Alan Dawson – London
A weight-jumping, belt-collecting, combination-punching gladiator, Manny Pacquiao has blasted his way past opponents from flyweight to super welterweight without jeopardising his greatest assets: speed, explosiveness, power, conditioning and footwork. Pacquiao is a rare commodity cut from similar cloth to prizefighters like Henry Armstrong and Sam Langford, but is now settling into his groove as a welterweight ruling mainstay.
|Five Of The Best
|Marco Antonio Barrera – 2003
|Erik Morales – 2006
|Oscar de la Hoya – 2008
|Ricky Hatton – 2009
|Miguel Cotto – 2009
From an unknown in the Manila slums who received just $1 for his first fight (that he gave to his mother so she could buy rice), to becoming one of the sport’s premier stars, the boxer of the decade for 2000-10, a pay-per-view attraction and guaranteed ticket-seller at the gate… when Pacquiao boxes he commands the attention of an entire nation – the Philippines – a 90 million populace where the crime-rate goes down on fight night.
Fighting fearlessly on the front-foot, Pacquiao always plays his part in attempting to produce a fan-friendly fight. It is his unrelenting flurrying that is most eye-catching but the platform for the combinations begins with foot speed; an all too often under-rated aspect of Pacquiao’s repertoire.
The 32-year-old, born in Kibawe, rarely roots his boots and stays turgid in the pocket, refusing to back down. Instead, he enters the inside, puts together a four to eight (sometimes sixteen, see: David Diaz) punch move whilst shimmying around the pocket with his feet, throwing from awkward angles before pivoting away to the side and, if the chance is there, repeat.
Sparring partners will often leave the Shape Up gym in Baguio City and/or the Wildcard club in Los Angeles flabbergasted at Manny’s consistent ability to destroy any notion that spar partner had of controlling the range. If they were a step or two clear from the danger zone, Pacquiao not only closes it in an instant, but has clocked you with a southpaw jab, left cross and a right hook.
It is testament to Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning that he is able to unleash combinations from round one to twelve (if his opponent manages to last the distance), however, what is more impressive is that, say, in an eight-punch move, the power behind punch eight is no weaker than the pop that punch one had.
Pacquiao has a long-running relationship with mentor and trainer Freddie Roach and it is with the renowned coach where Manny has developed unheralded one punch tricks, as well as becoming a more ambidextrous fighter rather than posturing on the portside and being over-reliant on the straight left.
Pacquiao’s arsenal also consists of: counter-hooking over the top of an orthodox jab (used to great effect against Antonio Margarito and Ricky Hatton), unleashing a cheeky left cross and attaching it with double southpaw jabs and a right hook or uppercut, not forgetting punch variety – namely; shots to both the breadbasket and the chin or temple… sapping energy by taking wind out of the lungs so an accurate head-bound shot has more of an effect.
Like pound-for-pound rival Floyd Mayweather Jr, Pacquiao picked up his first world title in 1998. The Filipino fighter trumped Chatchai Sasakul – a Thai boxer who had only once been defeated before (a decision) – by way of eighth round knockout.
From 2001-08, Pacquiao lingered in the 122lb to 130lb weight classes at a championship level, before embarking on a three-year transition that saw him scoop the lineal featherweight championship and the WBC belt due to a split decision over Juan Manuel Marquez, the WBC lightweight strap for his mauling of David Diaz, the lineal championship at super lightweight because of his highlight reel knockout over Ricky Hatton, the WBC super welterweight crown for his brutal pulverising of Antonio Margarito and the WBO belt at welterweight – one he still retains – due to his late stoppage of Miguel Cotto.
Pacquiao is most commonly associated for his wars with a series of gritty Mexicans: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez, chiefly. It was a 2003 technical knockout over Barrera that catapulted Pacquiao into the forefront of boxing’s consciousness.
Barrera had a resume studded with strong wins (Prince Naseem Hamed, Morales and Glen Tapia), yet against Pacquiao he was second best in each of the eleven rounds, given a resounding beating that forced his corner to pull their charge out of action.
Pacquiao won his trilogy with Morales thanks to a third round blow-out. Morales remains the last man to record a win over Pacquiao (06), but that victory was overturned the following year (07) by way of late stoppage. The rubber-match, though, was something rare: no one had reduced Morales to a shadow of himself, a crumpled man on the canvas shaking his head… a Mexican warrior unwilling to make the count. No one apart from Pacquiao.
Oscar de la Hoya, like Morales, was beyond his prime years when Pacquiao forced him into retirement but the manner Manny made the Golden Boy quit red-faced and swollen on his stool after beating him with ease, using lateral movement, speed, power and peppering him with punches in bunches fortified his international star status.
His last really impressive victory was the systematic and one-sided beating he gave Miguel Cotto, who was forced to back up by the latter rounds in an effort to survive a Pacquiao onslaught – he didn’t, he teekayoed in the final round, the last time Pac has won via stoppage.
Pound for pound rank – 2
It may have been unthinkable to dislodge a fighter who is seeking to continue his reign as a welterweight champion… a fighter who had already championed eight weight classes, but with the return of Mayweather Jr – who took on and (legally) overcame Ortiz in four rounds – Pacquiao’s days atop the P4P ranks have come to an end due to underwhelming defences against fighters long past their prime – Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley, combined with a third bout against Marquez that many observers, including this publication, regarded him to be the loser in despite gaining the official nod.
For both Mayweather Jr and Pacquiao, their next chosen opponents will be crucial. The best way to decide the greatest pound-for-pound active fighter is to pit number one against number two, but if relations between the pair remain tetchy and negotiations continue to prove problematic, then they could fight for the opponents who will best represent legacy-enhancement. In no particular order: Amir Khan at 147, Timothy Bradley at 147, Sergio Martinez at 150 and Cotto and/or Saul Alvarez at 154 would all punctuate already-glittering careers.
|WBC flyweight champion
|IBF super bantamweight champ
|The Ring magazine featherweight champ
|WBC super featherweight champ
|The Ring magazine jr lightweight champ
|WBC lightweight champ
|The Ring magazine super lightweight champ
|WBO welterweight champ
|WBC super welterweight champ