What if Manny Pacquiao Fought in the 80s? (Second of a series)
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Sat, 02 May 2020
Pacquiao (L) and Gomez.
The 80s is among the strongest decades in professional boxing.
The decade saw Larry Holmes finally 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 from 1986 through the early 90s and even beyond.
It also saw the coming of age of Michael Spinks in the light heavyweight class with him becoming the first to beat Holmes, as well as the battle for ultimate 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 lightweight, 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 objectively 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 Two: Move Up to Super Bantamweight, Titanic Title Clash With Wildredo Gomez
Manny Pacquiao as what actually happened in his time gambled and lost in his bid to remain in the flyweight class despite already experiencing difficulties in meeting the weight limit of 112 lbs.
He therefore lost his WBC and lineal flyweight championship virtually at the official weigh in and, weakened by his vain effort to meet the limit, he fell prey to Medgoen Singsurat 3K Battery in the actual title fight held in Thailand, losing by second round TKO in 2000.
This could have also happened in the 80s had he staked the crown he won from Sot Chitalada or Santos Laciar as discussed in the first part against the very dangerous Thai Muangchai Kittikasem given the same circumstances.
Hence, most probably, he would have done the same thing he actually did in real life after the debacle at flyweight---move up in weight to the division where he could be more effectively competitive considering his growing and maturing body as he reached his early 20s.
And that would be ten pounds north of the flyweights or three weight classes up to the super bantamweight or 122 lbs. division.
In the 80s, ruling the super bantamweight or junior featherweight class was a Puerto Rican former Olympian in the person of Wilfredo 'Bazooka' Gomez who has been WBC champion since 1977.
Gomez won the WBC super bantamweight title via 12th round KO over South Korean defending champion Dong Kyun Yum on May 25, 1977 at the Roberto Clemente Colesium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Yum had earlier wrested the title from inaugural champion Rigoberto Riasco on points in November 1976 in Seoul after failing in his first attempt the year before.
Hence, by the start of the 80s, Bazooka Gomez has been champion far longer than the period the super bantamweight class was first reintroduced back in the mid 70s.
Truth to tell, the division being new at that time was earlier largely ignored but because of Gomez's brutal domination, it soon gained legitimacy, drawing even the attention and interest of a bevy of noted and accomplished bantamweights as Mexican greats Carlos Zarate and Lupe Pintor in 1979 and 1982, respectively.
Gomez would stop both Zarate and Pintor in bruising, grueling virtual ring wars in the defense of his championship in which he would tally a division record total.
His numbers are mind boggling at that time, undefeated with 44 victories, 42 knockouts; 17 title defenses, 17 by knockouts in nearly a decade reign as WBC super bantamweight champion.
Gomez had the reputation as a knockout artist but though heavy handed in both fists, he was not a one punch finisher, he usually systematically breaks down his opponents with relentless pressure and two fisted assault to the head and body. He was also not above using dirty tricks as hitting low and using his elbows when he finds himself on queer street.
Named recently by the Ring Magazine in its 20-20 Vision series as the best fighter from Puerto Rico, Gomez actually went undefeated as WBC super bantamweight champion, vacating only in 1986 when he finally won the featherweight belt vacated by death of Salvador Sanchez to whom he had earlier failed against in 1984, losing by 8th round TKO.
Analysis: Gomez vs Pacquiao
The Manny Pacquiao version that unseated KO artist Lehlo Lebwaba and struggled to a technical draw against the rugged Agapito Sanchez would not suffice to beat Gomez.
But the Pacmonster that surprised and thoroughly beat up Marco Antonio Barrera, forcing his corner and teary eyed brother to surrender him in the 11th round in 2003 would definitely be more than a match for Bazooka.
Gomez and Pacquiao shared many things in common. Both were credited of legitimizing the 122 lbs division with their brutal, dominating reign as world champions despite Manny having a comparatively shorter tenure. Both are almost of the same size and built. Both are relentless fighters who break down their opponents with pressure and volume punching.
But Manny Pacquiao has something Gomez lacks: speed which with power proved to be a very lethal combination even against opponents from the featherweight up to the super welterweight as it really turned out in his own era.
Manny is also a powerful, highly skilled and intelligent southpaw fighter and Gomez had never faced somebody like him before.
It has to be assumed that to get a crack against Gomez at this time, Pacquiao has had to go through some of the top contenders of the time as Roberto Ribaldino, Juan Kid Mesa and quite probably Lupe Pintor. I think Manny would have little problems dispatching early the former two but would have some difficulty against Pintor who I think he would eventually break down in the later rounds.
Against Gomez, Manny would have had to be at his A-1 best as Bazooka fought mostly in the era of 15 round title bouts, in the late 70s and early to mid 80s though he had never gone the full route in all his reign. Hence Manny has had to prepare for a protracted struggle in any eventuality.
I think Gomez and Pacquiao would start cautiously and try to size each others strength and weaknesses in the first two to three rounds. A characteristic fast and strong starter, Manny would have the edge in those early actions though and he would introduce Gomez to the sting and strength of his potent left. He could even have scored a flash hard knockdown in the process (Yum also floored Gomez early in their fight in 1977).
Though wary, Gomez as his wont would start the real fireworks by the fourth round and he would try to pin Manny to the ropes and corners to be able to land effectively with his two fisted attacks to the head and body. Manny defensively would try to keep the action in the center ring where he could jab with his right and counter particularly with his powerful left.
Action would level up in the middle rounds as both volume punchers would have their moments and exchange initiatives in attacking with their engines starting to operate to the max.
I think the clincher in this fight would be what more could offer in the so called championship rounds.
Gomez despite the fact that he would later also win world titles at featherweight and super featherweight, really had his maximum prime at super bantamweight. He somewhat easily handled Zarate and eventually outlasted Pintor but both were essentially blownup bantams. He conked out against Sanchez and Azumah Nelson at 126 and 130.
On the other hand, it was at 122 lbs that Pacquiao first showed the capabilities of the powerful fighter he would become going forward as he scaled the weights. Simply put, Pacquiao had a super booster capability when a fight hangs in the balance.
Based on this and with the factor of fatigue, wear and tear playing a decisive role, I think Pacquiao would go on to wear and eventually break Gomez down to a brutal stoppage by the 11th or 12th round.
Pacquiao would have therefore clinched his second world championship against another 80s great in Wilfredo Bazooka Gomez following his earlier conquest of Santos Laciar and Sot Chitalada at flyweight as discussed in this series first part.
Next: Move up to the Featherweights, Pacquiao Vs Sanchez and Azumah Nelson
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.
Click here to view a list of other articles written by Teodoro Medina Reynoso.
PhilBoxing.com has been created to support every aspiring
Filipino boxer and the Philippine boxing scene in general.
Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org