What If Manny Pacquiao Fought in the 1980s? (Seventh of a Series)
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Mon, 11 May 2020
Part 7-Move Up to the Super Lightweight;
Pacquiao Versus Julio Cesar Chavez
As what actually happened, Manny Pacquiao only had one fight at super lightweight as he has had also just a solitary bout at lightweight. Both were world title wins against WBC titlist David Diaz of the US and Ring and lineal champion Ricky Hatton of the UK in 2008 and 2009, respectively accounting for his fifth and sixth world division championship harvest.
By that stage, Manny has also demonstrated quite convincingly that he could not only take on but beat fighters well bigger and taller than him. His non title fight versus former six division world champion Oscar de la Hoya sandwiching his bouts versus Diaz and Hatton send that message clearly.
His smashing 8th round victory by retirement over De la Hoya which was billed correctly a passing of the torch type likewise made him not only as a new certified boxing superstar and top pound for pound fighter but the latest cash cow.
Situation of the Suoer Lightweight in the 1980s
The super lightweight division was dominated in the first half of the 80s by American WBA titleholder Aaron Pryor who by 1984 had affirmed his iron hold with consecutive stoppage wins over former lightweight kingpin Alexis Arguello of Nicaragua.
But Pryor soon fell victim to illegal drugs and his title was stripped from him and changed hands several times afterwards.
Meanwhile, his WBC counterpart, Saoul Mamy was also not as lucky, losing his title after just two years reign, from 1980 to 1982 and ownership of the belt changed hands so frequently.
The division therefore by the late 80s neeďed a champion that would not only stabilize it but restore its prestige and legitimacy.
And Julio Cesar Chavez, who had by that time inherited the mantle as the greatest Mexican fighter from Salvador Sanchez and Ruben Olivares came in and provided that needed stabilizing superstar power (Hector Macho Camacho also had his chance and became a world titlist at 140 but he did not last long).
Chavez wrested the WBC super lightweight title by stopping familiar foe, Roger Mayweather on May 13, 1989. He would figure in five more fights before the year was over, including successive title defenses in November and December both of which he won via the short route over Alberto Cortes and Sammy Fuentes.
Manny Pacquiao therefore in contrast to what he actually experienced in his time where he faced and defeated an already past prime Ricky Hatton would be facing an undefeated peaking Julio Cesar Chavez in his quest for the super lightweight title had he fought in the 80s.
Credentials of Julio Cesar Chavez
By the time he became world super lightweight champion in 1989, Chavez was already a veteran of 68 winning bouts, 58 by knockout since he started pro boxing in 1980 at a tender age of 17.
Before winning this third world title at 140, Chavez had also won championships and reigned with distinction at super lightweight and lightweight beating such fighters as Mario Martinez, Roger Mayweather, Rafael Bazooka Limon, Juan LaPorte, Terrence Alli, Jose Luis Ramirez Edwin Rosario, Ruben Castillo and Rocky Lockridge.
He would not be defeated until 1994 when he lost by disputed decision to Frankie Randall losing briefly his title which he would win back by outpointing Randall in the rematch. By that time he had faced and turned back the challenges of fighters as Meldrick Taylor, Camacho himself and then future multi division world champion and great Pernell Whitaker whom he held to a draw.
He finally lost his title at age 34 to Oscar de la Hoya in 1996, his only second career defeat in 99 contests and would lose only four more times, including once again to De la Hoya and once to Kostya Tzsyu retiring with an overall record of 107 wins, 6 losses and 1 draw.
Chávez holds records for the most total successful defenses of world titles (27, shared with Omar Narváez), most title fight victories and fighters beaten for the title (both at 31), and most title fights (37); he has the second most title defenses won by knockout (21, after Joe Louis with 23). His fight record was 89 wins, 0 losses, and 1 draw before his first professional loss to Frankie Randall in 1994, before which he had an 87-fight win streak until his draw with Pernell Whitaker in 1993. Chávez's 1993 win over Greg Haugen at the Estadio Azteca set the record for the largest attendance for an outdoor boxing match: 136,274.
He is ranked as the 17th best boxer of all time, pound for pound, by BoxRec, #24 on ESPN's list of "50 Greatest Boxers of All Time" and 18th on The Ring's "80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years". In 2010 he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame for the Class of 2011. He is the father of current boxers Omar Chávez and former WBC middleweight champion Julio César Chávez Jr.
Analysis: Pacquiao Vs Chavez
Experts and analysts until today are divided in their view of who would win in a mythical match between Manny Pacquiao and Julio Cesar Chavez considering the entirety of their respective careers.
However, in this exercise, I am considering only their respective status as fighters at comparable stage of their careers as set in the backdrop of the scenario of the late 1980s.
At that comparable junction, I should say that Chavez would have held the advantage of being still undefeated while winning and logging more total fights (68, including 58 by KO with no defeat and draw as against Manny's total 53 bouts by his fight with Hatton consisting of 48 wins, 3 losses and 2 draws.
Both would have been still relatively at their youthful prime despite having already fought such huge numbers of bouts but with Chavez younger at only 27 years old and Manny older by two years, at 29.
Chavez, despite having more bouts, would have been fresher, with lesser wear and tear compared to Manny who at that time had been to wars with Mexican greats Erik Morales thrice and Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez twice. Chavez by comparison had by that time already rambled with tough costumers as Martinez, Castillo, LaPorte, Lockridge, Rosario, Ramirez and Roger Mayweather but won quite handily without trouble.
Physical strength and punching power would have been about equal but Chavez would have had the edge in taking power and stamina with Manny edging it in speed and ring generalship.
Manny overwhelmed Dela Hoya in 2008 before fighting Hatton but their fight was set at a catchweight of 147 lbs with Oscar coming down from 160 lbs and Manny going up from 135. Oscar was also already old and well past his prime. That fight could therefore not be used as basis in gauging Manny's chances versus Chavez who lost to a young, prime best Oscar when he was already aging and on decline.
The Chavez that Manny would have gone up against was a still peaking Chavez that would later proved too much to handle for the greats of the succeeding generations as Taylor and Whitaker.
A Chavez that would have had the best assets and qualities of Morales, Barrera and Marquez combined.
A Chavez seemingly impervious to the hardest of punches as he moved forward to incessantly apply pressure, cut the ring and throw powerful combinations and damaging counter blows to the head and body from round to round.
I think that version of Chavez would have posed a most difficult, possibly toughest fight even for the version of Pacquiao on the cusp of winning a world record eight division championship.
I think Pacquiao's chances would have been to essay the tactic he used to neutralize and defuse Hatton, i.e. to initially box and move defensively and avoid inside or close quarter exchanges and commit only to one's offense when the proper opportunities present themselves as the fight progressed.
But Chavez was no Hatton who was crude in comparison. Despite being classified as a tremendous, forward moving pressure fighter, Chavez was really a smart, thinking fighter with underrated boxing and counterpunching skills, footwork and defensive acumen. At this stage, he had never been floored nor suffered serious cuts or other injuries.
Manny Pacquiao poses with Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.
I think Manny would have early success using his speed, better footwork and ring generalship but Chavez was adaptable as he was tough and determined. He would have had cut the ring, trapped or cornered Manny often enough to hit him and forced him to trade.
I think Manny would not have had the skills and patience of a Whitaker to implement such a fight plan to neutralize Chavez who would be pursuing or in front of him all the time with both arms throwing punches.
I think Manny's macho pride would have gotten the better of him by the middle round and fight fire with fire and that would have fallen unto Chavez's strong suit. Most likely, both would suffer facial cuts and injuries and Manny brittle eyebrows would burst open with blood flowing profusely from the sixth round on, impairing his vision, troubling him and his corner till the final round.
Chavez would have characteristically finished stronger in the championship round and impressed the judges to giving him a come from behind close majority decision with one even scorecard and two scorecards giving him the edge by two and three points.
There would be no record setting sixth world division title for Manny at 140 lbs in the 1980s.
Next: Another Try at 140 or Move Up to 147?
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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