|The initial objective of boxing’s sanctioning organizations was to instill a sense of order and respectability to the sport. Considering their current impact throughout the industry, the irony of that statement is inescapable. During the course of each boxing year, two distinct strands of reality manifest, one benefiting boxing history and the fans, and one that benefits the sanctioning bodies. Seemingly oblivious to|
the desires of those in love with the sport, sanctioning organizations impose their individual manifestos, ignoring the ramifications of separating a champion from his hard-earned possessions and interfering with the possibility of truly great fights that would enrich the sport. However, I can see a wonderful pattern emerging. Occasionally, a fight of undeniable magnitude occurs without the involvement of a single governing body. On March 19, two of boxing’s greatest fighters, Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao will collide, without a title at stake, and not a single person can muster a plausible argument to deny the significance of their meeting.
After suffering a soul-destroying loss to despised rival Marco Antonio Barrera, Morales has managed to steal Barrera’s limelight by signing without a hint of hesitation to face Pacquiao, the man that temporarily obliterated Barrera from the boxing landscape in 2003. Morales refused to crawl back towards a title on some redemptive campaign, instead, he projected himself towards what he himself describes as the most important fight of his career, and from one epic battle to another, Morales declares that he is ready for war. Likewise, lesser men would recoil from the notion of meeting a formidable foe such as Morales at a weight in which they had not competitively fought. But what is an unreasonable request for some, is a petty detail for one such as Pacquiao who appears to thrive at the prospect of life on the knife-edge.
The Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez rematch imploded when Marquez’s financial demands became too great, meanwhile, Barrera finds himself bound by another of those wonderful sanctioning organization stipulations, the mandatory obligation. Therefore, as Barrera and Marquez, two great fighters, immerse themselves in the contrivances that thirst for a champion’s blood, Pacquiao and Morales prepare to give boxing a spectacular new chapter of their own creation.
Pacquiao’s triple-threat upon the great Mexican champions of our generation will conclude in this fight, though to what end remains an enticing mystery. Attempting to find an answer brings me first to Pacquiao’s predictability. A fighter of such unfathomable power as Pacquiao should trust in it, but not wholly rely upon it as he did in his fight with Marquez. A singular left-handed assault was not enough to dispose of Marquez, and one feels that if a similar strategy manifests before Morales, it will be Pacquiao that will be counting his trips to the canvas.
It is obvious that Morales has the skill and technique to follow the counter-punching blueprint laid down by Marquez, one that so troubled Pacquiao throughout what became their controversial draw. However, even more certain is the fact that Morales will be unable to resist the temptation to deny his natural ability in order to follow his warrior’s heart into the trenches and battle Pacquiao to the end.
Furthermore, we must consider the mysterious phenomenon surrounding the first half of Barrera-Morales III. A particular ingredient was missing in the Morales fighting machine, only establishing itself in the seventh round, by which time Morales had slipped to a virtually insurmountable points deficit, even for one as talented as he. Even more worrying was Morales’ admission that he knew something in him was lacking, but he could not identify its source. Faced with a force as formidable as Pacquiao, Morales should pray that this curious deficiency neglects to make an appearance.
The possibilities of success and failure reveal a deeply contrasting spectrum of consequences for both fighters. For Pacquiao, whose gathering momentum hides his past disappointments, defeat may mean cruel relegation. When one makes a sudden impact such as Pacquiao, fans are quick to smother them with a kind of hero worship. However, upon defeat, the infliction of derision comes even sooner. Victory however, would continue the industry’s love affair with him, assuring a place as one of boxing’s modern superstars. Morales’ defeats to Barrera seem almost forgivable, but failure against one with which he does not share such an unprecedented and hateful rivalry, one feels would be considerably more damaging. Yet as his detested compatriot Barrera ironically embodies, Mexican fighters are more than adept at coming back from the brink.
The clashing of styles, the presence of power on both sides, the possession of those invaluable qualities of courage and determination beyond the call of duty, intangible to the eye but very real in their importance. So many elements make the fight such a tantalizing prospect. The bravery and dedication to greatness exhibited by both men in making this fight happen heaps shame upon the inevitability that one of them must lose to avoid the dissatisfaction of a draw; the vacancy of which Pacquiao knows all too well. However, even in defeat, there can be no shame for either man, as even before a bell sounds, they have made their presence felt throughout the boxing world with their abandon of reluctance and their abundance of courage. Their very intentions are the essence of greatness.
Jim Cawkwell can be reached at email@example.com