PACQUIAO: 22 YEARS AND COUNTING
By Eddie Alinea
29 Jan 2017
Manny Pacquiao’s career started in the lowliest junior flyweight class, jumped seven divisions higher to become the only fighter in the universe champion in all of them.
Twenty-two years ago last January 22, 1995, in the town of Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro, a skinny little boy with a left hook as a weapon, who had to put coins in his pocket to make it to the 106-pound weight limit, would march triumphantly with a unanimous decision over a certain Enting Ignacio in his debut as a professional fighter.
Only a few of those who watched the four-round fight would have guessed that the barely 4’11" stowaway from General Santos City in faraway Mindanao who lived a vagabond life in the Big City, would someday become the toast of the boxing world by winning one world championship after another in eight weight divisions.
No fighter in the history of sweet science has won world titles in more weight classes than the Filipino legend, an amazing run of championship conquest from the 106-pound category to as high as 154 pounds.
Pacquiao won his first world crown as a flyweight at the expense of Thai Chatchai Sasakul in 1998, three years after turning pro then 12 years later saw himself beating to pulps defending super-welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito to wrest the 154-pound tiara, in the process jumping 48 pounds heavier from where he started.
Pacquiao and Sasakul (L) recently met in Los Angeles, CA.
In forcing Sasakul to submission via an 8th round knockout for the latter’s 112-pound-diadem, the still unheralded Kibawe, Bukidnon-born lefty was down on all three scorecards bus showed too much power at round’s end to to send the Thai down for good with a cracking left that, to many boxing writers, served as his calling card.
In between Sasakul and Margarito, the former Sarangani Congressman now Senator Pacquiao crawled to six weight classes more to super-bantamweight (122 pounds), featherweight (126 pounds), super-featherweight (130 pound), lightweight (135 pounds), junior-welterweight (140 pounds) and welterweight (147 pounds), winning, too, the titles in all.
On the way to the junior-middleweight plum, the Fighter of the Decade honoree of the Boxing Writers Association of America manhandled one after another African Lehlo Ledwaba, Mexcans Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez and David Diaz, Miguel Cotto and Margarito.
Pacquiao batters Margarito.
In the history-making eighth title win over Margarito, Pacquiao came 17 pounds lighter on fight night but still managed to hand the taller, heftier title-defender a savage beating that many believed should have been stopped in the later rounds. The Pacman, who barely weighed 144.6 ounds at fight night, inflicted a career-threatening eye injury although he did take some heavy shots from him.
Against Ledwaba, the soon-to-be three-time Fighter of the Year was completely unknown being only a substitute to an injured Enrique Sanchez. Fighting for the first time under the tutelage of new trainer Freddie Roach, the Filipino proved a revelation as he swarmed Ledwaba, considered the No. 1 junior featherweight at the time and a guy who was very high on. Pacquiao just destroyed him, breaking his nose in the first round and dropping him in the second and sixth for the second of his eighth world crown.
From super-bantamweight, the underdog Filipino pride moved still one weight heavier to featherweight and battled future Hall of Famer Barrera, the lineal titleholder, dropped the latter in the third and 11th rounds en route to an 11th round TKO triumph, beating a legend, that win earned for Pacquiao the honor of a legend.
A distinction he carried in his second encounter with Mexican great Marquez, whom he drew the first time they met despite sending him kissing he canvass three times in the opening round. One of the judges admitted having submitted a wrong scorecard that spelled the draw verdict. Pacquiao floored Marquez in the third round of the second serving to earn a split decision victory, giving him the super-featherweight title, his fourth jewel.
Four down, three to go. Pacquiao set his sight next on the lightweight belt held by David Diaz and like the four previous championship harvests, Pacquiao emerged victorious via a 9th round TKO, elevating himself to the top of the pound-for-pound list. It was a bloody, one-sided demolition of the crown holder, a guy with a big heart but wanting the skills, speed and power of Pacquiao.
That was a victory that led many, including Pacquiao himself, to believe that there are still many rooms upstairs to fill. And the father of five to wife, former Sarangani Vice Gov. Jinkee, continued scaling until he reached the top other ring warriors before him, including Fighter of Century Sugar Ray Robinson and even heavyweight great Muhammad Ali never even approximated.
Only two remained standing on the way to greatness – Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto – and the ‘Little Brown Doll’ from the tiny island called ‘Pearl of the Orient’ completed his haul by demolishing both six months apart in 2009.
On May 2 that year, Pacquiao, fresh from his demolition of Oscar De La Hoya in a non-title welterweight fight, his first in the 147-pound Pacquiao challenged lineal junior welterweight champion Hatton. He dropped his rival flat on his back in the second round in the most devastating knockout of his career. It was a one shot blow that was heard, as he cliché goes, in all four corners of the world.
Pacquiao flattens Hatton.
Half-a-year later on November 14, 2009, also in Las Vegas, Pacquiao took on Cotto in his second assignment as a welterweight and went home with the 147-pound jewel in his pocket following a 12th round stoppage. That win came as his most impressive performance of his entire career. He sent kissing the heavily-tatooed Cotto kissing the mat in the third and fourth rounds, busted him up, walked him down and stopped him cold.
Pacquiao could have actually won belts in 10 of boxing's 17 weight classes had he campaigned at junior bantamweight and bantamweight levels. He skipped the two divisions and instead jumped to super-bantam.
Besides his eight-division jewels, Pacquiao is also the only fighter to have been crowned lineal champion in five weight categories – flyweight, featherweight, junior lightweight, junior-welterweight and welterweight.
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