Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Decade of Manny Pacquiao

One can make viable and laudable arguments why Pacquiao deserves the honor of being named the Fighter of The Decade. He has impressive wins over legendary figures of the sport. His wars with Mexico’s finest are in the record books and will be known to future generations. His climb through the weight scales and the fashion of which he conquers a division is matched only by a handful.

Long before he was called the Pacman, Pacquiao is baptized as the Destroyer. And aptly so. As young boxer, Pacquiao’s wins were garnered by the raw power of his left hand. But through this past decade, we all saw how Manny became the man he is and the complete boxer we might never witness.

When Manny Pacquiao realized that boxing was his ticket of getting out of poverty, he honed his skills with so much zeal that his handiwork became stuff of legend. His exploits in the ring is fueled by poverty, no doubt. But even after he got out of that hole and up the ladder of the social strata, his passion for boxing never wavered.

As esteemed trainer Freddie Roach pointed out, Pacquiao “is like a sponge.” Give him new tricks to learn and he will master it.  And he became an adept of the sport that Roach ultimately believes that Pacquiao will never reach his maximum potential because he is always on the learning curve, eager to soak up all the wisdom he can digest. But the evolution is apparent. As one boxing expert puts it, Pacquiao has transformed from a “whirlwind slugger to a boxer-puncher.” But will we ever see him come full circle with his boxing skills and greatness? One can only wonder.

Pacquiao’s Decade Run

The Boxing Writers Association of America has recently named Manny Pacquiao as the best fighter in the past 10 years (2000-2009). In that period, Pacquiao amassed a total of 23 wins against one loss and two even bouts, with 20 victories by way of knockout (87% knockout rate).

The following is a list of Pacquiao’s best fights from each year, from 2000-2009.

Pacquiao TKO. Nedal Hussein (2000)

Oct. 14, 2000; Antipolo City, Philippines – Pacquiao went up against then undefeated Nedal Hussein (18-0) and got a tough fight from the Australian. Hussein probably used every illegal tactics against Pacquiao, but a lean straight left from Hussein knocked Pacquiao down in the 4th. Pacquia recovered and rallied with combinations until in the 10th, when his punches created a huge gash in Hussein’s cheek.  The ringside doctor ruled Hussein could no longer continue. With Pacquiao leading on all scorecards, he was given the TKO victory.

Pacquiao KO Lelhohonohlo Ledwaba (2001)

June 23, 2001; Las Vegas, USA – Pacquiao’s first fought in the United States as a quick replacement against then IBF super bantamweight champion Lelhohonohlo Ledwaba (33-1-1). This bout also marked the beginning of the Pacquiao-Roach relationship. In the fight, the skillful and more talented Ledwaba was simply overwhelmed by the Filipino’s combination of aggression, speed, and raw punching power. Pacquiao’s decked the South African in the second round, and followed up with barrages of power punches and lightning fast combinations. Ledwaba was finally knocked down again in the sixth after getting tagged with a powerful left. Shortly after, Pacquiao knocked him out.

Pacquiao TKO Jorge Eliecer Julio (2002)

July 8, 2002; Memphis, USA – In his second title defense of the IBF super bantamweight title, Pacquiao demolished Jorge Julio (44-3) inside two rounds.  Julio, a notable boxer with more than decent punching power, was no match for the blinding speed and tenacity of Pacquiao, who was improving under the tutelage of Roach. Julio went down twice in the second round and was getting chopped with another barrage from Pacquiao when the referee called a halt to the bout.

Pacquiao TKO Marco Antonio Barrera (2003)

Nov. 15, 2003; San Antonio, Texas – Pacquiao went up against the legendary Marco Antonio Barrera (57-3) in the former’s first fight as a featherweight. In a very action-packed, seesaw slugfest between two aggressive fighters, Barrera displayed more technical flair. However, Pacquiao’s tenacity and Barrera’s willingness to engage gave the Filipino the upper hand. As the fight wore on, Pacquiao’s power punches and combinations took a toll on Barrera, leaving him too weak to battle in the 9th round. But the Mexican prodded on until the 11th round when Barrera’s corner threw the towel after seeing their man helpless and totally battered in the face of a Pacquiao onslaught.

Pacquiao Draw Juan Manuel Marquez (2004)

May 8, 2004; Las Vegas – In a fight that would end in a controversial draw, Pacquiao started strong and hammered Juan Manuel Marquez (42-2) three times to the canvas in the first round. With many people sensing a Pacquiao victory, the tide was suddenly turned when Marquez, a brilliant counterpuncher, would stage a comeback and win most of the following rounds. Although the fight was declared a draw, one judge revealed that he made an error on the scorecards that would have given Pacquiao victory. Judge Burt Clements scored the first round 10-7 for Pacquiao when it should have been 10-6. Two judges scored the bout 115-110, with one judge favoring one fighter over the other.

Erik Morales UD Pacquiao (2005)

March 19, 2005; Las Vegas – In a classic battle that deserves a spot in the boxing’s records, Mexico’s Erik Morales (47-2) finally put a halt to Pacquiao’s string of victories over Mexican fighters. Morales efficiently used the ring and outbox a very game but obviously overmatched Pacquiao, who struggled to land his blows on the Mexican. The fight revealed that Pacquiao is solely dependent on his left hand, which prompted coach Roach to train Pacquiao to use his right hand as major offensive weapon. Ten months later, Pacquiao and Morales met again and in a very exciting bout, Pacquiao avenged his loss with 10th round knockout. They met again in 2007, with Pacquiao finishing the series with a TKO in the 3rd round.

Pacquiao UD Oscar Larios (2006)

Aug. 2, 2006; Manila, Philippines – Pacquiao never took Oscar Larios (56-5-1) seriously. But Larios proved that he was not just some bum by starting out strong and nailed Pacquiao with powerful combinations that had him pressed against the ropes. Pacquiao was able to recover and turned the tables when his punches created a gash over Larios’s left eye. The fight went the distance, with Larios going down in the 7th and 12th rounds. Larios was gracious in defeat and acknowledged Pacquiao’s greatness in the ring.

Pacquiao KO Jorge Solis (2007)

April 13, 2007; Texas, USA – Then undefeated Jorge Solis (32-0-2) challenged Pacquiao for the latter’s WBC Internetional Featherweight title, but was soundly defeated in eight rounds. The taller and lankier Solis had a good start, effectively using his jab to set his combinations. Pacquiao suffered a small cut under the left eyebrow in the 6th round when they accidentally butted the heads. Pacquiao sensed the urgency to finish the fight immediately, as the cut will bother him soon enough. In the 8th round, Pacquiao unleashed a torrent of punches that sent Solis to the canvas. Shortly after, Pacquiao knocked out Solis with a stinging left straight to the head.

Pacquiao TKO Oscar dela Hoya (2008)

Dec. 6, 2008; Las Vegas – When Oscar dela Hoya was left with no Floyd Mayweather for a rematch, he challenged Pacquiao in a welterweight showdown. Prior to the fight, many boxing pundits viewed that Pacquiao was way out of his league, citing the obvious physical advantages Dela Hoya possessed. However, speed and extreme movement negated all advantages Dela Hoya had. The Golden Boy was getting peppered with lead lefts and his face was at the end of a brutal punishment. With his ward taking a beating without fighting back, trainer Nacho Beristain pleaded Oscar to quit, which he did at the end of the 8th round.

Pacquiao KO Ricky Hatton (2009)

May 2, 2009; Las Vegas – in a fight that showed a very well-rounded and greatly improved Pacquiao, the Filipino proved to be more than a match for Britain’s Ricky Hatton (45-1). Pacquiao used Hatton’s own aggression, tagging the Brit with right hooks every time Hatton charges in. Hatton was downed twice in the 1st round and seemed he recovered in the second round when Pacquiao let loose a left hook that landed on Hatton’s chin and knocked him out cold. It took awhile before Hatton regained consciousness. Hatton’s career has been in a limbo since.

Within the past decade, Pacquiao became the only boxer ever to win seven titles in as many weight classes and the only fighter who have four lineal championships to his name. He may have been defeated, but like all true champions before him, Pacquiao understood that from defeat, lessons are learned and through those lessons, an individual acquires the blueprint to be better.