Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Manny Pacquiao: The 8th Wonder

The 8th Wonder
Manny Pacquiao laid waste to Antonio Margarito to claim his eighth world title in eight weight classes to also lay claim to the title of arguably the greatest boxer of all time.
by rick olivares 
(from the next issue of Philippines Free Press)

The platitudes are beginning to run out just as there are ring foes for Manny Pacquiao. Suffice to say that no man since Sam Houston has beaten more Mexicans. And with the 12-round systematic decimation of the great boxer that was Margarito, it is perhaps time to quote Brad Pitt’s Achilles from the film Troy: “Is there no one else? Is there no one else?”

One wag on ESPN’s website opined that Pacman should move up to Bernard Hopkins’ 175-pound weight class where he will surely get knocked out. Maybe it’s the other way around and Bernard should be worried because the Filipino boxing icon has seemed to beat the impossible. Of course that isn’t going to happen. Those are remarks left for sour grapes and the few unbelievers left in the wake of Pacquiao’s many conversions.

And now there is one man left – Floyd Mayweather Jr. who is eminently a logical choice. But seeing how Manny messed up the faces of Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito, Pretty Boy might want to find out the cost of the plastic surgery he will need when Manny introduces him to his fists of fury. It is going to be the biggest payday ever for any boxing match so we’re pretty sure Mayweather can afford it. That is if the fight does happen.

Of this fight between Pacquiao and Margarito, one hour and thirty minutes before it got started, the beauteous Mexican reporter Inez Sainz asked her countryman who is also known as the Tijuana Tornado what his game plan was. He repeated it twice: “I plan to throw as many punches as I can.”

It was sound. A tactic he has oft used against foes where he rained punches and haymakers from everywhere. Wild ones too. Hence “the Tornado” moniker.

He was taller at 5’11” but Pacquiao has faced his share of taller and bigger fighters like Oscar dela Hoya, Miguel Cotto, and Joshua Clottey and he still came away with a way convincing victory.

Margarito’s reach advantage of five inches was of some concern to the Filipino’s camp but what good is that reach when you can’t hit your target?

So there was a change in tactics where Margarito tried to measure the Filipino’s strategy in the opening two rounds.

Margarito obviously learned from Pacquiao’s fight with Clottey where the Ghanaian just threw up his hands and arms in front of him to prevent getting his face turned into a bloody pulp. But like what he did to Clottey, Manny began to pound on the Mexican’s midsection, which must have hurt because he dropped his arms and hands ever so slightly. And that was all the opening needed by Pacman as he would sneak in jabs and straights right at Margarito’s noggin. By the fourth round, there was an ugly welt underneath the Tornado’s right eye and Pacman began to home in on it with GPS accuracy.

In the sixth round, Margarito with his vision beginning to blur, showed that he wasn’t going down easy into the Texas night when had Pacquiao on the ropes. He threw a series of punches including one on the right kidney area that had the pound-for-pound king wincing.

In his last few fights, it has been obvious that Pacquiao doesn’t like being on the ropes or in the corner where he cannot use his speed to dance out of trouble. Margarito hurt Pacquiao on a few occasions but Pacquiao always managed to slip away then counter with a flurry of his own to return the damage.

Conventional boxing wisdom will have fighters throw those one-two combinations to knockout a foe, but Pacquiao served up four, five, six, and once even, a seven-punch combination for a total of 474 punches out of a total of 1069 with 44% accuracy rate. It wasn’t Margarito who threw a lot of punches (229 total punches), it was Pacman. And his blazing speed was on full display.

On three separate occasions, referee Laurence Cole checked on Margarito’s vision yet each time the fight doctor and his corner including trainer Robert Garcia (who trained Brian Viloria during his stunning loss to Carlos Tamara) refused to throw in the towel. The carnage continued as Margarito turned into a bloody slab of beef. It got so bad that at the two-minute mark of the 11th round, Pacquiao looked at Cole to ask if he was going to stop it.

In a misplaced sense of machismo, the fight doctor, Margarito’s corner and Cole who showed alarming poor judgment, allowed the fight to go the distance. It only added to Pacquiao’s now mythic victory as Pacman continued to tee off on his helpless foe who may have only gained some points for his durability but not for his smarts (aside from the US $15 million he will pocket for the match).

Yes, it was lopsided. Witness the judges’ scorecards: Germany’s Juergen Langos graded the fight 120-108 and Americans Glen Crocker and Oren Shellenberger tabbed it at 118-110 and 119-109 respectively and unanimously for Pacquiao.

In the week leading up to the fight, if it wasn’t enough being labeled a cheater for those controversial hand wraps of plaster of Paris that led to his ban in most parts of the United States, Margarito’s camp mocked Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach’s Parkinson’s disease that was the result of one too many beatings after his trainer told him to hang up his boxing gloves.  He only further cast himself the villain in this act and provided Pacquiao more motivation on going for the win and history.

After this jarring and painful loss where he took the beating of a lifetime, who knows what damage – physical and mental -- was done to the Mexican? Margarito was rushed to the hospital for surgery on his right eye socket that was damaged during the fight. Like Ricky Hatton’s trip to slumberland after a spectacular second round knockout, this was done right in front of his wife and son. This loss has to weigh heavy on them as well. And now, he faces possible retirement at age 32.

However, many have lived to tell the tale of Pacquiao and his amazing speed and power.

It has been said that one of Pacman’s recent conquests, Miguel Cotto (who was also the brutal end of a Margarito win) bounced back from his loss by beating a tough Yuri Foreman. But he only gained control of the match when Foreman injured his ankle after a slip. Now he’s has Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the son of the great six-time world champion, in his sights. But what good will that do taking on a fighter who like Mayweather Jr. has been accused of ducking the better ones in favor of sure wins? Is that the road to redemption lined up with easy road kill?

Certainly not for Pacquiao, who has taken on all comers and has racked up better stats than any Playmate of Hugh Hefner’s: 52-3-2 with 38 KOs.

Manny, the stockbroker that he is, has claimed titles at weight classes of 122, 126, 130, 135, 140, 147 and now 154-pounds with the latter for his eighth world title that is the WBC Super Welterweight championship. And he is at the very least US $25 million richer for it.

And right now, it’s time to serve up those platitudes that are growing wafer thin by the fight and conquest. The greatest? Arguably.

Some have used other icons to describe wunderkinds – the Michael Jordan of golf or the Tiger Woods of basketball.

Maybe it’s time to include Manny Pacquiao in that vein and for those who achieve acclaim in a variety of competitions.

While we’re all trying to coin up that phrase that great sportscasters like the late Howard Cosell, Larry Merchant, and Jim Lampley bestowed upon these ring gods, suffice to say that right now, Manny Pacquiao the eighth wonder of the world and in sports.

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