Sports

Manny Pacquiao’s Faith Might Explain His 9-Year Knockout Drought

Manny Pacquiao is a historically great boxer, but he fought for nearly a decade without knocking someone out. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one factor lies with his religious beliefs. Pacquiao’s faith has a strong impact on his daily life and ambitions. But some speculate that it’s changed his approach to fighting. Is this really why he doesn’t bring the power the way he did in the past? 

Manny Pacquiao’s punches don’t hit the way they once did

Pacquiao has a lot of accolades to decorate his 25-year boxing career. He’s won titles across a wider spectrum than anyone else in history. He’s the first boxer to win 12 major world titles in eight different weight classes, win the lineal championship in five weight classes, and win major titles in four of the eight original divisions of boxing.

Just last year, Pacquiao became the oldest welterweight championship ever by defeating Keith Thurman at the age of 40. He’s also managed to prolong his career better than most of his fellow legends. He’s the only person to hold world championships across four decades. 

But Pacquiao’s time as a boxer is also typified by his personal quirks that make his life more fascinating and varied than your average boxer. While reigning as one of the top athletes in the sport, Pacquiao went without a knockout win for nine years.

This didn’t stop him from winning plenty of fights — he only lost four during that time — but this only makes it odder that he didn’t put anyone to sleep for nearly a decade. The drought ended when he defeated Keith Thurman last July to win the super welterweight title. What was the cause of Pacquiao’s relative gentleness? One of his friends looked to the heavens for answers.  

How has Manny Pacquiao’s faith affected his decisions?

Manny Pacquiao prays after his knock out of Ricky Hatton in 2009
Manny Pacquiao prays after his knock out of Ricky Hatton in 2009 | Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

One line of thinking is that Pacquiao’s lack of knockouts is due to his commitment to Christianity. Despite his mother’s wishes, according to USA Today, Pacquiao is a practicing Evangelical Protestant. He was raised Roman Catholic but chose a new path in an attempt to work on his issues with alcohol and adultery.

The common sentiment among boxing fans was that Pacquiao took it easier on his opponents after becoming devout. Before a 2019 fight against Adrian Broner, Buboy Fernandez, one of Pacquiao’s best friends and trainers, told him, “Don’t show mercy and forget that you’re a Christian for several minutes” and remind everyone viewing the fight that he still has plenty of power in his punches. 

Pacquiao won the fight relatively easily, but he didn’t knock out Broner despite the pep talk. He’s still a great boxer. We believe the desire to see Pacquiao knock someone out is foolish for reasons more tactile than God.   

There’s a simpler explanation for his decreased knockouts

The simplest reason is that, while still providing stiff competition in fights, Pacquiao is an aging boxer. There’s a reason most boxers are out of the game by the time they hit 40 years old. The brutal physicality of the sport takes a severe toll on the body quicker than most professions. 

Pacquiao also has more outside interests than he had during his prime. After a short-lived stint with the Boston Celtics, Pacquiao became a pro basketball player in his native Philippines. He tried his hand at being a singer, which… well, you can hear it for yourself.

But the main cause occupying Pacquiao’s time involves politics. He’s been open about his interest in the government for a long time. In 2007, he first ran for a seat in the Philippine House of Representatives. Then, in 2010, Pacquiao won an election for the first time. He’s been in office ever since, so fans should forgive him if he isn’t as focused on fighting as he once was.

Deciding the future of your country should obviously take precedence over knocking out an opponent, even if you use the platform to bring back the death penalty. In all likelihood, Pacquiao’s priorities have changed. He’s still an excellent boxer when he does enter the ring, anyway.