The Pound for Pound Debate: Origins, Questions, Issues and Controversies (Part II)
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Fri, 30 Aug 2019
Author's Note: In the first part of this series, the origin and beginnings of boxing pound for pound concept was summarily discussed and how the title best pound for pound fighter passed on from Joe Louis, Henry Armstrong and Sugar Ray Robinson in the 1930s, 40s and 50s to Muhammad Ali in the 60s to a battery of fine mostly multi weight division champions, from "Hands of Stone" Roberto Duran's 70s, up to the time of Oscar de la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
In this installment, the rise of Manny Pacquiao as best pound for pound fighter in the period bridging the first two decades of the new millennium will be traced. And how the honorific title changed hands during and in the aftermath of his storied rivalry with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. that has raised questions, issues and controversies to this day.
Before Manny Pacquiao entered the picture, the best pound for pound title was still in dispute among Oscar de la Hoya, Floyd Mayweather and Lennox Lewis. That was in the early part of the new millennium, the 2000s.
The rivalry particularly between Floyd and Oscar was made complex by their clashing claims as boxing top attraction or cash cow. By that time the race for the highest pay per view subscription and revenue was in full swing spurred by the commercial ring exploits mainly of Mike Tyson the previous decade.
Eventually, with the retirement of Lewis and his own victory over Oscar, Floyd got the universal recognition as the best pound for pound fighter by the middle of the 2000s. By that time, Manny coincidentally was already on the rise.
Manny Pacquiao first crashed into American and global consciousness in the early to middle part of the 2000s with scintillating stoppage wins over notably Lehlonelo Lebwaba and Marco Antonio Barrera, which gave a glimpse of his greatness and greater feats he would accomplish by the second half of that decade.
A young Manny Pacquiao crushes Ledwaba.
Pacquiao won his second and nominally at that time, third world division titles with those victories over Lebwaba at 122 lbs and Barrera (at 126 ) who at that time were already honorable mention and rated highly in the pound for pound list, respectively.
But people really took notice when he battled Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales and David Diaz in series of super fights that skyrocketed him to prominence in the USA and netted him his fourth and fifth world division titles at 130 and 135 lbs. between 2015-2017.
Pacquiao drops Morales.
At around that time, Floyd had already won titles in five weight classes, 130, 135, 140, 147 and 154, the last against Oscar himself which made him the best pound for pound fighter.
But Floyd retired in 2017 after dispatching Ricky Hatton.
Meanwhile, Pacquiao continued with his upward trajectory.
With the best pound for pound fighter title in limbo after the retirement of Floyd, the reigning king cash cow Oscar de la Hoya organized with Top Rank's Bob Arum who had by then taken Manny under his wings, a super fight promotion that would pit him against the emerging Filipino boxing superstar.
There was no official title on the line in that Oscar vs Manny superfight but held at a catchweight of 147 lbs a compromise between a middleweight and a lightweight, everyone knew at that time that a more prestigious title was at stake---that of the best pound for pound fighter in the world.
Pacquiao manhandles De La Hoya.
As history had it, Manny thoroughly outclassed Oscar from the very first round, beating him up so bad that Oscar was force to quit on his stool by the eighth round. And the new pound for pound king was crowned in the boxing capital of Las Vegas.
That bout also sold well both at the tills and the PPV, in effect establishing Manny as a premier top attraction in the mold of Oscar and Floyd who at that time shared the record of the highest PPV grossing fight in history. The retirement of Oscar after the Pacquiao defeat precipitated Manny's rise as the new cash cow.
Manny went on to fortify his billing as the new pound for pound king and cash cow by utterly demolishing in succession Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto, giving him his sixth and record breaking seventh world division championships.
On the strength of his three Fighter of the Year awards in 2006, 2008 and 2009, Manny was proclaimed also as the Fighter of the Decade 2000-2009, besting Floyd and Lennox, among others.
Nearing the end of the 2000s therefore, there was no question as to who was the best pound for pound fighter in the planet and that was Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao.
But then, before 2009 ended, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. returned after two year retirement.
His return started a debate who between Floyd and Manny was the one, true pound for pound king.
To be continued...
Click here for Part I: Origins, Questions, Issues and Controversies
The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone 09215309477.
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