He was the current WBO Welterweight Champion. He had won his last two bouts in fairly convincing fashion – his last one over Timothy Bradley to regain the title belt that many felt he was robbed of more than two years before.
Yet, somehow, echoes of his last loss still seemed to haunt him – at least in the eyes of his opponents. After all, the last memorable image of Pacquiao occurred almost two years ago, in December of 2012. It was his limp, unconscious body slumping to the canvas after longtime rival Juan Manuel Marquez landed a monster right hand to Pacquiao’s mouth, knocking him out cold for a good 20 seconds. It was the most shocking sight seen in the world of boxing in recent memory, and it left a lasting impression in media, spectators and fellow welterweights alike:
One good punch could put Manny down.
It was this – including the fact that Pacquiao had not been able to knock out fighters in any capacity since he put down Miguel Cotto by TKO more than five years ago – that had drastically changed the 35-year-old’s current narrative. Once seen as a fighter that only had the likes of undefeated superstar Floyd Mayweather, Jr. as his equal, the Filipino congressman had to seemingly start over, in order to prove to himself and his critics that he was still that same fighter.
Brandon Rios had this thought in Pacquiao’s first fight since his devastating knockout. The thought likely crossed Timothy Bradley, Jr. once or twice in their rematch for the Welterweight title April.
And that looked to be the game plan for the WBO light welterweight title holder, and upstart contender from Huntington, New York – one Chris Algieri. Making his name by winning all 20 of his previous professional bouts – including a split decision victory over Ruslan Provodnikov – Algieri took Provodnikov’s place as Pacquiao’s next opponent for the Welterweight belt.
His relative inexperience put him at a disadvantage against Pacquiao. However, the belief in fighter and corner seemed to be that, as long as they could tire out the champ early and find a knockout punch late, they could come out victorious.
Ultimately, that belief – and the game plan from which that belief was based on – failed them miserably.
Pacquiao easily defended his title in a de facto “Pac-Man Boxing” clinic, winning by unanimous decision over Algieri on Saturday night. He pelted Algieri with combinations from the opening bell, and was relentless in his offense for the majority of the bout. All told, he scored six knockdowns over the overmatched former kickboxer. To be fair, a couple of them could be blamed on Pacquiao’s water-soaked corner, which Algieri appeared to slip on as Pacquiao went in for the attack. Nonetheless, Pacquiao scored his numerous knockdowns on account of remaining on the offensive all night long.
He could not score a knockout that his corner had been looking for, but Pacquiao’s critical power punches certainly rocked Algieri throughout the fight. Additionally, Pacquiao dominated in just about every statistical category, including punches thrown (669 to 469), punches landed (229 to 108), and landed punch percentage (34% to 23%).
Meanwhile, Pacquiao’s attack strategy seemingly kept Algieri backing up for most of the bout. The younger boxer simply could not handle the constant barrage of punches that the Filipino superstar could dish out on Saturday night. All credit to the Stony Brook alum for refusing to give up, but it was obvious after only a few rounds that Algieri was clearly outmatched.
Despite Pacquiao’s dominance in the ring over Algieri, there seemed to be an unwavering (if not delusional) faith in trainer Tim Lane that his pre-planned strategy would lead to ultimate victory. It was a perplexing strategy that, apparently, included holding back over the first four rounds to “tire out” the older fighter, only to let Algieri “out of the cage,” as he characterized late in the bout during an interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman.
By then, Algieri had already been thoroughly schooled by Pacquiao’s unique fighting style, and knocked down a number of times. Then, during Lane’s interview with Kellerman, the following occurred that has to be seen to be believed:
Lane boldly proclaimed Algieri would knock out Pacquiao soon … mere milliseconds before Algieri was knocked down for the sixth time in the fight. It was quite possibly one of the worst instances of bad timing ever, as well as the perfect characterization of the futility displayed in Algieri’s corner – if not a sense of blind self-confidence and faith in a useless strategy.
Useless not only because Rios – who was considered a more powerful puncher at the time than Algieri – had tried the same strategy to no avail, but also because of the ramifications of Pacquiao’s last loss. Ultimately, since Manny’s knockout defeat at the hands of Marquez, he has fought with a measure of caution, never giving his opponent the opening that Marquez had two years ago. Even while wanting a knockout victory, Pacquiao has gotten smarter in his fighting style, emphasizing more defense, and not taking up so much ground as to put himself in compromising positions to get knocked out, himself.
With that in mind – coupled with the opposing mindset of looking for a knockout punch against Pacquiao – Algieri essentially came into the fight with one hand tied behind his back. Lane’s in-ring strategy of holding back only to let Algieri “out of the cage” tied the American’s other hand behind his back. Ultimately, it equated to no chance at a victory for Algieri.
It showed in the final scorecards – 119-103 for two of the three judges, and 120-102 for the third – as a landslide.
The only question that remained was the most obvious one – will the defending WBO Welterweight title-holder ever fight the undefeated Floyd Mayweather? While Pacquiao was as in-the-dark as anyone else about the answer, he did have one thing to say about it:
2015 might be the boxing world’s last chance to make the superfight happen, but the two sides remain deadlocked on terms. It has gotten to the point that many analysts and experts believe it will never take place, and – even worse for the Mayweather camp – Floyd is to blame for it.
In any case, Pacquiao will continue to fight all comers. And, unless someone else can get lucky enough to catch Pacquiao with one lethal power punch, Pacquiao will likely continue to win, no matter if Mayweather ever steps into the same ring. And hopefully, maybe after this fight, the idea of beating the Pac Man with one punch will be a thing of the past.