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What if Manny Pacquiao Fought in the 80s (Fifth of a Series)

Pacquiao (L) and Hector Camacho (R).

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 Five-Move Up to the Super Featherweights: Pacquiao Versus Hector Macho Camacho

As what actually happened in his time, Manny Pacquiao did not stay long in the featherweights following back to back title bouts versus Marco Antonio Barrera (W,TKO11) and Juan Manuel Marquez (Split Draw,12).

He moved up to the junior lightweight in 2005 where he lost in his debut by UD12 to former three division titlist Erik 'El Terrible' Morales for the minor WBC intermational belt. They would meet two more times with Manny winning both via knockout. He would clash against Barrera again winning this time on points. That would set him up for another title meeting with Marquez for the WBC world title at 130 Juan Ma had wrested from Barrera with Manny flooring Marquez to win by a thin split decision for his 4th world division title. All in all Manny spent three years at the super featherweight class figuring in eight fights before again moving up and going up against David Diaz for his WBC lightweight crown in 2008.

Situation at 130 Lbs Class in the 80s

Had he emerged at around the same time in the 1980s, Manny would have been met with almost the same circumstances. The WBC titlist of the time, Bobby Chacon was girding to move up in weight while the WBA champion Samuel Serrano had just been beaten brutally and replaced by Roger Mayweather, uncle and future trainer of Floyd, Jr. Lurking around were former titlists Rafael Bazooka Limon, Rolando Navarette and Cornelius Boza Edwards. But the fans attention at this time was on the two young and fast up and coming pair of Hector Macho Camacho and Julio Cesar Chavez.

It would have been interesting to see Manny against Roger Mayweather but with Manny being the then reigning WBC featherweight titlist (as discussed in the last part of this series), it would have been doubtful if the WBA would have approved of such fight.

Hence the best opportunity for Manny would have been to vie for the WBC crown then held by Chacon.

But as what actually happened, Chacon chose to vacate his title than defend it against Camacho to go up against Ray Boom Boom Mancini for the WBA lightweight title. Chacon would lose to Mancini and also lose his wife Valerie who made true her threat to take her life if he continued to fight.

The WBC was then left to choose Camacho and Bazooka Limon for the vacant title with Camacho stopping Limon in the 5th round to become champion.

Camacho would defend the title just once, stopping fellow Boricuan Julian Solis before moving up to the lightweights.

There would have been two options for Manny to meet Camacho given the situation. He could have been named as Macho's opponent for the vacant title instead of Limon who has had his enough breaks anyway in the past with varying results. Or he could have been designated as mandatory for the Camacho Limon winner vice Solis.

Given the chance to pit two of the hottest boxing commodities, Pacquiao and Camacho, at the earliest time possible, the WBC would have undoubtedly chosen the first option.

Hence the stage would have been set for the another major Philippines versus Puerto Rico ring clash since Pacquiao's conquest of Wilfredo Gomez the year before and the Ortiz vs Elorde in the 60s and Serrano vs Villaflor in the 70s.

Pacquiao vs Camacho would have been set by middle of 1983 at the Madison Square Garden in New York where Camacho grew up and which hosts a number of Puerto Rican population.

Macho Camacho's Credentials

Héctor Luís Camacho Matías (May 24, 1962 – November 24, 2012), commonly known by his nickname "Macho" Camacho, was a Puerto Rican professional boxer and entertainer. Known for his quickness in the ring and flamboyant style, Camacho competed professionally from 1980 to 2010, and was a world champion in three weight classes. He held the WBC super featherweight title from 1983 to 1984, the WBC lightweight title from 1985 to 1987, and the WBO junior welterweight title twice between 1989 and 1992.

In a storied amateur career, Camacho won three New York Golden Gloves tournaments, beginning with the Sub-Novice 112 lbs championship in 1978.During his professional career, Camacho had many notable fights against some of the biggest names in boxing, defeating Roberto Durán twice late in Duran's career, and knocking out Sugar Ray Leonard to send him into permanent retirement. He also fought Julio César Chávez, Félix Trinidad, and Oscar De La Hoya, among others.

Analysis: Pacquiao Versus Hector Macho Camacho

If there was one word to describe Camacho at around this time, it was he was a punk as what was most youth in New York and in the US, in fact the world were or wanted to be. But he was supremely confident, swaggering, fashionable punk, sure of his good looks and his fighting capabilities ala Muhammad Ali back in the 60s.

At this point, we was a quick, fast and powerful punching knockout artist, having won all his 21 previous fights, 12 by knockout including over Refugio Rojas and John Montes, both in the first round and tough Filipino Johnny Sato (KO5) who had previously beaten Lando Navarette. The fighter he had met closely resembling Pacquiao in power would have been KO artist Irlies Cubanito Perez whom he defeated by UD in his last fight.

This fight would have therefore featured two equally sized, fast, energetic and skilled southpaws or lefties.

Though both quick, I think Camacho had the better footwork and balance as Sanchez would have enjoyed versus Pacquiao. I think he also was the better two fisted combination fighter though by this time, Manny was already getting used to also make use of his right in support of his main weapon left hand.

I think Manny is the stronger puncher of the two and he would have had Camacho feeling the power of his blows from the get go as being both characteristic fast and strong starters, they would have tested each other early.

Stung by Pacquiao, Camacho would have abandoned his usual flamboyant style and adopted a more cautious and defensive approach by the third round. He would have boxed and counter from a distance utilizing his better footwork and balance while providing as elusive target to Manny.

Camacho would have been successful in such strategy, giving him the edge on two of the scorecards by the middle of the fight.

Pacquiao therefore would have had to make tactical adjustments beginning the seventh round to slow and pin Camacho down by cutting the ring and forcing him to extended exchanges of punches along the ropes and in the corners, and away from the middle of the ring.

But using his superior maneuvering skills, Camacho would have frustrated Pacquiao who then even now has difficulties against movers.

However, Pacquiao would not have been deterred and have continued to stalk Camacho and bombard him with barrage of punches whenever he had the chance.

Manny's patience would have paid off by the tenth round as fatigue begun to set in on Camacho slowing him down and making him an easier target. A right followed quickly by a powerful left would stagger Camacho and only the bell would save him.

Manny would have continued the attack in the penultimate round and Camacho would have desperately tried to thwart it by holding and clinching to such extent that would have drawn warning from the referee. Camacho would have survived the round despite absorbing punishment from Pacquiao.

Regaining some of his wind, Camacho would have been on his wheels by the start of the 12th and final round with Manny in hot pursuit. He would have been successful in getting away and landing some punches on Manny but only for a while and Manny would have been upon him again, throwing combinations, some hitting him on the head and body. Camacho would have been still on his feet but barely when the final bell rang to his succor.

Camacho would have had succeeded in eluding a knockout which he would be able to do all his career.

But Manny would have won his fourth world division title against another 1980s stalwart by convincing come from behind unanimous decision by an average of three points on the judges scorecards.

Next: Move up to the Lightweights

The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at and by phone 09215309477.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Teodoro Medina Reynoso.

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