Rep. Manny Pacquiao arrived in Manila early today after a four-city whirlwind promotion for his fourth ring date with Juan Manuel Marquez.

Interviewed, he promptly said that he needs an impressive win over Marquez this time knowing that anything less than that will definitely take some shine off his boxing superstar status.  Pacquiao knows time is no longer on his side.  He wants to relive his 24-year-old self – one who fights with wild abandon, who knows no fear.  One who is hungry.  One who is still shooting for glory.

Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez

Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, left, and Juan Manuel Marquez, of Mexico, promote their upcoming fourth boxing match, at a news conference in Beverly Hills, California on September 17. Pic: AP.

Champions in every competitive sport often say the easiest was reaching the top.  Staying on top is the hardest part in the life of a champion.  Nobody of course can defy the laws of nature.  As another cliché goes – what goes up must come down.

Pacquiao is at a stage where he is warding off father time and fighting off the wear and tear of his difficult climb to the top.  In a way, he is also trying to slow his fall from glory.

Although he still has that proverbial mile to go before he slips and fades into the background, going out in style is definitely at the back of his mind.

Marquez will not be his swan song. But he needs to beat Marquez well to re-establish himself as one of boxing’s most feared fighters.  When he took on and knocked out Erik Morales in the second of their trilogy, Pacquiao was the most avoided fighter in his weight class.  After he dethroned Marquez for the super featherweight crown in 2008, Pacquiao had to fight bigger opponents as his quest for greatness grew with each conquest.

But something was lost after Pacquiao made it to the top.

His competitive nature and the hunger in him also faded after he knocked out in succession Oscar de la Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto.

When he fought pretender Joshua Clottey and Shane Mosley, the killer instinct and the great finisher in him was almost gone.  Oftentimes, he dropped both hands in public displays of frustration during fights.  Perhaps the sight of a badly battered Antonio Margarito brought out the soft side of Pacquiao as he refused to deliver the coup d’ grace in the closing rounds.

He was tentative against Marquez in their third fight and he was slumbering against Timothy Bradley.  Those were his last two fights – disappointments to say the least.

Pacquiao has become complacent when not keeping up with weight.  He also seemed to fall into the level of competition, leave behind his aggression and contenting himself to coast along as he collects on payday.

But the Bradley debacle has obviously shaken Pacquiao.  Before he lost to Bradley in dubious fashion, Pacquiao saw himself still fighting until it is time to make a run for the Philippine Senate in 2016. The Bradley fiasco changed all those plans.

Pacquiao knows he cannot hope to still be a marquee fighter and a handsomely paid boxer if he is reduced to treating his fights as another day in the office.

Back home in the Philippines, he can do away with his awful singing, his absenteeism in Congress and his preoccupation with his evangelization.

But in Las Vegas, once the compelling excitement of his fights is gone, once he begins to string those losses, Pacquiao will lose his box office appeal more quickly than his lofty rankings in boxing’s mythical pound for pound list.  The curtains could come down more quickly than they rise on the stages of Las Vegas.

Yes, Pacquiao needs an impressive win.  Maybe even more than that.  One that is emphatic, compelling and decisive.  Nothing beats a knockout, of course.