What if Young Manny Pacquiao Did Not Bypass the Bantamweight? (Part I)
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Wed, 15 Jul 2020
Young Pacquiao overpowers Lehlo Ledwaba on June 23, 2001 in Las Vegas.
In distinguishing himself as the only fighter to win world championships in eight divisions, Manny Pacquiao also set the record of the most title wins at four out of boxing's eight original weight classes.
The original weight divisions in boxing are flyweight, bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight.
After winning his first world title at flyweight, Pacquiao surpassed the record set by Henry Armstrong in the late 30s of winning world championships at featherweight, lightweight and welterweight.
Other multi division world champions who also managed to win in at least three out of the original eight weight classes included Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns who did the trick at welterweight, middleweight and light heavyweight, Roberto Duran and Oscar dela Hoya at lightweight, welterweight and middleweight and Roy Jones, Jr. who won titles at middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight.
How special and exclusive is this list of accomplished fighters? Sugar Ray Robinson whom many people recognize as the greatest ever boxer is not even here.
Robinson failed in his try for the light heavyweight title after winning and dominating at welterweight and middleweight. Sugar Ray started at lightweight but did not fight for world championship in the division although he did beat the then reigning titlist, Sammy Anggott twice in non title bouts.
Outside of Pacquiao, no other fighter has won world titles in four of the original eight weight classes.
Armstrong did try to win a fourth world title at middleweight but was denied when he was held to a draw by then defending world titleholder Ceferino Garcia. Tough luck, as Armstrong had beaten the Filipino twice at welterweight.
Hence when talks of Manny Pacquiao fighting Gennady Golovkin for his middleweight crown circulated recently, my thought was that Manny would have the chance not only to win his ninth world division title but also to be the first to win in five of boxing's original eight weight classes.
But those talks also died down as soon as it begun to go the rounds among boxing experts who all said that Manny was too small for the middleweights and way too small to have a ghost of a chance against even an aging and diminished Golovkin.
That, of course, is still debatable.
What's absolutely less debatable is the question: Had Manny not bypass the bantamweight, could he have had also become world champion in that one of the original weight classes?
As what actually happened in 2000, Manny lost his first world title at flyweight virtually at the weight scales after failing to meet the 112 lbs limit.
Manny was eventually officially defrocked when, greatly weakened by his previous effort to meet the limit, he was stopped by his Thai challenger, Medgoen Singsurat 3K Battery in the second round of their fight held in Thailand.
Stung by the defeat and the fact that he had grossly outgrown the flyweights, Manny and his handlers decided that from then on, Manny would be fighting at junior featherweight or super bantamweight with weight limit of 122 lbs., bypassing the bantamweights with weight limit of just 118 lbs.
Of course, at that time, going for the records was farthest from the minds of both Manny and his handlers. What was of primordial importance then was for Manny to fight at a weight class that would suit his growing and maturing body and where he could best rebuild his career.
And they deemed that as ten pounds north of flyweight in the super bantamweight or junior featherweight class
Of course, they were proven right as just a year later, Manny was back as world champion---and with uplomb--- as Manny destroyed a feared South African titlist, Lehlo Lebwaba, then at the cusp of joining the pound for pound elites, for the IBF super bantamweight crown.
But, what could have been had Manny and his camp decided to first make a pit stop at bantamweight? It stands to reason as a jump of two divisions up was unheard of at that time and very rare even today. Manny could have indeed first tested the waters at 118 before he sallied forth fully at 122.
Had history made that u-turn, how would Manny have fared in the bantamweights, against any of the then world champions namely Thai Veerapol Sahaprom (WBC) and Americans Paulie Ayala (WBA) and Tim Austin (IBF)?
We will discuss that in the succeeding installment/s.
To be continued...
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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