What if Manny Pacquiao Fought in the 80s? (First of a series)
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Fri, 01 May 2020
The 80s is among the strongest decades in professional boxing.
The decade saw Larry Holmes moving out of the huge shadow of the great Muhammad Ali and the rise of a heavyweight aptly described as a throwback fighter in Mike Tyson who would terrorize the division through the early 90s and even beyond.
It also saw the coming of age of Michael Spinks in the light heavyweight class and the battle for superiority among Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran and Tommy Hearns, the so called Four Kings of the 80s plus Wilfred Benitez in and around the welterweight and the middleweight divisions.
The decade also saw the epic battles between Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello at 140, Julio Cesar Chavez and Edwin Rosario at 135, Hector Macho Camacho and Rafael Bazooka Limon at 130, Salvador Sanchez and Azumah Nelson at 126 and Wilfredo Gomez and Carlos Zarate at 122, among many other memorable fights and fighters.
Significantly, it was the decade where Leonard set the then record of five world championships in as many weight divisions, i.e. 147, 154, 160, 168 and 175, the last two he captured by beating Canadian Donnie Lalonde after his earlier upset of Hagler for the undisputed middleweight championship of the world.
That record would be tied by Hearns and later broken by Oscar de la Hoya in the 1990s with the Golden Boy bagging six world division championships from the 130 lbs through the 160 lbs weight classes.
The record is currently held at eight by Manny Pacquiao who officially won world titles at flyweight, super bantamweight, featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight, super lighyweight, welterweight and super welterweight from 1998 through 2010. He is now on his fourth reign as welterweight champion after beating Keith Thurman for the WBA super belt in July 2019 following three tenures as WBO titleholder.
In this series, I will endeavor to analyze what could have been had Pacquiao emerged and fought in this particular among the strongest ever era in pro boxing. Would he been as successful as he became in the succeeding more than two decades? How many world division titles would he had won given the quality of the opposition in the 1980s and his own proven quality as a future Hall of Famer and a potential all time great fighter?
Part One: Quest for His First World Title
Pacquiao started his record world championship run at flyweight or the 112 lbs class and the best fighters in that division during the 80s were Santos Laciar of Argentina and Sot Chitalada of Thailand.
Laciar reigned in the early through the middle parts of the 80s, first winning the WBA world title in March 28, 1981 by 7th round TKO of Peter Methabula in Gauteng, South Africa.
He would lose the title briefly to Panamanian Luis Ibarra on an upset 15 round points decision in his home arena the following June.
But Laciar would eecapture the same title by 13th round TKO over Mexican Juan Herrera in Mexicali on May 1, 1982.
He would hold on to the title defending it eight times through 1985 defeating the likes of ex champions Betulio Gonzales, Herrera himself, Hi Sup Shin, Prudencio Cardona and Hilario Zapata. He would vacate only in 1986 after winning the WBC super flyweight title from another legend of the time, Mexican Gilberto Roman.
Laciar would end his career at 79(31)-10(0)-11 win-loss-draw. His first five losses came at flyweight.
Sot Chitalada, on the other hand would reign mostly in the second half of the 1980s, winning the WBC flyweight and world lineal crown from Gabriel Bernal by 12 round split decision in Bangkok, Thailand in October 1984.
He had earlier failed to wrest the WBC light flyweight title losing on points to the legendary South Korean champion Jung Koo Chang in Seoul earlier the same year.
Chitalada prepared for Bernal by stopping two Filipino journeymen Rudi Palicua and Wick Tengam in two consecutive bouts in Thailand.
Chitalada would hold on to the title turning back the challenge of Bernal two more times and defeating among others, Charlie Magri, Freddie Castillo and Jin Shik Choi until July 1988 when he briefly lost the crown to Yong Kang Kim on points in Seoul.
He would regain the title on June 1989 from Yong Kang Kim and make four more defenses against Rico Siodora, Carlos Salazar, Richard Clarke and revenge win over Chang Jung Koo before losing it to countryman Muangchai Kittikasem by TKO in 1991. He would lose again to Kittikasem by knockout and retire afterwards with a record of 26(16)-4(2)-1 win-loss-draw.
Analysis: Manny Pacquiao would have very little problems against either of Laciar or Chitalada. At nearly 5-6, Manny would have significant height advantage over both, particularly Laciar who stood only a shade above five feet. Being lefty, Manny would also pose trouble to Laciar and Chitalada who were both orthodox fighters. Manny's power, speed and volume punching thrown at weird, unexpected angles would surely put either, especially Chitalada in precarious position and constant threat of knockout. Pacquiao would have little problem winning his first world title at flyweight against any of these two 80s greats. Manny by mid to late round KO over Chitalada and by convincing points decision over Laciar.
But like what actually happened in his time, after winning the WBC and lineal title by 8th round KO of Thai Chatchai Sasakul, Manny would be posed with the question of whether to move up immediately in weight or risk being weight drained against the like of the dangerous Muangchai Kittikasem in a near future defense.
Next: Manny Versus the 80s Super Bantams Wilfredo Gomez and Lupe Pintor
The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at email@example.com and by phone 09215309477.
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