By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
In this month’s Layup Drill, we look at Manny’s return, the dramatic rescue of a Thai youth soccer team, and Chloe Kim singing.
Manny in Malaysia is magnificent
Manny Pacquiao returned to the boxing ring after over a year’s absence and returned to the form that made him a worldwide star. He knocked out Argentinian Lucas Matthysse in the seventh round last month in Malaysia. Pacquiao looked sharp as the year off may have rejuvenated his body. He still had the speed and power in his punches that made him a champion in seven divisions. It was a great reminder of Pacquiao’s fighting style — precise, vicious, and overwhelming for opponents.
For a fighter who has not delivered a knockout in years, Pacquiao dropped Matthysse three times during the fight. On the second knockdown, Matthysse seemed hurt by a multitude of punches and just took a knee for a breather. The last knockdown, which stopped the Argentine boxer, was a culmination of the nonstop punches administered by the congressman. It was a great display on a night in Malaysia where the fans in the arena were there strictly for Pacquiao. For many fans, it was a time to forget his recent matches, where he looked slow and lacked the punching power to hurt his opponents. His performance gave fans hope that he could return to prominence and maybe even garner a rematch with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. That fight is being brought up as a “dream matchup” for those hoping for an outcome in favor of Pacquiao.
Pacquiao returned to the ring without trainer Freddie Roach — Pacquiao fired him in favor of longtime cornerman Buboy Fernandez. Top Rank Boxing, Pacquiao’s promoter, did not handle this fight. Its only role was to obtain media rights for the event. Instead, Pacquiao’s own promotion company was in charge of most of the logistics for the fight. Unfortunately, the planning for the event was not smooth, as Matthysse was not compensated for travel to Malaysia until the last minute and had threatened to pull out of the fight if contractual terms were not met on time. Also, the media turnout for the event was small. Due to the lack of appeal, the fight took place in Malaysia, as Pacquiao is still a big draw in Asia. But, the announcement of where fans in the United States could watch was not announced until the week before the fight. The event was aired on ESPN+, a new subscriber-based digital platform looking to bolster its patrons. Notably, despite ESPN airing boxing on the same day, it chose not to air Pacquiao’s fight so that cable subscribers could watch. This was a vast departure from just two years ago when Pacquiao and Mayweather fought on pay-per-view television with a record number of fans paying $100.
There is the controversy as to whether Pacquiao should continue fighting. His last fight was an upset loss to an unknown, Australian Jeff Horn. There are whispers about his need for paydays as he owes money to the Internal Revenue Service, and he needs money for living expenses.
He’s been generous to a fault and it appears that he has become another boxer that may be staying in the ring too long because he has to do it. There’s also a cadre of Pacquiao “disciples” and people that are “hanging-on” who will agree with any career move he decides.
Thus, there seems to be a lack of an independent party that is looking out for Pacquiao’s overall health.
So, was his win over another old fighter (Matthysse) a fluke or a reinvigorated Pacquiao? His fans who have stuck with him hope there’s another chapter in the 39-year-old’s boxing legacy.
But, fighters can’t beat age, slowing speed, and diminishing in-ring skills. There’s also the fact that he is a polarizing figure for his comments about homosexuals, which lost him his sponsorship with Nike. Despite this, he’s found new sponsors which includes Chinese athletic supplier Anta. The company launched a themed collection of Pacquiao-branded clothes entitled, “Fight On the Battle Continues.” The slogan seems to infer a message to fans that he will keep fighting. The question is whether that is a good or bad thing.
Thai soccer team rescued, from caves – former SEAL dies attempting to save boys
In late June, members of the “Wild Boars” Thailand Boys’ soccer team and their coach became trapped in a cave in northern Thailand. It was nearly two weeks before they were discovered.
The path to the team required a five-hour trip to deliver oxygen to the cave. Narrow channels and jagged rocks encompassed the pathway to the boys, who admitted that they were not strong swimmers, making the rescue that much more difficult.
A retired Thai Navy SEAL lost his life aiding in the effort. Sgt. Major Saman Gunan was volunteering during an overnight mission to place extra air tanks inside the cave. He passed out underwater and could not be revived. He was 38 years old and survived by his wife.
Gunan was an accomplished triathlete (a sport requiring one to swim, bike, and run) and champion trail runner. He was one of the top triathletes in Thailand and was part of The North Face Adventure Team. His team posted a message on its Facebook page remembering the former Navy SEAL. “We will never forget your ethusiam (sic), power, passion and kindness. You died helping others, the ultimate sacrifice.”
After weeks within the cave, the boys and their coach were eventually rescued.
Chloe Kim wins 3 ESPYs
It might be summer, but snowboarder Chloe Kim is making headlines. The Princeton admittee won 3 ESPY awards for Best Female Athlete, Best Female Olympian, and Best Female Action Sports Athlete. The ESPY awards are the annual mid-summer awards show devised by ESPN.
In the Best Female Athlete category, Kim was nominated along with Olympic skier Mikaela Shiffrin and WNBA’s Sylvia Fowles. In the Best Female Olympian category, Kim competed with Shiffrin, snowboarder Jamie Anderson, and hockey player Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson. For Best Female Action Sports Athlete, she went up against Anderson, skateboarder Brighton Zeuner, and surfer Stephanie Gilmore.
Since winning her gold medal at the Olympics, Kim has been enjoying the spoils. She has garnered tons of sponsors and even made a guest appearance in a Maroon 5 music video. Her wins at the ESPYs reflect her popularity and the respect she has in the world of sports. And, she’s still only 18.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.