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What If Manny Pacquiao Fought in the 1980s (Sixth of a Series)

Pacquiao (L) and Jose Luis Ramirez (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 6- Move up to Lightweight
Pacquiao Versus Jose Luis Ramirez

As what happened in his time, Manny Pacquiao would linger in the super featherweight class for nearly three years from 2005 before he made the move up to the lightweights where he won his fifth world division title over David Diaz in 2008.

Hence in the continuation of this "What If" series which last ended with his putative winning the vacant WBC super featherweight title by decision over Hector Camacho in mid 1983, Manny Pacquiao would have also remained in the 130 lbs class for the next three years.

In that period, he could have possibly defended against the likes of Bazooka Limon, Choi Chung Il, Cornelius Boza Edwards and Mario Martinez whom he would all have beaten by stoppage.

But that would have also precluded his chance to meet another of the 1980s greats in Alexis Arguello who by that time was already moving up to challenge Aaron Pryor for the latter's WBC super lightweight title in 1984.

Situation in the Lightweight Division 1983-87

When Arguello vacated his WBC lightweight championship in 1983, the title was won by Edwin Rosario over Jose Luis Ramirez by points decision.

The two would have a rematch in 1984 with Ramirez winning this time by TKO5.

Ramirez after a couple of defense would lose the title to Hector Macho Camacho in 1985.

Camacho however by late following year 1986 was ready to move up to the super lightweights.

Hence, a possible scenario would have been a Pacquiao rematch with Camacho with Macho's WBC lightweight title on the line.

Or Pacquiao vying for the same crown (vacated by Camacho) against Jose Luis Ramirez or Edwin Rosario, two former titlists (with 1-1 record against each other) still very much around and in contention for the vacant title.

Given the actual fact that Pacquiao just had one fight at lightweight and it was against a reigning WBC champion David Diaz, Manny could have gone up against Jose Luis Ramirez who actually inherited the vacant WBC lightweight crown by outpointing Terrence Alli in 1987 (Rosario actually had earlier won the WBA version which then he would lose to Julio Cesar Chavez).

Jose Luis Ramirez Credentials

By 1987, Ramirez was already on his second tour of duty as WBC lightweight titlist having first won it in 1984 over Edwin Rosario.

He was already a 15-year veteran with 103 bouts under his belt with only six losses at that point, notably to Ruben Olivares, Alexis Arguello. Ray Boom Boom Mancini, Rosario and Camacho, mostly in world title fights.

But most of his 97 victories at that juncture had come by knockout, including against a young up and comer by the name of Jose Luis Castillo (yes, the same Castillo who would almost pin Floyd Mayweather, Jr.'s first pro career loss in early 2000s).

In 1985, after losing his title to Camacho, Ramírez, a culturally intellectual person, moved to Paris. There, he re-grouped, and was able to regain the WBC's world championship when Camacho left it vacant in 1987, by edging out Terrence Alli with another close but unanimous 12 round decision. In his first title defense, he defeated former champion Cornelius Boza-Edwards by fifth round knock out. In his second defense, he was awarded a 12 round split decision victory against future multiple world champion Pernell Whitaker. The consensus among both media and fans was that Whitaker deserved to win the fight.

Back in Mexico, he and Chávez were neighbors. Chávez had lifted the World Boxing Association's world Lightweight championship by beating Rosario, and a unification bout between the two friends and neighbors was planned. Ramírez, who is a godfather to one of Chávez's sons, lost an 11 round technical decision to Chávez on October 29 of 1988, which marked the last day he would be a world champion.

Analysis: Pacquiao Vs Ramirez

By later part of 1987, Pacquaio would have been up against a grizzled veteran of more than a hundred bouts in Ramirez who had by that time had fought the likes of Olivares, Arguello, Mancini, Rosario and Camacho but mostly in losing though hard fought contests.

Hence Pacquiao would have also been installed as the odds on favorite as he actually was against David Diaz in 2008 heading to the title bout versus Ramirez.

The fight would have been staged in Las Vegas, Nevada by September 1987.

Ramirez was a solid basic fighter with dynamites on both fists, was tough as nails and had boundless energy and stamina. His only knockout loss came years ago when he was still at featherweights at the hands of Olivares.

Comparatively, Pacquiao of the 2008 vintage was already a compleat fighter capable of beating even bigger opponents, as he later proved in drubbing Diaz, Oscar de la Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto.

This fight would mirror the Pacquiao vs Diaz actual bout which Manny would dominate from start until his knockout of Diaz in the eighth round.

The difference was that Ramirez would have put up a tougher fight especially in the early rounds where his power would have prompted Manny to fight cautiously and defensively.

And that Ramirez would have lasted longer, possibly succumbing to Manny's lethal combination of speed and power between the 10th and 11th round after Manny took firm control of the fight by the middle rounds.

Manny would have won by technical knockout with the referee mercifully coming to Ramirez succor as he was being brutally mauled in his corner. To Ramirez credit, he would refuse to go down despite the heavy beating.

Manny therefore would have won his fifth world division championship against another 1980s stalwart in Ramirez, surpassing Tommy Hearn's four and setting the new high record that would have only been tied by Sugar Ray Leonard in 1988 with his double titles win over Donnie Lalonde.

Next: Move up to Super Lightweight
Pacquiao Versus Julio Cesar Chavez

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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