MANILA, Philippines – Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao's decision not to focus on his strength and conditioning regimen came back to haunt him after he suffered a stunning sixth-round knockout at the hands of rival Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico.
This, according to boxing analyst Ronnie Nathanielsz.
Pacquiao carried a four-pound weight advantage going into his fourth bout against Marquez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena last Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
But it was the Mexican who fired the first shot when he floored Pacquiao in the third round.
Pacquiao repaid Marquez with a knockdown in the fifth round and seemed to be in a rhythm offensively.
But towards the end of the sixth round, Marquez stunned Pacquiao with a perfect punch, a short right hand that the Filipino walked right into.
"Many people will have different explanations (for the loss)," Nathanielsz said in an interview with DZMM before putting forth his own theory.
"(Strength and conditioning trainer) Alex Ariza said before this fight that Manny has abandoned his strength and conditioning in exchange for boxing," he said. "(Ariza said) I am only the strength and conditioning coach, I have to listen to the fighter."
A week before the fight, Ariza said that while Pacquiao looked good in training camp, he was dismayed that the Filipino opted to focus on his boxing program rather than strength and conditioning.
"We're not focusing on the strength and conditioning program as much as we used to in the past... He's gonna focus on the boxing and the strategy of the fight," Ariza told the Boxing Channel.
Nathanielsz pointed out that Marquez did the exact opposite during his training camp.
"Juan Manuel Marquez went for strength and conditioning with (trainer Angel) Heredia. Sabi ni Alex Ariza, no matter what they claim about Heredia, for this fight, Marquez did swimming. He did the short, explosive track bursts. He did the plyometrics, isometrics, lifted weights," he said.
"Marquez went through the strength and conditioning, and that's why he was muscular. That's why he could take punches and hit harder even when he was four pounds lighter," Nathanielsz added.
Nathanielsz said that when Pacquiao was following Ariza's strength and conditioning program, it led to sensational performances against David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton.
"I don't know why they abandoned it. He had hand speed, and Manny was quick; he hit hard. He had a four-pound weight advantage. But it was Marquez who got the killer punch," he said.
|Manny Pacquiao (L) of the Philippines fights Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico during their welterweight fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada December 8, 2012. Photo by Steve Marcus, Reuters
Ariza had warned prior to the fight that the lack of strength and conditioning may prove to be a factor in the fight.
"When I look at what made us successful in the past, and I’m looking at what's not making us successful, that's the only common denominator involved," Ariza said at the time.
Change in routine
Nathanielsz also believes that the change in Pacquiao’s routine may have affected the boxer.
He pointed out that when Pacquiao entered the ring, he was not wearing a rosary as has been his custom for his fights.
"The one thing he did -- which I don't think he should have done -- was that he doesn't wear the rosary anymore. In the past, he would come into the ring with the rosary, he would put the rosary around his neck, pray in the corner," Nathanielsz said.
"Just before the fight he removes the rosary and then he makes the sign of the cross. Ritual na 'yan, and that has a deep meaning when you turn against what you have practiced... It's a little difficult especially in our environment in the Philippines," he added.
While Nathanielsz was quick to say that the change in the ritual did not cost Pacquiao the victory – and that to do so will be unfair to Marquez – he did say that the loss may have been a "lesson" to the fighting congressman.
"They have strayed a little from the path, and maybe, maybe, God only knows, this maybe is a lesson to him, something that is being told to him, a message that is being sent to him," Nathanielsz said.
Pacquiao’s mother, Dionisia, has said that the boxer’s change of religion was a factor in the loss.
Meanwhile, boxing analyst Atty. Ed Tolentino acknowledged that the change in ritual could have been a factor, noting that many famous athletes have their own routines that they did not change.
"One athlete in our history, Pancho Villa, iisa ang kulay ng shorts niya – voodoo green. Lucky charm 'yun. You look at MJ (Michael Jordan), he wore his North Carolina shorts, doble ang shorts niya. May mga bagay-bagay tayo na ayaw mo i-disrupt," Tolentino told DZMM.
"Ang sa akin lang, may mawawala ba kung itong mga rhythm na ito, superstitious belief na ito ay ire-retain mo? Lahat naman ng atleta may ganyan," he added.
Pacquiao made no excuses following his loss, admitting that he never saw Marquez's punch coming.
But it was a devastating loss for the Pacman, who last June also suffered a controversial split decision defeat at the hands of unbeaten American Timothy Bradley Jr.
Pacquiao was taken to a hospital for a CT scan after the bout, though results were negative.