So Manny didn’t get Horny in Brisbane last Sunday. Instead of taking the bull by the horn, he gets bullied by the Horn. Not only was he bullied, he was bloodied and appeared beaten to the punch more times than usual.
We watched and waited for the old Manny with his dizzying 5-punch combinations, his mesmerizing laterals, his amazing attacks coming from the weirdest of angles. Instead of the old Manny, we saw an old Manny, minus the aggressiveness, minus the devil-may-care offensives, minus the stamina that could’ve taken down a close-to-collapsing Horn in the 9th round.
But that’s life. That’s age showing. And you just have to move on.
A lot of boxing pundits will say that Manny still has a lot left in his tank. That he had administered enough punishment to deserve the victory. That given the right lenses, the judges could have – and should have – awarded him the fight. Truth to tell, Manny gave a good account – nay, make that a heroic account – of himself in that dramatic Battle of Brisbane.
His vision impaired with blood oozing from both sides of his head on account of ugly headbutts, Manny continued to fight valiantly. Like a matador standing majestic against a raging bull, he would artistically spear the bull time and time again as it lunged forward ever-so-dangerously. The bull had the power; the matador had the finesse. The bull had aggression; the matador had patience. The bull had murder in his eyes, the matador had cool confidence and wisdom.
On the 9th round, Manny found his perfect opening. He turned aggressor this time, giving us a glimpse of the Manny of old. This time, the matador stalked the dazed bull, chasing him from corner to corner. But this time, the young bull, strong and full of energy, survived.
At the end of the match, the big bad bull was bloodied, battered and bewildered. The bull didn’t look anything like a winner at all, despite having tried to gore the matador a million times. But for having survived the maestro’s onslaught, the crowd willed the judges into giving the courageous bull the victory.
Questions arose after the fight. What now, Manny? Will you keep on fighting? Must you keep on fighting? Will you ask for a rematch? Will you look for another fight to prepare you for another go at the big bad bull? Or will you retire? And focus on making a name for yourself in the Senate?
Personally, I would like our Pambansang Kamao to finally hang up his gloves. He has nothing more to prove. He is now a legend, an icon that every Filipino not named Jim Paredes look up to. He is now a national treasure who proudly made our national flag and anthem recognizable the world over. And I would hate for him to go punch-drunk, the way the late-great Muhammad Ali left us.
But then, reports from Gensan indicate that Manny is raring for one last go at the crown. He has so much pride in himself, and it looks like he will ask for a rematch. Hopefully, the stakes will be much higher, after having provided such great entertainment the last time around. ESPN announced on Monday that it was the most-watched boxing telecast on cable since 2006, hitting a whopping 2.8 million viewers.
That said, Manny will need to put more time and effort on his training this time. He cannot train for a month and rely on his skills to do the rest. Clearly, he underestimated the schoolteacher from Australia. The first round said it all. Instead of taking the fight to his opponent as he used to, he allowed Horn to be the aggressor, giving him enough traction to gain more and more confident.
For this next fight and hopefully his last, Manny will have to train harder, as hard as he has ever trained. And he will need to fight soonest. For even as we speak, the bull gets stronger, bolder and wiser; while the matador? He can only get older.