Many have said it before. Speed kills.
In a game that is dictated by power, speed is one great equalizer.
Eight-division world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao is one of the gifted prize fighters that possesses both. That was until he stopped shedding weight before a fight by depriving him of two or three meals before weighing time.
In his last three fights, Pacquiao has shown a remarkable dip in his speed. No thanks to his erratic training regimen and the many distractions that attended his training camp. Of course, Pacquiao has also aged and speed is the first casualty of the aging process.
Pacquiao has not knocked out any of his last five opponents, one of them the same guy he will face for the fourth time on December 8 (December 9) Philippine time, Juan Manuel Marquez.
The last time Pacquiao checked in for a fight, he looked too flabby from his sinewy but ripped body of yore – when he was a hungry predator moving up to the top of the food chain. Of course we knew he lost that fight albeit a sacrilegious defeat for the sports of boxing because come to think about it, Pacquiao was robbed big time.
The degeneration of Pacquiao’s speed was evident on the night he did everything but knockout Timothy Bradley.
He was also a changed man that night. When he lost to Erik Morales in their first fight in 2005, Pacquiao was a picture of a dejected but defiant loser. With Bradley, he looked more like a forgiving preacher, his disbelief masked by his dry smile. Something in that night suggested Pacquiao lost some of his zeal and hunger.
Once zeal and hunger disappear, the drive and the push also slow down. Lethargy comes in. These Pacquiao cannot afford to lose in a pivotal fourth encounter with Marquez.
Marquez had already proven he got Pacquiao’s number. Nobody has ever given Pacquiao the fits than Marquez. Their first three fights were so close they could have gone either way. On record, however, Pacquiao holds the edge with 2 wins and a draw. Pacquiao also had the edge in highlight reel moments, knocking down Marquez four times in those three fights. But Marquez also demonstrated he can keep up with Pacquiao. What he lacked in foot speed, he more than made up with his piston-like punches that often times troubled Pacquiao if not untracked the Filipino boxing icon.
The beauty in these two boxers is that they play to each others’ strength and weaknesses.
Pacquiao needs to go back to his old unpredictable ways and the only way to do it is to regain some of his lost steps.
Marquez is like a rattlesnake which coils before it strikes at his attacker. If Pacquiao has lost some of his speed, you can bet Marquez is also a step or two behind his old self. At 39, Marquez’ thighs and calves could no longer keep up with Pacquiao’s still bouncy steps although the sting of his punches is still lethal.
Pacquiao needs to run circle around Marquez and discard his recently developed habit of standing in front of his opponent. He has lately become more predictable – darting forward and backward, a style that could easily fall prey to the counterpunching ways of Marquez who is a master of the technique.
Pacquiao will also have to devise several battle plans. Today, Pacquiao’s unorthodox boxing style is one of the most studied moves by challengers and pretenders hoping to arrange a date with him. Marquez is no different. In fact, he is already several notches above the rest with three close and competitive fights behind him.
Pacquiao too needs to rediscover his killer instinct while at the same time be patient in the early going. He should go for the early kill only when presented the opportunity. Otherwise he must first tire up Marquez and set him up for a late knockout like a raccoon that is among the few that can measure up with a rattlesnake.
To sum it all up, all he need is speed, speed and speed as he is still the bigger puncher.