Boxing has a new Golden Boy, and he didn’t have the title bestowed on him, he went out and took it.
Some have proclaimed that December 6, 2008 was the end of an era in boxing. They’ve said that the years of Oscar De La Hoya’s reign over the sweet science are now over after the pummeling he received at the hands of pound-for-pound king, Manny Pacquiao. Frankly, I don’t see it that way. While De La Hoya’s years at the top may have ended, I saw December 6 not as an end, but as a beginning.
On Sunday morning we all (probably unknowingly) woke up to the dawn of the Pacquiao-Era. The world’s unquestioned best fighter now may be its biggest ticket, something we haven’t seen in years, maybe decades. While De La Hoya-Mayweather was the “Fight to Save Boxing,” last Saturday’s matchup may forever be seen as “The Fight That Changed Boxing.”
Pacquiao is the world’s best not because he’s a name, a talented orator or a fantastic promoter. No, Manny is now at the top because he’s by far the most exciting fighter to watch, and he’s proven he’ll fight anybody, anywhere, any time. But a large portion of the public is still ignorant to the greatness that is Manny Pacquiao because: A. He’s not a Heavyweight or Middleweight, and B. He’s not American. Hopefully that will change shortly.
Pacquiao’s record currently sits at 48-3-2 with 36 knockouts. While that certainly looks less than perfect, consider that two of his losses came before 1999 and the other came against Erik Morales in 2005 during the first fight of their legendary trilogy. One draw came because of a scoring error during his 2004 matchup with Juan Manuel Marquez, and the other came in 2001 when an accidental headbutt caused a 6th round stoppage against Agapito Sanchez. Since that unanimous decision loss to Morales, Pacquiao is 9-0-0 with 6 KOs.
The fact that he fought in three different weight classes in 2008 should also tell you all you need to know about his ability. He beat Marquez at Super Featherweight (130 pounds), Diaz at Lightweight (135) and De La Hoya at Welterweight (147). In each bout he was faster and stronger than his opponent, which is incredible. The only fighter in history to do what Pacquiao did in a single year was Hurricane Henry Armstrong, who (in 2002) was listed by Ring Magazine as the 2nd greatest fighter of the last 80 years, behind only Sugar Ray Robinson.
What makes Manny such a fantastic fighter (as De La Hoya found out) is his staggering combination of hand speed and power. Pound-for-pound, no one hits harder than Manny Pacquiao. I’ve known that since I saw him knock out Jorge Eliecer Julio on the undercard of the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson fight in June of 2002. His straight left hand might be the single most devastating punch in boxing right now. No matter who he’s fought – from De La Hoya to Morales, Marquez, Diaz or Marco Antonio Barrera – no one can stop the southpaw’s go-to power punch. But don’t think that’s all he’s got. What has taken him to the next level over the past few years is the fact that he can now throw every punch with either hand.
Manny’s natural talent, combined with the perfect training and fatherly advice of Freddie Roach, make him unbeatable right now. He’s just 29-years-old, but he’s beaten every major fighter in the lower weight classes, outside of Ricky Hatton. And Hatton may be next.
His future is likely at Lightweight or Junior Middleweight (Hatton’s territory). And while it’s pointless to speculate on future mega-fights, just know that Pacquaio and Roach are always willing to take on all comers. While most boxing purists would love to see him matched up with Marquez a third time, expect to see something with Hatton finalized in the near future. Which could mean the collision of the two biggest and most loyal fan bases in boxing history. When Hatton fights it sounds like the inside of Wembley Stadium during an English soccer match. It seems he brings half of England with him to Las Vegas for his fights. While Pacquiao has all 90 million residents of the Philippines behind him at all times.
Whatever the future holds, it’s certain that Manny Pacquiao owns boxing right now, and we should all embrace the new era and just enjoy it.