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Is it over for Manny?

As a fighter gets on in years, the responsibility of keeping a sharp focus on staying in shape becomes more and more pronounced. It’s impossible to turn back the hands of time and if you want to remain competitive in the ring as you grow older, you’ve got to train, fight and live smart.

Boxing is a jealous sport, says Uruguay matchmaker Sampson (Picasso) Lewkowicz, because it demands absolute devotion. It’s not supposed to be a part-time job. A fighter who dabbles in some other trade takes a big risk in entering the ring. If he’s not totally focused, something tragic could happen. Boxing is a contact sport where fighters put their lives on the line. It’s a dangerous sport. Fighters have been killed in the ring or died because of boxing-related injuries.

Manny Pacquiao might have gotten away with multi-tasking when he was younger. When you’re in your prime, you feel like you can do anything. But when you’re 34 with 61 fights under your belt in a 17-year career, you’re not the same fighter you were once at 24. You’ve moved up several weight classes. If you were bowling over featherweights 10 years ago, now you realize you can’t do the same thing against welterweights. 

Pacquiao turned 34 yesterday. At the moment, he has no plans of retiring from boxing. The talk is he’ll take a long rest then return to the gym and prepare for his next fight in July. A possible opponent is Timothy Bradley. It would be the start of Pacquiao’s redemption road. A win over Bradley would bring Pacquiao back on the WBO welterweight throne. If he beats Bradley and feels up to it, Pacquiao could then face Juan Manuel Marquez in a fifth encounter, this time with his WBO 147-pound title at stake, in December. Exacting revenge on Bradley and Marquez will restore Pacquiao’s credibility as a marquee pay-per-view draw. It will also revive negotiations for a megabuck showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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If Pacquiao is determined to continue fighting, he’s got to refocus his energies. The problem is as a congressman, he’ll never be able to compromise his obligations to his constituents. Given a choice between boxing and politics, Pacquiao will decide on the career path that will take him on a longer journey. Obviously, Pacquiao can’t fight forever. He’ll enjoy a longer career as a politician particularly as a second term as congressman is a cinch and running for senator in 2016 appears imminent.

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At 34, Pacquiao must decide if he wants to dedicate himself to boxing or politics because he can’t do both. The compromise is he must train at least three months for a fight without distractions, interruptions and congressional meetings. The older you get, the longer you must train to stay in shape as a fighter. Then there is Pacquiao’s religious orientation. Nobody says participating in Bible service is wrong – in fact, it’s good for the soul. But as the adage goes, everything must be done in moderation. Rest is critical in a boxer’s daily regimen. You can’t overtax your body especially if you’re getting older. Staying up until early morning to share insights on the Holy Scriptures isn’t advisable for a fighter who must get enough sleep to prime his body for boxing.

It’s not for anyone to say whether Pacquiao should retire or not. The decision is his to make. Ricky Hatton advised him to retire while his faculties are still intact. Marvelous Marvin Hagler did that and turned down juicy offers to make a comeback. Muhammad Ali and Freddie Roach retired without imaging that inevitably, they would be stricken by pugilistic dementia because their retirement came a few fights too late. 

Only Pacquiao can listen to his body and tell if he can still withstand the rigors of training and fighting in the ring. But if he decides to continue fighting, Pacquiao must realize there can be no cutting corners, no short-cuts, no days-off when it’s time to start training. Marquez, 39, punished himself in the gym for 4 1/2 months to prepare for Pacquiao and it paid off. He fought Pacquiao like a 39-year-old warrior would – he built up power in camp and used it to score a dramatic sixth round knockout. He had no illusions of fighting Pacquiao like he used to when he was 29. He knew he could win only by knockout because he wouldn’t ever be able to outspeed or outmaneuver Pacquiao. And so he did.

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You’ve got up to 5 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 20, to submit your entries to our Christmas contest for the chance to a load of prizes, including P50,000 cash for the first prize winner. It’s easy to join. Just answer three questions: (1) Which Los Angeles Laker star is endorsing a Nike shoe that is the lightest ever made for basketball? (2) Who was the last opponent beaten by Pacquiao? (3) Who was the MVP in the PBA last season? Additionally, there are three questions for you to answer in essay form (three sentences max): (1) Whom would you prefer Pacquiao to fight next and why? (2) Which team do you think will win the PBA Philippine Cup and why? (3) Why do you read the Sports section of The Philippine Star?

Every entry must be identified by the sender’s name, age, occupation (if student, what year, course, school), address and telephone number. The more entries you send in, the more chances you get to win. There will be no multiple winners to give more senders the opportunity to take home prizes. Send your entries to The Philippine Star Sports section, Railroad corner Oca Streets, Port Area, Metro Manila. No Xerox copies will be allowed.

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