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List of Articles by Joaquin Henson

Finding the next Pacquiao

By Joaquin Henson
01 Aug 2019

There will never be another Manny Pacquiao. Not in the Philippines, not anywhere in the world. He’s in the record books as the only fighter ever to win world titles in eight different divisions, scaling the ranks from the flyweight class to superbantamweight, featherweight, superfeatherweight, lightweight, superlightweight, welterweight and superwelterweight. That’s an unprecedented ascent from winning the WBC flyweight or 112-pound crown in 1998 to capturing the WBC superwelterweight or 154-pound title in 2010.

Not even Floyd Mayweather, Jr. can claim winning as many championships. Pacquiao at 40 remains active in the ring. In boxing history, several fighters continued to ply their trade beyond 40. Bernard Hopkins was 46 when he wrested the WBC lightheavyweight crown in 2011, 48 when he took the IBF version and 49 when he annexed the WBA belt. The Executioner was 51 when he retired in 2016. George Foreman was 45 when he poleaxed Michael Moorer in the 10th round to capture the IBF/WBA heavyweight unified championship in 1994 and retired at 47 in 1997. Former lightheavyweight titleholder Archie Moore was 47 when he saw action in his last fight in 1963. Roberto Duran was 50 when he ended his career in 2001 and former WBC superlightweight ruler Saoul Mamby was 60 when he hung up his gloves in 2008.

When Pacquiao will retire is a decision that’s completely up to him. Someone once called Pacquiao “a freak of nature” but he’ll go down in history as the renaissance fighter who symbolized the triumph of the human spirit more than for his unnatural superheroism. Five years after he retires, Pacquiao will be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame where only three Filipinos have been named----Pancho Villa, Flash Elorde and promoter Lope (Papa) Sarreal, Sr. The argument for his induction is the feat of collecting eight world titles in different divisions, something no man will conceivably surpass or even duplicate in any generation.

Among the Filipino fighters today, who is closest to making a name for himself like Pacquiao? At the moment, there are four Filipino world champions----WBA welterweight champion Pacquiao, WBA bantamweight ruler Nonito Donaire, Jr., IBF superflyweight beltholder Jerwin Ancajas and WBO minimumweight titlist Vic Saludar.

In the top 10 ratings of the four major governing boxing bodies (WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO), 30 Filipinos are listed, excluding the four Filipino world champions. Five are No. 1 contenders----WBC lightflyweight Jonathan Taconing (recently lost to Japan’s Ken Shiro in a bid for the WBC 108-pound crown), IBF minimumweight Samuel Salva, IBF bantamweight Michael Dasmarinas, WBO lightflyweight Edward Heno and WBO superbantamweight Marlon Tapales. Only one Filipino is ranked in the top 10 by the four sanctioning bodies----flyweight Giemel Magramo, listed No. 2 by the WBO, No. 4 by the IBF and No. 5 by the WBA and WBC.

Magramo, 24, is the reigning WBO International and Oriental flyweight champion with a record of 23-1, including 19 KOs. His father Melvin was a former pro who once went the distance with Pacquiao. Magramo may not be the next Pacquiao but is definitely a candidate to become a future world titleholder.

Donnie Nietes, 37, is ranked No. 4 by the WBC and IBF in the superflyweight division. He’s the longest reigning Filipino world champion, counting his uninterrupted hold of the WBO minimumweight, WBO lightflyweight, IBF flyweight and WBO superflyweight titles from 2007 to 2018. He relinquished the WBO 115-pound crown and is now gearing for a showdown with WBC champion Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico. Nietes hasn’t lost since 2004 and boasts a record of 42-1-5, with 23 KOs. Before Nietes retires, he’ll surely claim another world title. Like Pacquiao he’s a shoo-in for the International Boxing Hall of Fame but he’ll never approximate the fighting Senator’s accomplishments.

The Ring Magazine, the so-called Bible of Boxing, cited several Filipino fighters as top prospects in a section on the “State of the Game” in its February 2019 issue. It was a clear indication that the outlook is bright for Philippine boxing even beyond the years of the reigning Filipino world champions today.

Under the category “Keep An Eye On,” The Ring singled out bantamweight Carl Jammes Martin, WBO No. 11 superflyweight K. J. Cataraja, IBF No. 12 superflyweight Jade Bornea, WBA No. 7, IBF No. 3, WBC No. 12 and WBO No. 10 lightflyweight Christian (The Bomb) Araneta and Salva as fighters on the rise. Another category “New Blood” listed WBC No. 8 featherweight Mark Magsayo.

Martin, 20, is an Ifugao southpaw with a 13-0 record, including 12 KOs. His father Abel, a retired Army private first class, guides his career. “The kid has charisma,” said former two-time world champion Gerry Penalosa. “He’s explosive and left-handed. He reminds me of Manny and has tremendous power. What he lacks is experience. By next year, he should be ready for a world title shot.”

Cataraja, 24, has a 9-0 record, with 7 KOs. He recently outpointed Mexico’s Victor Reyes to take the vacant WBO Youth superflyweight crown. Bornea, 24, is called the Hurricane and has a 14-0 record, with 10 KOs. The Cotabato del Norte slugger has blasted his last three opponents into submission. Araneta, 24, is a Cebu southpaw with a 17-0 record, including 14 KOs. His raw power is considered extraordinary in the 112-pound division. Salva, 22, has a 17-0 record, with 10 KOs, and is booked to face countryman No. 3 contender Pedro Taduran for the vacant IBF minimumweight throne in Manila on Aug. 24. The Misamis Oriental “Silent Assassin” is in line to join the ranks of Filipino world champions. Magsayo, 23, is a 5-6 Tacloban power puncher with a 19-0 record, including 14 KOs. Managerial issues forced a layoff for over a year but last April, Magsayo the Magnifico reemerged to stop Erick Deztroyer in four rounds in Singapore. Magsayo is tied up in court to resolve a promotional contract dispute with the ALA Group and is now linked to Malaysian manager Vikram Sivapragasam and Las Vegas promoter Cameron Dunkin.

Beyond the six unbeaten prospects recognized by The Ring, several other Filipino fighters are knocking on the door leading to world title cracks. IBF No. 4 featherweight Jhack Tepora, 24, has a 23-0 record, with 17 KOs, and is coming close to a championship challenge. Interim WBO bantamweight champion Johnriel Casimero, 30, is itching to claim a third world title and still packs the sock to get it done. Casimero has a 27-4 record, with 18 KOs. Another former world titlist on the prowl to return to the throne is Tapales who has a record of 33-2, with 16 KOs. The Tubod, Lanao del Norte, battler is unbeaten in his last 12 outings, scoring nine KOs in the process. He’s a 27-year-old southpaw with dynamite fists. Tapales is ranked No. 1 by the WBO and No. 3 by the IBF as a superbantamweight and No. 12 by the WBA as a featherweight.

Albert Pagara, 25, is another title prospect ranked No. 3 by the WBO in the superbantamweight division with a 31-1 record, including 22 KOs. The Maasin, Southern Leyte, righthander is rated behind No. 1 Tapales and another Filipino, No. 2 Juan Miguel Elorde, grandson of the great Flash. Elorde, 32, has a 28-1 record, with 15 KOs, and dreams of a world title shot before calling it a career. Another prospect is former IBO bantamweight champion Dasmarinas who defeated countryman and No. 10 contender Kenny Demecillo in an IBF title eliminator last March. Dasmarinas, 26, is a 5-7 southpaw with a 29-2-1 record, including 19 KOs.

Also in the cusp of a breakthrough are WBA No. 11 and WBO No. 15 bantamweight Reymart Gaballo, WBC No. 2, WBA No. 2, IBF No. 14 and WBO No. 1 lightflyweight Heno, WBC No. 2, WBO No. 10 and IBF No. 7 minimumweight Melvin Jerusalem, WBO No. 3 minimumweight Robert Paradero, WBO No. 7 superbantamweight Jeo Santisima, IBF No. 9 and WBO No. 10 flyweight Jayson Mama and WBO No. 5 superfeatherweight Joe Noynay.

Gaballo, 22, was the interim WBA bantamweight champion and is now making waves as a legitimate challenger for the regular title. The Cotabato del Sur brawler from J. C. Manangquil’s Sanman stable has a 21-0 record, with 18 KOs. Heno, 26, is the current Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation lightflyweight titleholder with a record of 14-0, including 5 KOs. One of his victims was former world champion Merlito Sabillo. Jerusalem, 25, once fought for the WBC minimumweight crown and lost on points but is now on the comeback trail with a 14-2 record, including 8 KOs. Paradero, 22, is a Bukidnon buzzsaw with an 18-0 record, including 12 KOs. Santisima, 23, is a 5-6 Masbate fighter with a 17-2 record, including 14 KOs and has won his last 15 assignments, 13 by KO, five in the first round. Mama, 22, is a General Santos City discovery known as The Smasher. A Sanman protégé, Mama has a 13-0 record, with 7 KOs and once held the WBO Oriental Youth flyweight diadem. Noynay, 23, comes from the same Bogo, Cebu hometown of the late Flash Elorde and is a southpaw like the Filipino Hall of Famer. The 5-8 battler totes an 18-2-1 record, with 7 KOs.

Obviously, the depth of Filipino boxing talent is bottomless. MP Promotions head and Las Vegas promoter/matchmaker Sean Gibbons said with Pacquiao’s support, more Filipino fighters are coming out of the woodwork to stake their claim as world beaters. But finding the next Pacquiao won’t be easy. Winning a world title in one division is hard enough but capturing eight world titles in eight weight classes is almost an impossible dream.

The mold of a Pacquiao is one of a kind. There can never be someone with as much talent, fervor, heart, intelligence and charisma. Of the younger generation, Martin holds a lot of promise. He’s a bantamweight who could rise to mow down opposition up to the lightweight ranks. With the slew of top 10 Filipino contenders in the rankings, a Golden Era of the sport is dawning----a remarkable milestone in boxing history where fighters are hoping to follow in Pacquiao’s footsteps.

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