COMMENTARY | To many fans, the image of Manny Pacquiao falling face-first to the canvas and staying there, motionless, for an uncomfortably long period of time was quite jarring. To see a pound-for-pound elite fighter, one of the best of this era, knocked completely unconscious is always upsetting.
However, what happens to the fighter, himself?
Fighters are bred to be the bravest of the brave, literally putting their life on the line to earn their living. The biggest fallacy among fans and media is that any fighter is afraid of another-- especially at the elite level. Sometimes certain fights don't make sense from a business perspective, but that by no means is an indication of fear. A fighter just doesn't become a world class pugilist by having any sort of yellow streak among his character traits.
But psychologically, a crushing, brutal loss can sometimes affect a fighter and the way he engages in battle. He may be consciously willing to pick up right where he left off, but subconsciously, some doubt has been injected into his game, some hesitation is interfering with his ability to execute his pre-loss style.
Even a fighter as accomplished and as supremely confident as Manny Pacquiao could fall victim to this involuntary psychological drama.
Recently, Oscar De La Hoya spoke to radio station Power 106 about whether this might be the case with Pacquiao:
"...psychologically, he is always going to be feeling that punch. He's always going to be looking out for that punch. He will be doubting himself [and telling himself] 'can I do this again' - even in training, even in training [he will be doubting himself]. History shows this, and I'm not making this up...history shows that it's impossible to come back [from that kind of knockout]. Can he come back? It's up to him. You look at Paul Williams [at how he got knocked out]. Back in the day Thomas Hearns knocked out Roberto Duran and he landed face first. You look at Ricky Hatton at how he got knocked out. You look at history in boxing."
Perhaps this is all wishful thinking from De La Hoya, whose promotional company, Golden Boy, is currently engaged in a turf war with Pacquiao's promoter, Top Rank, but the former 6-division world champ certainly makes a valid point.
The most recent example of this came when Miguel Cotto suffered a brutal beating at the hands of Antonio Margarito in 2008. The physical damage sustained in that TKO loss was healed soon enough, but the psychological damage was there. It lingered as Cotto showed subtle signs of hesitance and reluctance to go full-out in a firefight against elite-level opposition for, at least, three years.
The specific details of how Cotto was affected by the Margarito beating can be disputed, but there's little debate that pre-Margarito Cotto and post-Margarito Cotto are two significantly different fighters.
Ask Miguel Cotto, though, and he'd likely deny any difference and scoff at the idea that something deep in the back of his psyche was holding him back.
Manny Pacquiao would likely have the same reaction to this idea, but nobody will know what's what until that first moment when the 8-division former world champ gets hit, slightly buzzed, and/or pushed to retreat.
Pacquiao's style depends so much on launching himself into attacks, daringly darting in and out of range to quickly inflict his punishment. Confidence is the key to Pacquiao's offense. It's the blind leap of faith that he can launch himself into attack mode, score his shots, and then get out of range.
The last time he darted in for the attack, a big right hand was waiting for him and it laid him out. Maybe next time he doesn't rush in so fast, doesn't take that chance. If that happens, Manny Pacquiao ceases to be Manny Pacquiao.
It can happen..It has happened. And all it takes is that sliver of a doubt to bring down a fighter.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
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