Without a doubt, Sen. Manny Pacquiao is an extremely fit and highly athletic individual. At 38 years old, he is in better physical condition than most men would ever be in their 20s.
Notwithstanding his recent decision loss to Jeff Horn—where he was pushed to his limits in the ring—he remains a highly competitive boxer who could possibly steamroll past ordinary fighters. The more compelling question is whether he would still be capable of competing at the elite levels of the sport, which he lorded over in the 2000s and the initial years of the 2010s.
For everyone, athletic performance is expected to decline after we hit our peak physical periods. While there is no specific number in terms of age as to when this happens, it would be safe to assume that past 35 years of age, a steady decline in athleticism would be almost certain. Our bodies begin to wear down physically with the passing of years, and the natural wear and tear that will come with it.
At the age of 27 when he had his second fight with Erik Morales in early-2006, until May 2011 when he defeated Juan Manual Marquez in their third fight, Pacquiao was a whirling, undefeated dervish of a fighter in prime physical conditioning who sat atop the boxing world. He was the elite of the elites. In my opinion, the Pacquaio who knocked Ricky Hatton out in 2009, would have punched Jeff Horn into the future had they faced off today.
No matter his once-in-a-generation talent, coupled with excellent physical conditioning and genetics, in boxing years, 38 is the twilight of a boxer’s career. His lower punch output, slower reflexes and timing that seemed to be a bit off during the Horn fight, are key indicators that time is on his rear-view mirror, fast catching up. Sure, Pacquiao can still fight and beat fighters in the ordinary to good range. But to continue fighting at the highest levels of the sport against young elite fighters in their prime may not be the most prudent course of action. After seeing the Horn bout, I shudder at the thought of what the likes of a 29-year-old Terrence Crawford, or 27-year-old Errol Spence—young, hungry and undefeated champions in their prime—could do to a past his prime Pacquiao. If we can magically bring back the 28-year-old version of Pacquiao to the present, that would, of course, change the entire narrative.
The blinding hand speed, shocking explosiveness, lightning-quick reflexes and superior footwork are all attributes of a great boxer. They turned Pacquiao into a boxing legend. But still, he is no match against father time. No one will ever be.