Can SuperManny still score a knockout?

What we love about Manny Pacquiao is his knockout power. Who’ll forget his perfect stab on Ricky Hatton’s cheek in Round 2? Or the forward-lunging attacks on Erik Morales? Or, with blood smearing his baldhead, the Miguel Cotto stoppage in R12?

In Manny’s pro career spanning 63 fights, of the 56 times that he’s triumphed, he won via KO on 38 occasions (versus only 18 by decision). That’s a high 68 percent. In the three times that my very own eyes have watched him, my most memorable sight was when he floored Fahsan Por Thawatchai with a left hook that saw the Thai fly in Manila. In boxing formulations, the equation is simple: MP = KO.

But there’s a problem: That was then. The last time Pacquiao knocked cold an opponent was Cotto five Novembers ago. Correction! The last time Pacquiao was involved in a knockout was when HE was KO’d – by J. M. Marquez two years ago.

That’s the past. Today is 11-23-14, a brand new morning. Will the Gen. Santos City native return to his former self against the New Yorker today? We all wish. But his past fights explain a weakening and he’s-getting-old Congressman. Since that TKO over Cotto in Nov. of 2009, Manny fought eight more times – winning six and losing twice. What’s troubling is that none of those six wins came via KO; each was an “MD” or a “UD.”

Will today be different? One person is confident and it’s Manny’s confidant. “He showed signs of greatness in training. He was knocking sparring partners down,” said Freddie Roach, who knows his student more than any other. “It’s not enough to win nowadays. You have to win impressively, and knockouts are impressive. I love knockouts.”

Who doesn’t? The top reason why we follow boxing is not simply to endure 36 minutes of jabs, pokes, head butts and chest-to-chest sweaty hugs. We all await that knockout. That single moment perfected in time when the fist collides with the face.

Boxing would be boring without that KO. It’s more than baseball’s homerun; more than a Dwight Howard slam dunk; it’s like a football goal, waiting patiently for 90 minutes before that kick or header greets the net – but boxing’s knockout is even more thrilling.

Does Pacquiao still possess that SuperManny force? Can his present fists replicate his past feats?

First, let’s remember his age. Though Manny’s not Bernard Hopkins-old (who’ll turn 50 this Jan.), our fellow Pinoy is no longer youthful. This Dec. 17, he’ll turn 36. Considering that he started this warfare state in his teens, that’s over two decades of battered bodies and bloodied fists.

Two: he’s moved up in weight. Said Roach: “He has only knocked out two welterweights (Cotto and a weight-drained De La Hoya) since we’ve moved up in weight for the big fights. All those other big knockouts were in smaller divisions.”

His point? The bigger the man you’re facing, the more daunting the task of putting him to sleep. A recent example was Nonito Donaire, dominant in his previous category but outclassed by the larger Nicholas Walters. If Manny wins today, Team Pacquiao is signaling a return to lighter weight divisions.

“The real question is, how do I feel and how do I perform when I return to those lower weights?” said Pacquiao. “I could be faster than when I fought at welterweight and (junior middleweight), and if my power remains the same, I may be able to score more knockouts at lower weights. I weighed 138 when I knocked out Ricky Hatton, 142 when I stopped Oscar De La Hoya and 144 when I scored a TKO of Miguel Cotto. Many people consider those fights some of my best, so why not go back down if that is where the bigger and better fights are going to be fought?”

That’s next year. Today, the strategy is to go for the jugular. “This is what I’m going to do to this kid (Algieri),” Manny told Roach. “I’m going to knock him out early.”

Roach agrees. “Manny is an eight-division champion with speed and power. When he hurts a guy, he knows what to do. Chris Algieri is not fighting Ruslan (Provodnikov). This is not a ‘Rocky’ movie. It might be one round.”

Let’s see the boast.

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