Manny Pacquiao's decline with age may be overstated by some, but one thing is a pure, indisputable fact: "Pacman" hasn't stopped an opponent in five years, since he rocked Miguel Cotto around the ring until referee Kenny Bayless mercy-stopped the fight in round 12 in November 2009.
There have been questions about Pacquiao's power and about his killer instinct. Some have questioned whether or not Pacquiao, in the stage of life where he's become very religious and very laid back, really has the desire to knock out opponents anymore. Some have simply pointed out that since Cotto, he's faced a lot of strong-jawed guys, almost all of whom have been notably bigger than him. And some wonder, rightly or not, if shadier factors may be involved.
(Note: I'm not accusing Pacquiao or his team of anything, but it's a question that gets asked in a sports world that has been so heavily dominated by performance-enhancing drug usage in the last 15 years. That's just the world we're in now.)
Since stopping Cotto, here's what Manny has done, boiled down to stoppage chances:
- Joshua Clottey survived all 12 rounds, but did so by turtling up defensively for much of the fight. Manny was as active and ferocious as ever, but Clottey didn't "play ball," as it were, and didn't give Manny many openings. Also, Clottey is tougher than hell.
- Antonio Margarito had his face broken into pieces by Pacquiao, but made it all 12 rounds. Margarito was much, much bigger than Manny, and in truth, referee Laurence Cole or trainer Robert Garcia could have stopped that fight; arguably, one of them should have stopped that fight.
- Shane Mosley, another very tough fighter with a great chin. Mosley was dropped and hurt by Pacquiao, and also disengaged from the fight in the latter stages. Mosley later survived 12 rounds of punishment against the bigger Canelo Alvarez before his body gave out against Anthony Mundine last year.
- Juan Manuel Marquez, who has never been stopped, even given Pacquiao's greatest efforts at 126, 130, 144, and 147.
- Tim Bradley, who we've learned since then is extremely durable and can take a hellacious beating.
- Marquez again, with Pacquiao clearly fighting for a definitive KO win and getting knocked out himself.
- Brandon Rios, a mini-Margarito.
- Bradley again.
So that is, quite frankly, a list of guys who are damn hard to knock out, some of whom (Clottey and Mosley) played keepaway for much of their fights.
On November 22, Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KO) faces Chris Algieri (20-0, 8 KO) in a 144-pound catchweight bout, with the WBO welterweight title at stake. Algieri, 30, has never had a fight at this level, but his upset win over Ruslan Provodnikov in June was a big one, and it showed that he, too, can survive major adversity and come back. The Huntington, New York, native was dropped twice in round one, and I think most of us watching thought he was not far from being stopped, but he adjusted, made a stand, and pulled out a grueling victory.
There is talk of Pacquiao's KO power once again, because it feels in a weird way like Manny needs to knock guys out and regain some of the electric action star credibility he has arguably lost over the last five years. By my estimation -- and I'm not trying to tell you how to think here -- Pacquiao has been up against a veritable all-star field of great chins since beating Cotto, and his "inability" to stop them might have a lot more to do with how tough they all are than any loss in Pacquiao's power.
Killer instinct may be another question, but the last time he took major risks, he was knocked into the next weekend by Marquez, and considering how hard Pacquiao has worked to become a complete fighter instead of a one-handed KO machine, it's not hard to understand why maybe he doesn't feel the need to open himself up to relatively easy return fire against world class opponents.
So will Manny Pacquiao be able to knock out Algieri in Macau?