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List of Articles by Joaquin Henson

It’s not over for Manny

By Joaquin Henson
10 Jul 2017

BRISBANE. It wouldn’t be like Manny Pacquiao to walk away from a controversial loss and end his storybook boxing career on a sour note. So true to form, the fighting Senator has decided to exercise his option for a rematch with Jeff Horn to recapture the WBO welterweight crown the Australian snatched in distasteful fashion before a crowd of 51,025 fans at the Suncorp Stadium here last Sunday.

After the fight, Pacquiao’s wife Jinkee struggled to hold back tears as she spoke about the possibility of retirement in the dugout. Hanging up the gloves would make her, their children and Mommy Dionisia happy but she said the decision was only Pacquiao’s to make. For 22 years, Pacquiao has risked life and limb in a cruel sport that is both punishing and unforgiving. Yet it is the sport that has brought Pacquiao global acclaim, honor to his country and pride to Filipinos all over the world.

Has the time come for Pacquiao to call it quits? He’s now 38 and with 11 world titles in eight different weight divisions, there is little more to achieve in enhancing his legacy. Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach said age wasn’t a factor in the loss to Horn. He pointed an accusing finger at Minnesota referee Mark Nelson for tolerating Horn’s dirty tactics that neutralized Pacquiao’s strengths. Horn did nearly everything out of the rulebook to disrupt Pacquiao’s rhythm.

The Australian roughhoused his way to restrict Pacquiao’s space and wear him down by elbowing, rabbit-punching, head-locking, holding and butting. Pacquiao couldn’t find the angles to throw his combinations because Horn repeatedly locked him up as Nelson turned a blind eye to the shenanigans. Not once did Nelson warn Horn to refrain from using dirty tricks.

Pacquiao came close to a knockout in the ninth round as Horn reeled helplessly across the ring but the gritty Australian survived the onslaught. Roach said one more dominant round in the homestretch would’ve kept the title with Pacquiao but Horn refused to fold up. If Pacquiao won the 12th and final round, he would’ve retained the title on a majority draw. As it turned out, Horn wrested the crown on a unanimous verdict with female judge Waleska Roldan of New York scoring it 117-111 and judges Chris Flores of Arizona and Ramon Cerdan of Argentina concurring at 115-113.

Social media reverberated in disbelief over Pacquiao’s loss as netizens pointed to his huge lead in punch stats. Pacquiao landed more shots, 182-92 and more power blows, 123-73. Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, however, vouched for the judges’ integrity. He said it’s not unusual for judges to be swayed by the homecrowd, particularly in scoring close rounds, because “they’re only human.” The judges were severely criticized for scoring the ninth round 10-9 for Pacquiao when it should’ve been 10-8 as it was one-sided.

When the smoke of battle cleared, Horn looked more like the loser than Pacquiao. His right eye was swollen shut and the cut over it took seven stitches to close. His face was disfigured and his left cheek bore the mark of a hematoma. Pacquiao suffered scalp wounds on both sides of his head as a result of butts. Las Vegas cosmetic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Roth, who is married to Arum’s stepdaughter Dena, sewed up Pacquiao’s cuts with a total of 14 stitches, nine----four inner and five outer----on one side and five----two inner and three outer----on the other.

The fight marked the biggest attendance for a Pacquiao fight in a stadium and was beamed to 159 countries with 95 million homes provided the live feed on free-to-air TV in the US. The card was held in open air under the sweltering sun. Someone hoisted an umbrella for international broadcaster Col. Bob Sheridan at ringside to shield him from the sun while ring announcer Michael Buffer’s wife Christine held up a cardboard to keep him from tanning too much. The international TV panel of Joe Tesstore, Teddy Atlas and two-time Pacquiao opponent Tim Bradley took off their coats during the coverage. It didn’t seem like winter in Australia at all.

Christine Allado, who has toured with Andrea Bocelli and appeared in the West End production of “Hamilton,” flew in from London to sing the National Anthem backed by the eight-man Word Choir of General Santos City in the ring. Bishop Tony Torres, pastors Bong Quintos, Rexcel Neri, Federico Gloria and Jess Bascuna and Chris Aguilar, Boyet Layug and Gerry Girado made up the choir.

The organizing Duco Events laid out 7,000 on-ground seats to augment the capacity of 52,500 and the expensive tickets of the equivalent of P195,000 each were sold out. Making the trip to Brisbane for the fight were Sen. Tito Sotto, former Gov. Chavit Singson, Rep. Toby Tiangco, Rep. Conrad Estrella, Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, Rep. Chiqui Roa Puno, Rep. Len Alonte, Rep. Eric Pineda, GMA vice president Redgie Magno, GMA senior program manager Bang Arespacochaga, ABS-CBN integrated sports head Dino Laurena, former world champion Gerry Penalosa, Johnny and Liza Elorde, former PBA player Zaldy Realubit, GAB chairman Abraham Mitra and GAB commissioner for administration and finance Fritz Gaston.

ALV Events International CEO Arnold Vegafria, who is Pacquiao’s business manager, negotiated the fight’s broadcast over GMA on free TV and Skycable on pay-per-view. Vegafria firmed up Pacquiao’s long-term contract with China sports apparel and footwear giant Anta. He arranged sponsorships from San Miguel Corp., ATC Health Care, Phoenix Petroleum, Cobra Energy Drink, Bench, Proctor and Gamble, Unilever, GToken and Vivid Games, among others.

Pacquiao consoled the Filipino fans who witnessed the action in Brisbane and said there is a higher purpose for the turn of events. “God is good,” he said. It’s his strong faith in the Lord that inspires the Filipino nation to support him in whatever he does as a public servant and athlete. Pacquiao won’t let the setback to Horn dampen his countrymen’s spirit----it will trigger the start of a crusade for redemption.

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