What If Manny Pacquiao Fought in the 1980s (Ninth of a Series)
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Fri, 15 May 2020
Pacquiao (L) and Gilbert Dele (R).
Part 9- Move Up to the Super Welterweight
Pacquiao Versus Gilbert Dele
In real life and real time, Manny Pacquiao was really already pushing it when he moved to the welterweights in 2009. He was and is small for a division whose denizens not only tower over him but usually weigh more than 150 lbs at fight time. He was barely hitting the maximum limit of 147 at weigh in and at times he had to shed a pound or two to maintain his speed and to be at his best fighting condition at fight night.
Therefore, going up once more to the next weight level, the super welterweight or junior middleweight with the limit of 154 lbs was farthest from his mind at that time.
Until an opportunity arose in 2010 when Sergio Martinez vacated his WBC super welterweight title after winning the middleweight lineal belt over dreaded knockout artist defending champion Kelly Pavlik of the US.
Promoter Bob Arum asked the WBC to have Pacquiao vie for the vacant title against another of his ward, tall and big punching Mexican Antonio Tornado Margarito who has had previously beaten, among others Miguel Cotto in recent past and Martinez himself much earlier. Though Manny was WBO welterweight champion at the time, he had fought for WBC titles most of his previous championship run hence the WBC obliged.
But this still raised eyebrows as Pacquiao had not fought above 147 before and a disturbed Margarito was coming off a brutal knockout loss to Shane Mosley losing his WBC welterweight title in the process. Before that fight, Margarito's camp was also caught tampering with his gloves later incurring him a penalty that banned him from fighting anywhere in the USA.
But then, Arum was able to secure a boxing license for Margarito in Texas and with the WBC sanction, the Pacquiao-Margarito fight for the vacant WBC super welterweight championship was set at the cavernous Dallas Cowboy Arena.
With a record capacity crowd of more than 50,000 mostly Americans, Mexicans and Filipinos watching, Pacquiao overcame Margarito's size advantage, beating him up and fracturing the Mexican's right orbital bone in the process of pounding out a convincing 12 round unanimous decision. The win earned him the WBC super welterweight title, the last jewel in his collection of world record eight division championship.
But Manny would relinquish the belt immediately and return to the welterweights where he remained as WBO titleholder. Later, he admitted he had hard time fighting at super welterweight and said it would be his first and last at that weight level.
Had Manny fought in the 1980s, would he have had been also presented with the same opportunity?
Note that in the last installment of this series, at this juncture Manny had achieved late in 1989 his sixth world title conquest at the expense of American Marlon Starling, earning him also the unified and lineal championship at the welterweight division.
Situation in the Super Welterweight in the 1980s
The super welterweight division in the early 1980s became a sort of pit stop for superstar welterweights of the era as Sugar Ray Leonard who won a WBA belt over Ayub Kalule but immediately vacate it and Wilfredo Benitez who won a WBC title and held it for a time until dethroned by Tommy Hearns.
Hearns dominated the division up to the mid 80s, beating among others Benitez and another of the superstar of the era, Roberto Duran by a face first brutal knockout.
When Hearns move up in weight, a scramble for the rulership of the division ensued with Mike McCallum and John the Beast Mugabi reigning over the field for a time. They were supplanted later by Julian Jackson at WBA when McCallum himself moved north and by Jackson's former KO victim Terry Norris who later tamed the Beast for the WBC plum.
Norris stayed put as WBC champion even claiming the scalp of Sugar Ray Leonard who inexplicably moved down to 154, in his most notable title defense, among others.
But Jackson, a feared KO artist known as the Hawk could not resist the lure of bigger money bouts at middleweight and hence decided to vacate his WBA belt.
Oddly, the WBA then had for its top two contenders Japan based American Carlos Eliott who was the then OPBF titlist and Frenchman Gilbert Dele, the then European champion. The two were ordered to fight for the vacant title with the colored Dele stopping the Afro American Eliott.
Therefore, had Manny Pacquiao been on the scene at that time, most probably, he and not the obscure Eliott who could have opposed Dele for the title, being then the unified and lineal welterweight champion of the world. The WBA certainly would not have passed up the chance to have a superstar as Manny to fight for its title.
Hence a Pacquiao-Dele bout for the vacant WBA super welterweight could have happened sometime in 1991, two years after Manny moved up to the welterweights, as what actually happened in late 2010 in his fight for Antonio Margarito.
Credentials of Gilbert Dele
Born 1 January 1964, Gilbert Dele is a French Guadalupean professional boxer who competed from 1986 to 1993. He held the WBA light-middleweight title in 1991 and challenged twice for the IBF light-middleweight title in 1992 and 1993. At regional level he held the European light-middleweight title from 1989 to 1990.
Delé turned pro in 1986, and captured the vacant WBA light middleweight title in 1991 with a technical knockout over Carlos Elliott. He defended the belt once before losing it to Vinny Pazienza later that year by TKO. He retired in 1993 with a record of 34-3-1 after unsuccessfully challenging IBF light-middleweight title holder Gianfranco Rosi twice.
Analysis: Pacquiao Versus Dele
The fight could have been held in the USA, possibly in Las Vegas sometime in late 1991.
At nearly 5-10 Dele would have been the tallest and longest armed opponent Pacquiao would have faced had he fought in the 80s.
But he would have had been his easiest on paper given the French Guadaloupean's comparative thin fight resume though still spiked with many knockout victories.
Speaking of his style, unlike most European fighter who fight in upright stance with one arm tucked tightly in defense or used for jabbing and the other as the main weapon, Dele fought like an Afro American boxer puncher.
He was tough and willing to trade and could fight tall or short, using his height or by crouching. He used long, spearing left jabs to set up his main weapons right straights and hooks. He mixed them with occasional crosses and uppercuts especially against smaller foes. Those accounted for his high knockout ratio.
But many if not most of his previous opponents were of unknown or doubtful quality. He was never tested before by anybody with world class capabilities and skills.
Vinny Pazienza, the noted Pazmanian Devil who also rose up from the lightweight like Pacquiao, exposed this weakness of Dele when he roughed up and stopped him and wrested his title via technical knockout in his very first defense.
Against Pacmonster, Manny Pacquiao, Dele would have had not even a glimmer of hope to win the vacant title.
But Dele though surely would have been an overwhelming pre-fight underdog was as game as they come back then.
Seeing how seemingly puny Manny could have appeared from across the corner though conscious and wary of his fighting capabilities, Dele could have come out willing to meet Pacquaio in a frontal combat, confident of his size and reach and strength advantage.
He could have tried to keep Manny at bay with his long jabs and enticed him to wade in to set up his follow up straights and hooks and occasional crosses and uppercuts. He would have been successful for a round or two from the opening bell.
But once Manny began to use his speed in an in and out attacks and employing volume punching, some coming from unexpected angles as he outflanked and outmaneuver Dele, the French Guadaloupean would have been forced to be on the defensive.
Dele would not have known what hit him and how to effectively defend himself not having been on the same situation before. In his previous many bouts, he was the one pouring it on and dishing the hurt until the opponents fall or the referee comes to their succor.
Manny would have relentlessly pursued the advantage until Dele's corner throw in the towel or the referee intervened in to spare Dele from further punishments by the middle rounds.
Manny Pacquiao would have thus won his seventh world division championship against another 1980s figure in the person of Gilbert Dele.
Not as satisfying and significant as Pacquiao's conquest of his record eighth at super welterweight in actual life versus Margarito in 2010 but would have had also raised his profile for greatness even more back then had it happened.
Next: Summary/Conclusion/ Commentaries
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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