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OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: The fight that started Pacquiao’s rise to fame


PhilBoxing.com




Filipino future boxing Hall of Famer Manny Pacquiao started taking the entire boxing world by storm exactly 17 years ago today when he technically knocked out South African Lehlohonolo Ledwaba to crown himself the International Boxing Federation super-bantamweight or junior-featherweight titleholder.

It was on June 23, 2001 (June 24 in Manila) when the tiny, Kibawe, Bukidnon-born fighter surprised everybody, except himself and trainer Freddie Roach, completely unknown and fighting only as a substitute in two weeks notice, mauled the defending champion from the opening bell until his overwhelmingly favored opponent from as soon as the first bell sounded until the referee stopped the massacre in the sixth round.

The then only 23-year-old southpaw with a mean left hook bloodied the African’s nose in the opening canto, knocked him down in the second and several times more in the third and fourth as the crowd inside the MGM Garden Grand Arena cheered watching a new hero in he making.

Manny sent Ledwaba twice more in the sixth prompting the third man in the ring to intervene by mercifully waving his two hands signaling an end to what was billed as a 12-round bout 0.59 seconds left without counting out the deposed belt-owner.

“This is a dream come true. My dream was to be champion again. He did not hurt me at all. He did not even hit me hard. I was in control (of) the entire fight,” the new champion declared as beamed in the country through television.

It was Pacquiao’s second major world title following similarly easy eighth round stoppage, of Thai Chatchai Sasakul for the flyweight crown three years prior.

Pacquiao successfully defended his 122-pound diadem four times, but more than this, it was his next sterling performances at top of the four-squared jungle called ring that made him a hero in the eyes of his countrymen and icon to sports world.

Following his title victory over Ledwaba, the now senator and former two-time congressman targeted and succeeded in claiming, too, the RING featherweight, World Boxing Council super-featherweight, WBC lightweight, IBO/RING junior-welterweight, Wold Boxing Organization welterweight and WBC super-welterweight plums one after another, all in a span of nine years.

He took the 126-pound gonfalon off Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003, the 130-pound over Juan Manuel Marquez in 2008, the 135-pound the expense of David Diaz, also in 2008, the 140-pound from Ricky Hatton in 2009, the 147-pound off Miguel Cotto, also in 2009 and the 154-pound from Antonio Margarito in 2010.

That made him the only boxer in history to win world championships in eight weight categories. Pacquiao is also the first fighter in the annals of the sport to emerge world champion in four of the original eight weight divisions of boxing – flyweight, featherweight, lightweight and welterweight – also known as the “glamour” divisions.

He, too, is the first prizefighter to win the lineal championship in five different weight categories.

Two years ago, ESPN ranked Pacquiao second in the list of top boxers pound-for-pound of the past 25 years. He was named “Fighter of the Decade” for the 2000s jointly by the Boxing Writers Association of America, WBC and WBO.

He is also a three-time RING Magazine and BWAA “Fighter of the Year” for 2006, 2008 and 2009 and the ”Best Fighter” honoree of ESPY in 2009 and 2011.

BoxRec names the Pacman as the “Greatest Asian Fighter of All-Time.” Pacquiao was long-rated as the best boxer in the world pound-for-pound by most sporting news and boxing websites, including ESPN, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, SPORTING LIFE, YAHOO SPORTS, ABOUT.COM, BOXREC and THE RING, beginning from his climb to lightweight until his losses at welterweight in 2012.

He is also the longest reigning top-ten active boxer on THE RING pound-for-pound list.

Pacquiao has generated approximately 19.2 million in pay-per view buys and $1.2 billion in revenue from his 23 PPV bouts. FORBES MAGAZINE ranked him the second highest paid athlete in the world as of 2015.

Photo: Then 23-year-old Pacquiao dismantles former IBF champion Lehlo Ledwaba in Las Vegas on June 23, 2001.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Eddie Alinea.


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