"Time to retire."
“Babala: Ang panonood ng laban ni Manny Pacquiao ay nakamamatay.”
This caveat should probably be added to each appearance in the arena of world boxing champion and Philippine senator Manny Pacquiao, after a man died watching the live telecast of Pacquiao’s fight against Keith Thurman on Sunday morning, July 21.
DZBB Super Radyo reporter Luisito Santos reported that Salvador Abay, 68, was at the Manotoc Covered Court in Marikina City when he collapsed and lost consciousness around noon. Abay, who had heart disease, was rushed to the hospital but was declared dead of a heart attack some 25 minutes later.
That’s how exciting the Pacquiao fight was. It went the entire twelve rounds, with Pacquiao winning via split decision. In an outcome that shook boxing fans, most of whom saw Pacquiao as the clear winner, judge Glenn Feldman scored for Thurman 114-113. Judges Dave Moretti and Tim Cheatham both had it 115-112 for Pacquiao.
One of the highlights of the event was Miss Universe Catriona Gray happily waving the Philippine flag in the ring after the fight, bringing to life her slogan ‘Raise the flag’. Netizens unanimously agreed "Ang cute niya!" and how like a child in her excitement and pride.
Almost everyone shared with her that same pride, because once again Pacquiao has brought honor to the country. But the question is, at what cost? Many commented on the decline in Pacquiao’s once much-vaunted speed and form.
A friend of mine in the U.S. who occasionally writes about the sweet science told me, “Good fight, but you see some age in the last few rounds.”
Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano was more blunt. He tweeted, “Congratulations Sen. Manny Pacquiao! While you enjoy boxing as we do enjoy watching you, while it makes a lot of money, maybe you [should] consider retiring from the ring. You have visibly aged and slowed.”
He added a reminder: “Take care of your health and safety while it’s not too late. GOD bless you.”
Greg Bishop, writing for Sports Illustrated, took a calmer, more measured view to make the same point. “Pacquiao appeared both tired and worn down,” he wrote within hours of the fight, “and, at that moment, for the first time all night, he looked his age. It was like he had been put through a real-time FaceApp in that ring.”
Pacquiao’s longtime coach Freddie Roach told Bishop, “This would be a great way to go out. This was one of our best fights. There’s nothing left to prove.”
All of which led Bishop to speculate: could this be “The End”? He added, “Did Pacquiao really need to absorb this price, at 40? Would his End be the same sad story that happens to so many boxers who hang on for too long because they need the money or can’t force themselves to quit? It sure seemed that way after the [Jeff] Horn fight [in 2017 that Pacquiao lost]. But Saturday felt like something else. The Perfect Ending. Should he choose it.”
Pacquiao’s record stands at a formidable 62-7-2. It’s one any prizefighter would be proud to call theirs. But he has pushed it to the limit so often that the law of averages will eventually catch up.
Manny, it’s time to retire. You’re a billionaire, you have made your enduring mark on boxing and sports history, and as Coach Roach said, you have nothing left to prove. It’s time to quit while you’re ahead. No one likes a has-been.
And all that beating is taking a toll on your body. I recall meeting Muhammad Ali at Chicago’s O’Hare years back; he could barely speak, and his hands shook continually. Parkinson’s Disease robbed The Greatest of quality of life in his later years. What use is all your money if you can’t enjoy it? Don’t let it happen to you, Manny.
Also, you have another job, remember? Senator of the Republic. Because you’re still maintaining your boxing career, you have the distinction of having incurred the most absences for senators in the last session of the 17th Congress, according to records released by the Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau on June 9 this year.
You attended only 49 out of 61 plenary sessions from July 23, 2018 to June 4, 2019. In terms of worst attendance, you came in second to Senator Leila de Lima, who missed all the plenary sessions—because she is in jail.
I’m sure Pacquiao has heard all this from many others, including those nearest and dearest to him. But still he goes on—is it the money? The fame? Whatever his reasons, he has an agenda and he’s stubborn enough to stick to it.
But even his adoring public can see that his age has affected his game. How much longer can he go on delivering the cardiac-arresting fights that kill men who watch them? How long before he succumbs to a less worthier foe or a health crisis?
It’s time to hang up the gloves, Manny, and do your real job, the one that millions of people voted you in to do—craft laws to make life better for Filipinos and build the nation.
Show us you can be our champion in the Senate as you are in the ring. We’ll all be just as proud, Catriona will still wave that flag, and no one will die of a heart attack watching you author laws.
“To see a man beaten not by a better opponent but by himself is a tragedy.”—Cus D’Amato, American boxing trainer and manager who handled Mike Tyson and Floyd Patterson. /FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO