A Sports Fan Speaks  

Retirement parties

In the world of Combat Sports, the names Manny Pacquiao and BJ Penn have long been associated with a certain degree of excellence in their chosen disciplines. Both men have long been held aloft, by peers and Fans alike, as examples of raw talent and harnessed power whilst exhibiting just enough joie de vivre to enable John Q to proceed with caution to the betting window before backing either “People’s Champ” with his hard-earned $1. They have seldom disappointed in the ring/octagon either in victory or defeat and although neither has been a poster-boy for the rigours of downtime training they have carried the banners of their sports with pride and an inherent understanding that the Pay-Per-Viewing public are still the foundation upon which their financial freedoms are based. If you think that last remark was a back-handed slash at the ice princesses still lining the hotel walls behind Fehr and Loathing with their haggard, Brian Burke- undone- tie look and blank stares…well, you just might be right. Somebody might want to mention to all parties concerned that support for the cause is pretty much down to the 30-something single basement dweller with Canuck pillow cases who thinks Ryan Kesler is UNDER-paid and whichever Union Fehr and Loathing is invited to lament at and man-hug next. Whew, I needed that…

But enough about the petty goings on in sports that aren’t happening… let’s return to Manny and his devastating defeat at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez in Episode 4 of their on-going, sands through the hour-glass saga. Another chapter has been written in this strange love/hate quadrilogy – this time thankfully not marred by questionable ringside scoring – and although the Filipino superstar has faithfully carried the sporting banner of his nation for nigh on a decade and a half, he is in danger of becoming the next, in a long line of former champs, who fail to know when to pull up the stool and turn their backs on the ring.

With a career record of 54-5-2 and titles in 8 weight classes there is little left to prove for Pacquiao. His interests outside of boxing in politics and music and his immense celebrity status at home and abroad have already reduced his once-legendary pre-fight training regimen and although he will still command huge PPV dollars for another JMM installment – a quintology if you will – most Fight Fans realize that the Golden Egg fight with Floyd “Money” Mayweather has sadly long since been lost. Yes, the Timothy Bradley loss was an absolute debacle and a testament to judging that could only be compared to that of Steven Tyler and Ellen Degeneres but there is still little question that Pacquiao has slowed. True, he led on all 3 scorecards at the time of the KO to JMM and was riding momentum but at 33, Manny’s all-out, go-for-broke style can be more easily countered than in years past. He has always had the defensive liabilities akin to a Bounty-free New Orleans Saints team but has had a smothering offensive work rate and insane cardio fitness which has exhausted opponents and stolen their power. Fight a man 4 times though and he probably knows this… fight a man a 5th time who knows? I just cringe at the thought of Manny still trying to be Manny long past his prime…which of course never happens in boxing… “paging Mr. Holyfield, paging Mr. Holyfield.”

“He’s got money. He’s got a family that loves him. He’s got a beautiful wife, kids, nothing left to prove. I would like to see BJ ride off into the sunset.” So said Dana White, puppet master of the UFC having watched Kelowna’s own Rory MacDonald give The Prodigy an octagon lesson for 15 minutes on Saturday night. At 16-9-2, Penn will most likely still find the keys to the Hall of Fame waiting for him but any future fights can only taint a career highlighted by being one of only two fighters to ever hold belts in 2 different UFC weight classes – Randy Couture being the other.

On Saturday, the new Montreal version of Rory MacDonald – a ‘heel’ version of his former self with cold eyes, callous disrespect and crowd boos – was too fast, too big and too strong for Hawaii’s favorite MMA son. Knowing all the career-oriented reasons for MacDonald’s public call-out of him, Penn came ready to fight but the world of the 170 pounder is a different planet now than when BJ ruled the roost and the former Waterboy, re-named Ares, punished The Prodigy for daring to un-retire this once. There should be no reason, repeat no reason, for Penn to contemplate leaving his beloved Aloha shores ever again unless the call comes in from the puppet-master that his presence is required at an induction ceremony.

For MacDonald’s part, his ascension and transformation continue. Next up, could and should be former Interim Welterweight Champion Carlos Condit who represents the only blemish on MacDonald’s stellar record. At 23, there is now a well crafted and carefully scripted path laid out for Ares…which despite meaning God of War is probably the worst nickname anyone has penned since perhaps…well…The Waterboy. It’s as though Vince McMahon and Judd Apatow starting running The Rory Show but one gets the sense that the bad boy schtick might be the prelude to one day having to renege on a promise to never go toe to toe in the octagon with his mentor GSP with the belt on the line…

Until next time Kelowna…

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About the Author

Sean McEachern is above all else a Sports Fan. Originally from Ottawa, Sean was educated at Strathallan School in Scotland. A former golf professional and graduate of the San Diego Golf Academy, Sean and his fiancee settled in Kelowna in 2010. A hospitality industry 'lifer', Sean is a sports trivia enthusiast and discussionist and is currently a staff writer at www.freethesportsman.com and at Okanagan Collection magazine. Sean recently welcomed his daughter Keira to the world on July 27th. 

Follow Sean on Twitter @sportsfanspeaks and feel free to comment on any stories at www.asportsfanspeaks.com.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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