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Manny Pacquiao: A Victim of Boxing Politics?

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COMMENTARY | Reports of Manny Pacquiao's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Despite a face-first knockout at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez last December and a frustrating, controversial split decision loss to Timothy Bradley six months before that, Pacquiao's days as a legitimate, pound-for-pound force are not over.

As a matter of fact, the eight-division world champ and Filipino icon is probably just one big win away from rejoining Floyd Mayweather at the top of boxing's short list of elite players.

Those who truly recall his last bout with Marquez should remember a Pacquiao who had a bloodied Marquez legitimately hurt shortly before getting cracked with a perfectly-timed right hand at the end of the sixth round.

Pacquiao, on that night, actually looked sharper than at any point since his dismantling of Miguel Cotto in 2009. Many observers felt that a battered Marquez, who was starting to shows signs of wear and tear, could actually be stopped within the next few rounds. Of course, now, it's a moot point as Marquez showed himself to have the wherewithal to close the show. But that doesn't take away from the fact that Manny had looked like THE Manny for the first time in a long time.

Now, depending on which media reports you choose to believe, Pacquiao may be just one bad showing away from a forced early retirement.

"If you lose three in a row it's your time," trainer Freddie Roach told ESPN. "He's up there in age, I've got to keep a close eye on him. It's part of my job to protect him. I will do the right thing, I don't want him to be a stepping-stone."

The implication is that if Pacquiao should falter against young, hard-charging Brandon Rios on November 24 in Macau, then the end has likely come. At the very least, a Pacquiao with three straight losses would have to be placed in the fallen star category.

And if either turns out to be the case, Pacquiao would be correct in pointing the finger at those who were supposed to have his best professional interest in mind. A 34-year-old Pacquiao, still of sound mind and body, being forced from the sport would have little to do with the fighter and lots to do with the business maneuverings done in his name behind the scenes.

Back in 2009, Pacquiao was on top of the world with thrilling and dominant stoppage wins of Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto. The unlikely superstar from General Santos City was on his way to owning the boxing world and achieving the type of worldwide royalty treatment not seen since Muhammad Ali.

But things began to go sour when Floyd Mayweather entered the picture.

Negotiations for a bout with Mayweather stalled over Pacquiao's refusal to bend on the issue of random PEDs testing and, despite some marginal stops and starts here and there, the bout would never be seriously discussed again.

Throughout the whole Mayweather-Pacquiao fiasco it became clear that a good portion of Team Pacquiao wanted nothing to do with Mayweather and while they gave good lip service to the mega-fight, they continued to steer Manny well clear of his arch-rival. The more fans clamored for the bout, the tighter the grip got over Pacquiao's career.

Promoter Bob Arum's insistence on keeping Pacquiao a pure "in house" property, only doing business with other Arum fighters led to some strange and ultimately unfulfilling encounters right when Pacquiao's star was burning brightest.

Bouts with a defense-minded Joshua Clottey and a lumbering, but sorely overmatched Antonio Margarito did little for Pacquiao's career, while his rout of a completely shot Shane Mosley left fans griping and grumbling for the first time in his all-action career.

A third fight with Marquez came next, brought about mainly because Arum's stable of available opponents had run dry. As expected, Pacquiao struggled against Marquez, who had always been a tough match-up for him, but came away with a highly controversial majority decision.

Then came the Bradley and Marquez losses, products of forcing Pacquiao into poor stylistic match-ups for the sake of keeping things in house.

There's no doubt that Pacquiao did extremely well for himself over the last several years, but the question has to be asked-- how much bigger and better would things have been if Manny had been allowed to play the entire court, rather than just Arum's side?

On November 24, Pacquiao takes on promotional stable mate, Brandon Rios in a bout that should be right in his comfort zone. All signs point to him performing well and looking impressive. But then what?

In house politics will force him right back into clumsy and difficult return bouts with Bradley and/or Marquez.

In a perfect world, Pacquiao puts his foot down post-Rios and demands access to all possible match-ups at 140-147. He certainly has the leverage to make such demands and the ability to be successful if granted his wish, but does he still have the desire?

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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.

Source: ESPN

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