What if Manny Pacquiao Fought in the 80s? (Eighth of a Series)
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Thu, 14 May 2020
Pacqiao (L) and Marlon Starling (R).
Part 8-Another Shot at 140?
Move up to the Welterweights
As his actual career goes, Manny had just one fight at 140, a spectacular 2nd round one punch highlight reel knockout of UK's Ricky Hatton for the Ring lineal and IBO belts early in 2009.
But in a highly possible scenario in the late 1980s where he failed to win a record sixth world division title at super lightweight (losing a bruising, hard fought close decision to Mexican greatest Julio Cesar Chavez as discussed in the last part of this series), Manny Pacquiao could have evaluated his options.
That could have included chasing the new record by way of challenging for the WBA version of the super lightweight title then held by Argentina's Juan Martin El Latigo Coggi (The Whip had won the WBA crown via 4th round of Parrizzio Oliva of Italy in June 1987 following a series of title changes in the aftermath of the stripping of original champion Aaron Pryor in 1984 on account of his addiction to illegal drugs).
Or immediate move up to the welterweights to challenge WBC titlist American Marlon The Magic Man Starling who had just established his claim as the best in the division by beating UK's Lloyd Honeygan, the former unified and lineal champion.
Manny could have dropped the idea of going for another bid for a world title at 140 versus Coggi after concluding that a title win over the Argentine would have been just a sort of consolation and a cheap way to earn a new record (Coggi struggled against then future WBA titlist Akunobu Hiranaka in his third and last successful defense in his first title reign, coming back from a hard knockdown and the generosity of the judges to eke out a points win early in 1989).
Therefore, as what actually happened in his time, Manny would have gone straight to the welterweights and challenged Starling for his world title belt.
The fight could have happened in late 1989 immediately after Starling had wrested the WBC belt from UK's Lloyd Honeygan in a huge upset.
Honeygan had been the unified and lineal champion since his own upset stoppage victory over then Donald Curry back in 1986. Curry was then being projected as the rightful heir apparent to Sugar Ray Leonard at 147 lbs and Honeygan changed all that.
But then, Starling changed the script by upsetting Honeygan via stoppage in their own highly publicized bout.
Credentials of Marlon Starling
Starling was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1959. He got his start with help from coach, Johnny Duke, who helped him train for the national Junior Olympics championship. He turned professional in 1979. After 25 straight wins to start his professional career, he lost his first fight, a 12-round split-decision to Donald Curry in 1982. Starling had a rematch with Curry in 1984, challenging for the WBA and IBF welterweight titles. Starling lost by a 15-round decision.
Starling's second world title fight came in 1987. He knocked out Mark Breland in the 11th round to win the WBA welterweight title. In his third title defense, Starling lost the title in controversial fashion to Tomas Molinares. Molinares hit Starling with a punch that was thrown around the same time as the bell sounded to end round six. Starling went down for the only time in his career, and the referee counted him out. Molinares was declared the new champion by knock out. However, the decision was later changed to a no contest but the Colombian kept the title.
In 1989, Starling knocked out Lloyd Honeyghan to win the WBC welterweight titles. The following year, Starling challenged Michael Nunn for the IBF middleweight title, but lost by decision] In his next fight, Starling lost his welterweight titles on a close decision to Maurice Blocker. That was Starling's last fight. He retired with a record of 45-6-1-1 (27 KOs).
Analysis: Pacquiao Vs Marlon Starling
As can be gleaned from the aforementioned CV of Starling, it could be said that he has had really the potentials to be a world champion. But the main chink in his armor was the lack of consistency. He could be great one night and so so another night. That would explain his roller coaster championship career. The Molinares fight also showed he had not a formidable whisker.
Starling therefore would be at a disadvantage against the version of Manny Pacquiao in his winning WBO welterweight title fight over Miguel Cotto in 2009, particularly the Magic Man who lost twice to Curry and was kayoed by Molinares.
Assuming that Starling that would have come to the ring opposite Pacquiao was the best version that toppled Mark Breland and Lloyd Honeygan, how would the fight had unraveled?
Stockily built at 5-8 and having a reach longer than his height, Starling would appear an imposing figure besides the barely 5-6 leaner but ripped Pacquiao.
But Pacquiao as he had shown against Oscar dè la Hoya and shortly later Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito would not be fazed by size nor muscle bound built of his opponents up there at 147 and above.
Hence, Manny would have attacked and countered against the usually slow starting and slow footed Starling using blistering speed and wierd angles to take the initiative after the customary feel out first two to three rounds.
Starling would have tried to retake the initiative by the middle rounds by rushing Pacquiao and pinning him against the ropes and corners employing his superior physical strength but would have encountered limited success as Manny would have maneuvered himself out of trouble. Manny though would have felt the strength of Starling's punches and therefore tightened his defense.
The trend would have continued entering the championship rounds but with Starling increasing the pressure and intensifying his attacks, targeting Manny's body but Manny would have deftly eluded or covered up while at times standing his ground and getting the best of the spirited exchanges.
The final round would have seen Starling desperately going for a knockout but Manny would have skillfully thwarted this repeated assault by boxing, counterpunching and clinching when cornered.
The judges would have been impressed by Manny's masterful showing by giving him a well deserved unanimous decision win with one card having him ahead by as much as five points.
As a result, Manny would have succeeded in nailing his record setting sixth world division title surpassing Sugar Ray Leonard's five set the year before, 1988.
Next: Move up to the Super Welterweights
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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