By Scoop Malinowski
It’s a belief I have been sparring with for quite some time. After much deliberation and analyzing the evidence, I’ve come to the realization: Manny Pacqiuao is the greatest fighter of all time.
Unpopular, cutting edge decisions are hard to make. It’s easier to go with the flow and just agree with everyone else about Robinson and Ali.
But Pacquiao was better, is better. Eight division world titles is impossible to comprehend and it’s one of those rare, elite records that will never be equaled or surpassed. Twelve major world titles overall. Only man to win titles in four of the original glamour weight classes – flyweight, feather, lightweight and welterweight.
And Manny Pacquiao did it with an electrifying style combined with a hard to believe, simple, soft-spoken humility. For some reasons he just loves to fight and even more so, he loves to excite, thrill and entertain sports fans around the world. He was born in poverty and had to share a bowl of rice with five siblings as his main daily meal.
“Many of you know me as a legendary boxer, and I’m proud of that,” he once said. “However, that journey was not always easy. When I was younger, I became a fighter because I had to survive. I had nothing. I had no one to depend on except myself. I realized that boxing was something I was good at, and I trained hard so that I could keep myself and my family alive.
Prizefighting is of course about the prize but with Pacquiao, the top priority often seemed to be to give the public the best value for their hard-earned dollars. Pacquiao always fought the best, toughest, most dangerous and feared threats, even if they sometimes dwarfed him in stature.
His early fights with Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez were thrillers and established his name but the first major conquest was the destruction, career ending TKO of Oscar De La Hoya in 2008. Many experts feared Pacquiao was too small and outclassed by Oscar’s experience and size advantages and that he could suffer permanent physical damage in the fight. But Pacquiao defied the skeptics and administered a brutal beating to the legendary Mexican American who never would fight again.
More electrifying wins followed against Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, David Diaz. Pacquiao’s style was extraordinary and supernatural. From the lefthanded stance, Pacquiao fought like a human tornado, with super fast feet and blazing fists, unleashing accurate eight and ten punch combinations which Diaz told me were blindingly impossible to measure, “His punches were so fast I couldn’t even see them.”
One top champion simply refused to get in a ring with Pacquiao despite being offered rewards of over $100,000,000. Floyd Mayweather ducked Pacquiao for six years, from 2009 to 2015, rotating his excuses from drug test demands, to refusing to do business with Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum, among many others reasons to avoid the fight.
Pacquiao style was aimed to win in stunning fashion not to protect a record and secure the next TV contract for himself and his handlers. Pacquiao laid it all on the line in every fight, sometimes recklessly leaving himself open and getting nailed with a counter shot. But his legend seemed to grow in stature from defeat, the adoration from the public only increased. Until he became what he is today…as globally beloved as any athlete in the history of sport, among the highest echelon of Muhammad Ali, Roger Federer, Mike Tyson, Arnold Palmer, Rafael Nadal, Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Roberto Duran and Michael Jordan.
As great as he is inside a ring, Pacquiao strikes you as an even better person outside the ring. He makes great efforts to help the unfortunate. He always has a smile and some time for everyone. No matter the injustice he suffers – robbery decisions, false drug accusations, media smear campaigns by a jealous American rival and his protectors – Pacquiao always stayed humble, behaved like a champion and just kept going. Champions inspire naturally.
The most recent conquest at age 40, was the decision win over Keith Thurman, age 30, for the WBA Welterweight title a month ago. Pacquiao showed in this fight his skills have not eroded very much, especially compared to Ali, Leonard, Tyson, Robinson, Louis, who were all shells of their once great selves by their mid 30s.
It’s magical how Pacquiao is still a force in boxing today at age 40. He turned pro in January 1995 at age 16, won his first world title in 1998 and today has achieved an overall record of 62-7-2 with 39 KO’s.
The living legend wants one more fight – a rematch with Floyd Mayweather, who is once again resisting the danger of having to fight the mighty man from General Santos City, Philippines, despite a nine-figure plus payday awaiting.
Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones, Muhammad Ali, Ray Robinson, Mike Tyson, Henry Armstrong, Roberto Duran, Ray Leonard all accomplished legendary boxing careers. But none of them can match Manny Pacquiao. And it’s improbably anyone will ever come close to following the footsteps of Manny Pacquiao.