Manny Pacquiao's five finest performances
Published: July 01, 2017
Tonight in Brisbane, Australia 8-division world champion Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs) will defend his WBO welterweight title against Australia’s Jeff Horn (16-0-1, 11 KOs). The bout will be televised in the United States on ESPN and ESPN Deportes and will be held in the afternoon on July 2nd in Australia. This is the first time Pacquiao has fought outside of the pay-per-view (PPV) format since 2005 when he faced Hector Velazquez (57-29-3, 39 KOs) on a double header with Erik Morales (52-9, 36 KOs) before their rematch in January 2006.
Pacquiao, 38, may be old for the sport of boxing, but he has yet to be beaten into retirement. Even at his age, he would still be the favorite or at least even money with his fellow welterweight contemporaries like Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs) and Errol Spence Jr (22-0, 19 KOs). The Filipino senator may not be the whirlwind dynamo that he was in his prime, but he still possesses the quickness, reflexes, and intelligence that make him one of the best in the world to this day. Much like recent Hall of Fame inductee’s Evander Holyfield and Marco Antonio Barrera, retaking a look at the career of the Filipino legend it is striking the number of memories he has provided for fans throughout his 20-plus year career.
Pacquiao as boxing’s only eight-division world champion and 5-division lineal champion is already one of the most accomplished boxers in history. Just as important he is one of the most exciting fighters in the history of the sport with a catalog of great action fights that can be replayed for generations to come. Within those fights are performances that will inspire future generations of people to join the fraternity of boxing known as ‘the sweet science.' Let’s retake a look at five of the best performances in the career of Manny Pacquiao.
Lehlo Ledwaba (36-6-1, 23 KOs) – IBF 122-pound championship
June 23, 2001
Pacquiao’s first fight in the United States took place in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand on the undercard of Oscar De La Hoya’s (39-6, 30 KOs) WBC Super Welterweight title fight against Javier Castillejo (62-8-1, 43 KOs). At the time Pacquiao was relatively unknown in America and was taking the fight against Ledwaba under two weeks notice. Famously on the telecast for this fight, you can hear HBO’s Jim Lampley mispronounce Pacquiao’s name.
First impressions can mean everything to a fighter, and in Pacquiao’s case, it helped propel him on his way to eventual superstardom. Pacquiao dominated Ledwaba from the beginning en route to an impressive sixth-round stoppage to become the IBF super bantamweight champion. This victory made Pacquiao a two-division world champion.
David Diaz (36-4-1, 17 KOs) – WBC 135-pound championship
June 28, 2008
Coming off of his trilogy with Erik Morales and his second fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao decided to move up from 130-pounds and try his hand at the lightweight division. Pacquiao’s stay at lightweight turned out to be just an overnight visit, but his performance against then WBC lightweight champion David Diaz is an often forgotten highlight in the Filipino’s storied career.
The fight with Diaz encompassed the beginning of Pacquiao’s apex as a fighter. This is where he began putting all of his experience and teachings together with his quickness and power to ultimately become one of the best fighters in the history of the sport. From the beginning, it was apparent that Pacquiao’s speed was too much for Diaz and by the middle rounds, he began taking a beating. The end came in the ninth round with a perfectly placed straight left hand that put Diaz face first in the canvas. The referee immediately waived off the fight. With the victory, Pacquiao joined Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather as a five-division world champion.
Ricky Hatton (45-3, 32 KOs) – Lineal 140-pound championship
May 02, 2009
The highlight reel knockout of Pacquiao’s career came in 2009 against British 140-pound champion Ricky Hatton. At the time of this fight, many fans were questioning how Pacquiao would deal with an aggressive fighter like Hatton who’s only loss came to Floyd Mayweather at welterweight in 2007. Hatton was being trained by Mayweather’s father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., and was thought to have an advantage in size and power. It turned out that the advantage of speed and power was greatly in favor of the Filipino.
Pacquiao was able to land a right hook in the first round while dodging a left hand to score the first knockdown on Hatton. From that point, Pacquiao smelled blood and went after Hatton with reckless abandon dropping him again before the bell rang to end the first round. The end came at the end of the second round with a devastating left hand from Pacquiao that dropped Hatton lifeless to the canvas. The knockout was phenomenal and solidified Pacquiao as the best fighter in the world. This was when the rumblings of a fight with Floyd Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs) began as Pacquiao had taken two common opponents (Hatton and De La Hoya) of Mayweather's and impressively dispatched of them. While only the IBO 140-pound championship was on the line for the fight with Hatton, the lineal title was on the line making him the first fighter in boxing history to be the lineal champion in four weight classes.
Antonio Margarito (40-8, 27 KOs) – WBC 154-pound championship
November 13, 2010
This is a personal favorite of many fans. Antonio Margarito is the biggest fighter Pacquiao had ever faced up to that point in his career with a 17-pound weight and 6-inch height advantage for the Mexican on fight night. The fight took place at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas in front of 40,000 fans. The fight was fought at a catchweight of 150-pounds.
At the start of the match, the advantage in speed of hand and foot for Pacquiao was prevalent. Margarito’s plan was to take the fight to Pacquiao as the bigger man. The Filipino obliged him by hitting Margarito with every punch in the book. The combinations landed in this fight by Pacquiao were beautiful. They highlighted the violence that can be associated with the sweet science. The fight in a vacuum was a showcase for Pacquiao’s ability to move in and out while punching fluidly in combination.
Pacquiao was able to damage Margarito’s eye and orbital bone in the fight landing an incredible 411 out of 713 power punches. Hindsight being 20/20 the referee should have stopped the fight from going the full 12 rounds as the damage done to Margarito’s eye is still prevalent to this day. Pacquiao won a unanimous decision to make him boxing’s only eight-division world champion.
Timothy Bradley II (33-2-1, 13 KOs) – WBO 147-pound championship
April 12, 2014
The rematch with Timothy Bradley came on the heels of Pacquiao’s endless meme generating knockout loss to Marquez in December 2012. The first fight with Bradley in June 2012 was controversial as a vast majority thought Pacquiao won. The World Boxing Organization (WBO) even reviewed the fight with five separate judges whom all had Pacquiao winning. After the knockout loss to Marquez, it was seen as the end of the Filipino’s career and many questioned if he could come back to any resemblance of the force fans had become accustomed.
Before he faced Bradley in the rematch, Pacquiao participated in somewhat of a tune-up against Brandon Rios (34-3-1, 25 KOs) in November 2013. The bout took place in Macao, China where Pacquaio won a one-sided unanimous decision in an impressive performance where he boxed more than he brawled. Rios, however, wasn’t on the level of Bradley and thus questions of Pacquiao’s status as one of the best were up for debate.
The rematch with Bradley was the most exciting fight of their eventual trilogy and put to rest any doubts if Pacquiao was still an elite fighter after the Marquez knockout. Coming into the fight, Bradley had a chip on his shoulder. He felt angry about the way he was treated after the first fight with Pacquaio. However, the Palm Springs, California native was coming off a win over Marquez and as confident as ever that he could defeat the Filipino.
Bradley had his moments in the first half of the bout but ultimately tried in error to knock Pacquiao out instead of boxing leading to Pacquiao landing the cleaner blows throughout. Most memorably Pacquiao threw a ten-punch combination with Bradley against the ropes in the seventh round to the delight of the crowd. Pacquiao won a unanimous decision and won back the WBO welterweight title marking his second reign as welterweight champion.
Marco Antonio Barrera (67-7, 44 KOs) I – Lineal 126-pound championship
November 15, 2003
To this day many will argue that Pacquiao’s win over Marco Antonio Barrera in November 2003 was the best victory of his career. At the time Barrera was one of the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world coming off of significant victories over Naseem Hamed (36-1, 31 KOs) and Erik Morales. The Mexican champion was the clear favorite heading into the fight with Pacquaio in San Antonio. Little did Barrera know that he was about to be hit by a typhoon.
As soon as the fight began the hand speed differential between the two men was apparent. The referee Laurence Cole scored a false knockdown against Pacquiao after the two men got their feet tangled. This only invigorated and infuriated Pacquiao to attack Barrera with more venom. The left hand of the Filipino began landing with sharp precision on Barrera. In the third round, Pacquiao scored a hard knockdown with a left hand putting Barrera on the seat of his pants. As the rounds passed Pacquiao became more and more dominant as Barrera seemed to want the bout to end as soon as possible.
By the ninth round, it was time for the fight to be stopped, as it was clear that Pacquiao was not going to slow down in any way. The eleventh round signified the end for Barrera as he started taking punches against the ropes without throwing anything in return. The Mexican’s corner was forced to step in the ring and stop the fight.
In 2003, this victory by Pacquiao changed the boxing landscape. There was now a new face to be recognized as one of the best in the sport. This was the beginning of the run by Pacquiao that became the foundation for what would become a Hall-of-Fame career.
Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs) I, II, III, and IV – WBA/IBF 126-pound championship, WBC 130-pound championship and WBO 147-pound championship
May 08, 2004, March 15, 2008, November 12, 2011, and December 08, 2012
This may seem like a cop-out of sorts to not pick a specific fight in Pacquiao’s rivalry with Marquez, but the fights provided such a high level of action and excitement that leaving any off would be an injustice. The rivalry of Pacquiao-Marquez started with three knockdowns by Pacquaio in the first round of the first fight and ended with an emphatic knockout in the fourth fight for Marquez. In many ways, the rivalry ended in a full circle.
The two men first met as featherweights when the plan for Pacquiao was to run through the top Mexican stars of this era in Barrera, Marquez, and Morales in succession. After three knockdowns by Pacquiao in the first round it seemed that the plan was coming to fruition. Marquez who himself had been in the shadow of Barrera and Morales for years was not going to go down so easily. Marquez willed himself back into the fight and ultimately won enough rounds to have the fight called a draw. One of the judges, Burt Clements, in error scored the fight 113-113, as he was the only judge to score the first round 10-7 instead of 10-6 where Pacquiao scored three knockdowns.
From here, Pacquiao would go on to fight in bigger fights on PPV while Marquez faded from the spotlight. The low point came for Marquez when he traveled to Indonesia to face Chris John (48-1-3, 22 KOs) and lost a unanimous decision. It seemed that a rematch with Pacquiao was out of reach.
When Marquez returned from Indonesia, a change occurred in his fighting style and mentality to be more aggressive. The rest of 2006 and 2007 Marquez racked up a string of victories in exciting fights that showed that he was not only one of the best in the world but also one of the most exciting. He moved to 130-pounds and defeated Barrera in March 2007 for the WBC super lightweight title, setting up a rematch with Pacquiao the next year.
The rematch in 2008 saw both Pacquiao and Marquez in vastly improved conditions. Pacquiao had now been on the big stage while developing his technique and gaining more experience. What proceeded was arguably the best fight in the rivalry as both engaged in a technical war reminiscent of James Toney-Mike McCallum from the early 90’s. There were shifts in momentum with both men hurting one another at various points. It was boxing at its very best pitting two of the best in the world together. In the end, Pacquiao came away with a razor-thin split decision victory with the difference being a knockdown scored in the third round.
By the time the third fight in the rivalry came around in 2011, Pacquiao was at a new level of superstardom rarely seen in the sport. He was now so highly regarded that oddsmakers made him as much as a nine to one favorite over Marquez. Despite how competitive and close the first two fights were, many were convinced that this time Pacquiao would defeat Marquez resoundingly leaving no room for debate.
The third fight would be for Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight championship at a contracted weight of 144 pounds. Marquez’s first attempt at welterweight was a failure when he faced Floyd Mayweather in 2009. For Marquez, he decided to change his training methods and hired the controversial strength and conditioning coach Angel “Memo” Heredia.
When the bell for the first round rang, it was clear that Pacquiao was not going to be running over Marquez on this night. The third fight is the most technical fight of the rivalry with neither man scoring a knockdown. It was an intense fight with many swing rounds that could have been scored for either man. In the end, the rubber match offered more questions than answers. Pacquiao won a majority decision in a fight many felt Marquez had done enough to win. Perhaps, Marquez was given the benefit of the doubt for doing better than was expected, but the decision was enough for fans to vote the fight as Robbery of the Year in Ring Magazine. The results again left the door open for a rematch.
The fourth fight in December 2012 came after Pacquiao had lost a controversial decision to Timothy Bradley in June of that year. Instead of heading straight to a rematch with Bradley, Pacquiao felt that Marquez was more deserving of a rematch. Despite the greatness of the first three fights, some fans were not too thrilled about a fourth Pacquiao-Marquez fight. It turns out that they could not have been more wrong.
When the two men were in the middle of the ring getting instructions from referee Kenny Bayless the look both men gave each other was that on this night there would be no questions as to who would be the winner. The first two rounds Pacquiao displayed head movement and was able to counter much of Marquez’s attacks. In the third round, Marquez landed the first devastating blow as he knocked Pacquiao down for the first time with an overhand right. From this point, Pacquiao became even more aggressive with his mind set on paying Marquez back.
In the fifth round, Pacquiao was able to knock Marquez down with a straight left and preceded to bloody Marquez’s nose with a right hand. The fifth round would go on to win round of the year honors for 2012. The sixth round was dominated entirely by Pacquiao who was beginning to land more frequently on Marquez and landing counters in combination. It looked like the Filipino had finally broken Marquez and would go on to stop him. Then the ten-second bell rang with Marquez against the ropes, Pacquiao rushed right into a perfectly timed right hand that sent him face first into the canvas giving Marquez an emphatic victory.
The knockout came as a shock to many as this fight was the first time Marquez hurt Pacquiao. There was some foreshadowing for the punch as in the fifth round; Marquez landed a similar punch while Pacquiao was attacking.
It was a fantastic end to a rivalry. The fight won fight of the year honors for 2012. On the biggest stage of the sport, both men gave their all for the fans. It is rare for PPV main events to not only live up to the hype but also exceed it. In an emphatic knockout loss to his greatest rival, Pacquiao could hold his head high as he still gave fans their money worth.
Erik Morales (52-9, 36 KOs) II
January 21, 2006
After the first fight with Marquez, Pacquiao turned his attention to three-division champion Erik Morales (52-9, 36 KOs). After blowing out Morales’ greatest rival in Barrera and holding Marquez to a draw, many figured that the Filipino would blow out Morales. The first fight between Pacquiao and Morales was Pacquiao’s first stint on PPV in March 2005. What a debut it turned out to be as the two men put on one of the best fights of the year.
Morales would win a clear unanimous decision against Pacquiao showing that it would take more than just punching power to beat him. This loss was a changing point in the career of Pacquiao’s as he changed his training to become a complete fighter. By the time the rematch came around in 2006 adjustments were made by Pacquiao to ensure that he would come away with the victory.
With more attention being paid to body punching and the right hand after five rounds Pacquiao was able to turn the tides completely in his favor. Pacquiao would go on to stop Morales for the first time in his career in the tenth round. The victory and performance showed that Pacquiao was willing to make the necessary changes to win. The fights with Morales gave Pacquiao the experience and adversity that molded him into the fighter he is today.
Oscar De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs)
December 06, 2008
Oscar De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs) was not in his prime when he fought Manny Pacquiao in 2008. In fact, over seven years had passed since De La Hoya had fought at welterweight. Even so, because Pacquiao would be moving up two weight classes to meet De La Hoya, he was the underdog. Something has to be said for performing when all the pressure is on, and the spotlight is directly on you.
The fight with De La Hoya was the proverbial passing of the torch handing Pacquiao the reigns to the sport. De La Hoya did not belong in the ring with Pacquiao that night. The Filipino boxed a perfect fight putting everything he learned together in one performance. Regardless of the opponent, the Pacquiao that showed up to face De La Hoya would have been hard for anyone to defeat. The seventh and eighth rounds were particularly brutal for De La Hoya as he got hit with endless combinations against the ropes.
De La Hoya decided not to come out for the ninth round giving Pacquaio the stoppage victory on the biggest stage of his career. Many have tried to downplay this win because of De La Hoya’s condition, but the level of performance has to be considered. There have been fighters who have been given a lay-up in the past and failed to impress. Notably, Guillermo Rigondeaux against Drian Francisco. While this is not Pacquiao’s best victory, the performance itself is hard to beat.
Miguel Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs) -WBO Welterweight Championship
November 14, 2009
For most pundits, this performance by Pacquiao seems to be the clear favorite. It was the performance that changed the narrative from Hall-of-Famer to All Time Great. Pacquiao delivered in every way against Cotto, knocking him down two times en route to a 12th round stoppage.
With two back-to-back awards in 2008 and 2009 as fighter of the year to go along with great performances against David Diaz, Marquez, Hatton, and De La Hoya the victory over Cotto was the cherry on top that catapulted Pacquiao to be named the Fighter of the Decade.
For some, there is a slight asterisk on the fight with the fight having a catch weight at 145. However, like Barrera and De La Hoya, Cotto is a southpaw that fights out of an orthodox stance leaving his strong hand, the left hand, in front. All three weren’t known for their right hands and not having a right hand against Pacquiao usually spells disaster.
Looking back Pacquiao’s performance against Cotto can be compared to some of the best in the history of boxing. The victory made him a seven-division world champion. In the future when people pull up a fight of Pacquiao’s to watch on the Internet, this will likely be the first one that pulls up.
(Feature Photo: Reuters)