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Daily News Social: Pac’s Last Dance? Taylor’s Fury, Byrne’s Faith And Nika’s Final Performance

In a new series, published every weekday on Boxing Social, the incomparable Terry Dooley delivers his unique look at the boxing news. 

It looks like it is finally the end of an era after Manny Pacquaio (62-8-2, 39 KOs) hinted that it is time for him to retire following Saturday’s decision loss to Yordenis Ugas (27-4, 12 KOs) at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The eight-division world titlist was due to meet pound-for-pound heir apparent Errol Spence Jr., but accepted a fight against fellow WBA titlist Ugas at short-notice when Spence pulled out due to an eye injury earlier this month.  

When speaking to the press after the fight, the Filipino admitted that his body is struggling to keep pace with the demands of the sport, he even argued that chronic leg cramps were a factor, rather than Ugas’s disciplined, well-thought out and well-fought performance, and that Father Time may have sounded the final bell on his career.  

“I want to fight, but I have to consider my body,” he said. “You may not see Manny Pacquiao in the ring in the future. But I am so happy with what I have done in boxing. To all the fans, I really appreciate your efforts. I hope that during my 20 years in boxing I gave you enjoyment and happiness.” 

His trainer, Freddie Roach, echoed the 42-year-old’s thoughts when asked if it is time to call it quits. “I hate to see the day he retires, but this could be it,” said Roach. “He didn’t have a great performance tonight.” 

Ugas made a first successful defence of his WBA World welterweight title and legitimised it in the process by beating the modern-day legend, who held the WBA’s Super title going in — yes, this was a unification bout staged by a single alphabet organisation, and you definitely need to get used to them. While the future is uncertain for Pacquiao, Ugas will hope that he can entice Spence into a showdown when the American returns to action.  

A few days ago, there were reports that Roach and Pacquiao were considering Scotland’s Josh Taylor (18-0, 13 KOs) as a potential opponent should the Filipino have got past Cuba’s Yordenis Ugas on Saturday night. 

Roach, though, went on to dismiss Taylor as an opponent in a way that prompted a furious Twitter response from the Edinburgh-based boxer. Some outlets claimed that Roach said he had not heard of Taylor when asked about the light-welterweight World Champion, which seems highly unlikely, and this dismissal led Taylor to take to social media to give his own take on Roach’s claim.  

‘No need for the disrespect from Freddie Roach, he knows fine well who I am,’ he wrote. ‘I’ve beaten his fighters after all. W*** stain!’ 

Taylor annexed the WBC World, WBA World, IBF World and WBO World light-welterweight titles by posting a decision win over Jose Carlos Ramirez in May. The 30-year-old has swept aside all comers and hoovered up every title possible on his way to the top; he paid a personal tribute to Pacquaio via social media after the “Pac-Man” lost by referring to the former titlist as his ‘Hero’ as well as lamenting the fact they two would not get to meet in the ring. 

Pacquaio’s former gym mate and sparring partner Dean Byrne (21-7-2, 6 KOs) has revealed that he struggled to adjust to life as an inactive and then ex-boxer, and that gambling and other addictions that he had during his career really came to the fore in retirement. Indeed, Byrne has told The Rocky Road podcast that he was on a steep downward spiral before finding redemption in God and becoming a born-again Christian.  

The former fighter admitted that although his professional career began brightly the temptations came thick and fast, especially as he ended up fighting out of the Wildcard Gym in Los Angeles, where he received first-rate training and sparring only to fall afoul of out-of-the ring vices that spiralled out of control and were lubricated by his close proximity to the city of Las Vegas, AKA “Sin City”.  

“Obviously Steve Collins was previously with Freddie Roach, and I was looking around,” he recalled. “I spoke to Paschal Collins; he spoke about Freddie, and I just went over — I just showed up at the gym. Freddie told me to come in on Monday and he had me sparring with Michael Katsidis that first time…I hadn’t even been training that much. And Katsidis could hit. He had power in both hands.” 

Although he was flying in the gym, Byrne was out of control out of the ring, as his career petered out his addictions came to the fore. Now, though, he credits his faith for turning his life around. “I was wild. I had no fear and still today I have no fear,” he said.   

“I have a godly fear. I still don’t fear man or things of this world, but I fear God. And I have a healthy relationship with Him that I’ve built over this last two years that’s helped me progress on this journey of life. But yeah, I was mental. You could put me in with anybody.” 

“I had problems with gambling, drug addiction, you know, cocaine,” he added. “I was always off gambling. I was always off partying after my fights. I had never been 100 percent…I’d think I could juggle it. Because I’d always get away with it with my skills, I’d always just do enough. I wasn’t committed 100 per cent. But since I found God, I threw everything into God. I’ve put God first in everything.” 

Now he is almost four years clean of all his vices, Byrne is content in himself after finally finding clarity and a direction outside of the ring. “I graduated from college — I got a diploma in theology — and I couldn’t even read at one point,” he said.  

“Now the Bible is all I read. God has really changed my life and everything I do; I do to glorify him. I see that in Pacquiao now. Everything he does is to glorify God — building 1000 homes for the Filipinos and all the money that it generates. He’s helping people.” 

Barry McGuigan’s daughter, Nika McGuigan, passed away in July 2019 yet her memory will live on when the final film she starred in before dying of cancer is released. Nika will posthumously co-star in Wildfire, a drama about two sisters living near the Ireland-Northern Ireland border that has been directed by Cathy Brady, who paid tribute to McGuigan when speaking to The Sun’s Jim Gallagher.  

“She’s got this incredible performance and as a director when you get to see someone reveal themselves and put every ounce of themselves into it you go, ‘That’s it, that’s it’,” she said. “During the edit, when she wasn’t well, she went to the doctor and between that and her death was just five weeks. I obviously had to take some time away from the film because it was just so painful editing and seeing her on screen. In many ways it was like a very long goodbye.”

Nika and Brady had worked together before, Brady had also worked with Nora-Jane Noone, who co-stars in the film, and the director was desperate to see the two young actresses share a screen together. However, the outcome is bittersweet due to the tragic nature of McGuigan’s death.  

“I wondered what would happen if I put them in a room together,” she added. “We met over a pot of tea and carried on to a pint of Guinness. And by the time we finished that Guinness we just knew there was something electric between the three of us. We agreed we were going to make a film together.” 

Both McGuigan and Noone were nominated for a Best Actress award by the IFTA’s judging panel and the director believes the acting world has missed out on a promising young talent. “She was such a great talent,” she said. “I thought myself and Nika would just continue growing together and perfecting our craft together.” 

Wildfire is released in Irish cinemas on September 3. 

@Terryboxing

Main image: Premier Boxing Champions