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These Are the Last Days of Manny Pacquiao

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COMMENTARY | The end is near for the eight-division world champ and pop culture icon, Manny Pacquiao. Regardless of what happens on November 23 against Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios, the End of Days has come for the figurehead of the movement that brought in ten of millions (if not more) avid fans to boxing and helped maintain a healthy cash flow for the sport in a time of economic hardship.

It's not that Pacquiaio can't fight anymore. The Filipino buzzsaw can handle himself in the ring and is probably still better than 95% of the fighters he could possibly fight in his weight range. Even in his internet meme-inspiring face-first knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, the truth is that Pacquiao looked sharp, strong, and may have been on his way to stopping his Mexican arch-rival right until the very end. One punch, of course can, and did, change the course of history. However, put into perspective, there's a case to be made for "the punch" being more bump in the road than career-killing fail.

Still, the end is almost here.

It's not that Pacquiao could possibly lose to the hard-charging Rios. Manny might actually do quite well against the come-forward battler and may surprise more than a few people with just how much he has left in his legs. The 27-year-old Rios is a real, legitimate opponent and will challenge Pacquiao, but it wouldn't be wise to bank on the upset. It's quite possible that Manny will win and look impressive doing it.

Still, Pacquiao is all but finished.

Even age really isn't a factor in ending Pacquiao's career. Manny will turn 35 about three weeks after the Rios fight. Back in the old times, most would be writing him off as someone already at least two years over the hill. But in this day and age, 35 is the new 28 and Manny has shown no signs of serious decline in any one area. Physically, he looks quite capable of fighting into his early 40's.

So, if age and the knockout loss weren't harbingers of doom and Rios isn't likely to beat him into retirement, then why are Pacquiao's days numbered?

Well, 2014 marks the last year of his contract with Bob Arum and Top Rank Promotions. At midnight, January 1, 2015, Manny Pacquiao becomes a promotional free agent and will get a chance to see what the world really has to offer him, both as a fighter and as a politician/actor/businessman.

Unlike other times when his contract was up for renewal, there is a general feeling that Pacquiao may decide to call it a career this time and finally hang up the gloves after eighteen years a pro. Or, worse yet for Top Rank, a free agent Pacquiao could go ahead and finally make the long-awaited Mayweather bout, giving up options for future fights to Mayweather Promotions in exchange for a payday that may triple any previous payday.

It would be pure humiliation for Arum and crew to have walked Manny through the mine field of his career, only to never benefit from the BIG one. But that humiliation isn't likely to happen.

Instead, if there is a real feeling that Pacquiao may not return in 2015, via retirement or through a move to a new promoter, there will be a concerted effort to force Manny to pass the torch to someone, anyone under Top Rank employ before he can leave fully intact.

A thorough drubbing of Pacquiao will ensure that at least some of his rabid fan base will latch on to the new star, although most will likely just float away, disappearing from the sport for good. At the very least, though, Pacquiao will be sent into free agency as a greatly diminished asset to anyone else who may try to sign him or fight him.

So, with maybe just three bouts left under contract, expect the kid gloves to come off and Top Rank to deliver some real and competitive challenges for him.

There will be no more big, brainless lugs like Antonio Margarito or elderly and shot former greats like Shane Mosley. Top Rank is going to give it to Manny heavy and hard, beginning with this November's Brandon Rios bout, which is an insane comeback fight after a knockout loss and a year away from the sport.

And if/when Pacquiao gets by Rios, expect the challenges to keep coming. Manny will be torn down just as he was built up.

Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and is the author of Notes from the Boxing Underground. 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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