec to defeat an eagle.

It was thus that a claim by an ex-trainor of Muhammad Ali of a Pacman win was taken with a grain of salt even as he might have been considered cuckoo for his bold comparison of Pacman to Obama and Oscar to Maccain. However, Ricky Hatton, bandied as Pacman’s possible next foe, added another brazen prediction of a Pacman win as he claimed that Oscar is already worn-out as a fighter having fought his last fight more than a year ago.

This media overhype of a largely predicted win that turned exactly the opposite evoked a strange parallel in a big boxing match in 1991 between Mike Tyson, the reigning heavyweight champ then, and challenger Buster Douglas in Tokyo, Japan.

Days before the scheduled fight, the media glowed over Tyson’s ring exploits that subtly suggested Douglas to be just another victim of Tyson’s iron hands. Back then, Tyson was a complete knockout artist having floored all his foes ever since becoming a heavyweight champion in the late eighties with only “Bonecrusher” Smith escaping his knockout jabs although he too was defeated but on points. Douglas and company kept a low profile in this entire hullabaloo.

Subsequently, in a monumental upset that shocked the boxing world, Douglas knocked the daylights out of Tyson in the 11th round during their actual fight. It was Tyson’s first knockout and the upset was nothing short of phenomenal. As a result, Tyson’s stature was momentarily reduced from “iron man” to “tin man”.
At any rate, Pacman’s spanking victory proved that the aging Oscar is no match to his superior boxing skills. The latter was simply outclassed, outpunched,outsmarted and outwitted.

All too suddenly, De la Hoya’s overhyped boxing powers has gone kaput having registered only token resistance to Pacman’s barrage of punches. In a way, his brawling days with fast and furious punches against his previous foes flailed against Pacman’s swift, swarming and strong punches accompanied by dizzying moves.

The different combinations unleashed by Pacman rattled and dazed De la Hoya that throughout the fight he toyed with Oscar even as he neutralized Oscar’s height and reach advantage by turning the latter’s face into a bloody mess. The nitty-gritty is that the match turned out to be a carnage with the pathetic Oscar fighting like a defanged tiger before the 8th round TKO.

At this point, Freddie Roach’s gamble for the match that was promoted as a “dream match” proved to be a “dream mismatch” in Pacquiao’s favor. It upended in a classic manner Pacman’s underdog image vis-à-vis the stature of Oscar and his éclat of boxing skills in his heyday.

As footages of the fight showed, the bloody end for Oscar could have come earlier during the 7th round had not Pacman wavered in giving the killer punch even after treating the former with severe beatings. Obviously, Pacman has still an iota of respect for Oscar for his vacillation to deliver the knockout punch in the 7th or 8th. The saddest part here is that, Oscar’s dream of retiring in glory in his aftermost fight turned out to be his most humiliating defeat.

Meanwhile, Pacman’s obviation of Oscar’s height and reach advantage in their tiff reminded this hack of another classic heavyweight match in the late eighties. This was between Mike Tyson and Larry Holmes sometime in 1988. Holmes was much taller and bulkier than Tyson.

Prior to this, Larry Holmes was semi-retired from boxing after he reigned as a heavyweight champion for several years in the eighties. He sprung out of out of semi-retirement and challenged Tyson,who was then the unified heavyweight champion and at the peak of his career. Tyson charged like a bull from the opening round and busted Holmes’ face with hard punches to disable him from maximizing his bulk. Eventually, Larry Holmes ended up a bloodied and crumpled mess cringing in the canvass in the fourth round.

Oscar’s wobbly and tippy movements in his recent fight with Pacman was reminiscent of Holmes sluggishness against Tyson then. Just like Holmes, Oscar failed to find his range against the fast-slugging Pacman. Just like Holmes, Oscar failed to withstand Pacman’s barrage of punches that made him look like a beaten pulp. Finally, just like Holmes, Oscar proved no match to Pacman’s punching power and skills.

On the other hand, Oscar and Holmes are both celebrated boxers in their own time. Oscar was a 10-time world champion in six different divisions while Larry Holmes was a feared heavyweight champion in the eighties in which one of his worthy victims was Muhammad Ali. He earned a record of 48 straight wins before he was upset by Michael Spinks. Pacman today is the doppelganger of Tyson during the latter’s heady reign in the late eighties as heavyweight champ.

There’s no doubt that the stunning victory earned for Manny an immortal place in the annals of boxing on an equal footing with the greatest boxers of all time like Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Larry Holmes, Joe Luis, Joe Frazier, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, Lennox Lewis, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leaonard, Alexis Arguello and even Rocky Marciano, to name a few.

Many will attribute Pacman’s victory to his natural talents and skills as a boxer not to mention the hard training he invests every time he fights. One should remember, though, that before the start of his actual fight, Pacman always invoke the help of the Lord for his success either in the locker room and in his ring corner. The show of piety may be public but being apparently a man of integrity, the act gives credence to his other aspect as a man of faith.

The pious, if public, act is a sincere acknowledgement that an Almighty God exists who guides the destiny of individuals and nations. His statement that prayer is his talisman or juju for his victories is not an understatement. His string of smashing victories attest to that. Alfred Lord Tennyson once averred that “more things are wrought by prayer than the world ever thinks of.” He is a shining practitioner of that.

It is an axiom that God will always uplift and gives grace to the humble. I state with candor that humility and sincere prayers are Pacman’s main weapons in his successes. He puts into real action that adage that says: “Pray as if everything depends on God but work as if everything depends on you.” Nothing is farther from the truth. Happy Holidays!


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