It seems that there is a common trend floating around boxing these days when the name Manny Pacquiao is mentioned. It’s one that I personally don’t agree with. The idea can be put into a simple phrase, one that Timothy Bradley, Freddie Roach, ESPN analyst Skip Bayless, and many others seem to be in accord with. “Manny Pacquiao has lost his ‘killer instinct’. He doesn’t have the determination to finish fights anymore.” This phrase is the excuse, or reason, as to why everyone is starting to think Pacquiao isn’t the same fighter that he was four years ago. They believe that his religious beliefs may have affected his ability to want to knock his opponents out in the ring, and that because he is a “peaceful” man now he doesn’t want to hurt his opponents anymore. Even Manny Pacquiao himself has said it may be true and that he is looking to gain it back in his fight this weekend when he faces Timothy Bradley again at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV. But is it really gone? Has Pacquiao really lost his killer instinct?
My answer is simple. No. While people may think Pacquiao may not be the same fighter he was four years ago, and I actually think he is, there are a number of factors that must be looked at before determining whether or not Pacquiao has lost that “killer instinct” that made him a boxing superstar.
If you take a look at what Pacquiao did in 2008-09 to become the phenom that he was, it’s not much different than what he is doing right now. He’s using his speed, combinations, aggression, power, and awkward southpaw angles to completely dominate his opponents. He showed that in the Brandon Rios fight he is still lightning fast and he is still as aggressive as he’s ever been with an average of 65 punches thrown per round. If you take a look at the fight that put Pacquiao on the superstar map, his complete domination of De La Hoya back in 2008, that’s only 8 punches less per round. Against Oscar he averaged 73. The difference between De La Hoya and Rios? Oscar was well past his prime, rich, and was ok with giving up. There was no reason to continue on trying to savor a knockout or risk getting hurt. Rios was not going to give up. He had an iron chin, was much bigger than Pacquiao, and was ok with taking a beating for twelve rounds. Pacquiao didn’t go for the finish not because he had lost his “killer instinct” but because he was just coming off of one of the most devastating knockouts in boxing history and didn’t want to risk that happening again from a heavy fisted Rios. It was smart to just cruise through that fight doing what he was doing, winning.
Another thing that has lead people to believe that Pacquiao is not the same fighter and that he has lost his “killer instinct” is that he hasn’t knocked anyone out since 2009. That may be true. But there is another factor involved in this. Pacquiao hasn’t knocked anyone out since he moved up to 147. Everyone knows as a fighter keeps moving up the ladder in weight, knockouts fade because he is fighting bigger guys. De La Hoya came in at 145, Hatton at 140, and Cotto at 144. And even though he won by knockout in all three fights, two of those fights were won based on volume combination punching where the opponents had just taken too many punches to be able to finish the fight. It had nothing to do with “killer instinct” back then, and it has nothing to do with it now. Also, De La Hoya, Hatton, and Cotto shared one major flaw in common. They were not scared to brawl with Pacquiao. After the Cotto fight, Pacquiao’s opponents knew better than to try to exchange with him.
The truth is, ever since Pacquiao has moved up to 147 his opponents have been able to take his punches better and they’ve been way more timid to engage in a war with him. Therefore the knockouts haven’t come the way they were when he was fighting 140. Guys like Clottey, Margarito, Bradley, and Mosley are not just big welterweights, they are big welterweights with great chins. Most of these guys wanted nothing to do with engaging with Pacquiao either, therefore making for boring fights and making it seem like Pacquiao has lost a step or his “killer instinct”. However that doesn’t seem to be the case when you look at each fight closely. Clottey shelled up and refused to punch back, Mosley and Bradley ran the entire fight, and the only person that went to war with Pacquiao was Margarito. Anyone who knows Antonio Margarito knows that you can hit that guy with a brick and you won’t knock him out.
One fight, or fights, I haven’t mentioned is his fights with Juan Manuel Marquez. Marquez has always been a tricky fighter for Pacquiao and his punch output against Marquez has always been lower than it has against any other opponent. While Pacquiao has averaged over 60 punches per round against every opponent since 2008, in his last two fights against Marquez since 2008 he’s averaged 45 punches per round. And if you think about “killer instinct”, Pacquiao’s last fight against Marquez before he was brutally KO’ed was the most aggressive he had ever been against him. He was trying to knock him out. So if anything, his “killer instinct” was there more than ever.
The “killer instinct” selling point seems to have drawn alot of the main focus. Roach says that he needs to start knocking people out again to regain his fans. That may be true, as Pacquiao’s PPV sales have taken a tremendous hit. His 500k buys vs Rios is the lowest Pacquiao has ever had. However that could be linked to the lack of a big named opponent, as well as the venue that was in Macau instead of the United States. Other than the Rios fight Pacquiao has still sold pretty well with over one million buys in most of his fights.
It’s yet to be determined if the fans have given up on Pacquiao but one thing I am almost certain of is that the exciting, explosive Manny Pacquiao that we have seen for the last five years will still be there this Saturday night when he takes on Timothy Bradley. I for one believe that he never lost his “killer instinct”. I believe that his lack of knockouts are because his opponents got bigger, and they got smarter. They saw the mistakes that Hatton and Cotto made and decided not to engage with him the way that they did which lead to some boring lopsided fights. I think that this Saturday night we’ll get the same Pacquiao that we have always seen. Aggressive, fast, and chasing down his opponent to engage in a brawl. It’s the only way Pacquiao knows how to fight, and whether or not his “killer instinct” will be displayed, and whether or not he get’s the knockout, is and always will rest in the hands of his opponent, who will either choose to back away from Pacquiao the entire fight, or to engage in a war. Timothy Bradley claims that Pacquiao isn’t the same, and that he has lost his “killer instinct”. I think Bradley is wrong, and if Bradley really wants to find out, then he is going to have to stand toe to toe with Pacquiao and exchange. Then, we will all find out of Pacquiao has really lost his “killer instinct.”