Philippines, 27 Mar 2023
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THE RETURN: Filipino eight-division boxing champ is back

To be a champion, you have to believe in yourself when nobody else will. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PARE !!!

On Sunday the other week, Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, a former senator and the only creature on earth to win no less than a dozen world championships in an unequaled eight divisions, battled South Korean martial arts youtuber DK Yoo in a six-round exhibition.

He won without a sweat in what could serve as prelude to his eventual return to the sport that earned for him and his family enormous wealth and international fame only few of his kind had attained.

But at 44, isn't it too late for Manny to stage another boxing return?

There are actually quiet a few former champions, who retired at ripe age only to return fighting and won world titles.

The most famous comeback in this list is heavyweight George Foreman, who initially retired in 1977 at age 28, but returned 10 years later, and lost twice.

But records show he knocked out Michael Moorer to become the oldest heavyweight champ of all time, aged 45. Foreman would have four more fights before again retiring for good in 1997 at 48.

Manny Pacquiao and wife Jinkee pose for a photo during Pacquiao's 44th birthday anniversary on Dec. 17, 2022 at their residence in General Santos City, Philippines. Photo by Wendell Alinea.

Sugar Ray Leonard, one of boxing's most beloved pros, retired in 1984, came back three years later and move up in weight to challenge the much feared KO master Marvin Hagler and emerged the winner in a famous but disputed split-decision to defy the odds and win the title after such a long layoff.

At that age, he turns 44 on Saturday, not a few expressed concern to see Manny climb the squared ring again at high level fights even against the upcoming pretenders in his welterweight division like Jaron "Boots" Ennis, who, reports are, is being eluded by 147-pound top dogs like Terrence Crawford and Errol Spence.

Our Manny, despite his 72-fight career eight losses, is not new to hanging up his fighting gloves and retrieving them back at least six times since his embarrassing KO defeat to unheralded Rustico Torrecampo in 1986 following a 15-fight winning streak (13 by KO) since turning pro in 1995.

He came back from that first career setback for another string of victories, including an eight-round stoppage of Thai Chatchai Sasakul in December 1998 for the World Boxing Council flyweight plum that actually set the tone of his remarkable 12-year, eight-division title conquests.

He yielded the throne to another Thai Medgoen Singsurat when he failed to make the required 112-pound limit in 1999. But Pacquiao is not Pacquiao if he couldn’t again rise when he falls.

The climb from one weight classes to another continued. He took his second world crown jewel, then International Boxing Federation super-bantamweight from African Lehlo Ledwaba (TKO in 6) in 2001, and two years later, his third by, again, stopping the popular Marco Antonio Barrera of Mexico (TKO in 11) for the Ring featherweight.

Eric Morales, Barrera's countryman, would spoil Manny’s title run by outpointing his future friend in his debut in the super-featherweight in 2005, although Pacquiao more than made up for this twice, both winning via knockouts.

Manny would then go on another unbeaten 15-outing streak in the next five years until 2010 which gifted him the last five of his amazing record, making him the first man to win world championships in eight weight classes, a total of world record eight.

Manny would crown himself the WBC super-featherweight kingpin at the expense of what would be be one of his arch enemies Juan Manuel Marquez, who he will meet four times.

David Diaz (TKO in 9) for the WBC lightweight, the rugged Briton Ricky Hatton (KO in 2) for the Ring Magazine lineal world super-lightweight and another future Puerto Rican Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto for the World Boxing Organization welterweight diadem (TKO in 12).

The husband of former Sarangani Vice Gov. Jinkee with whom he has five children, ended his title run by ruling vacant WBC super-welterweight by beating black and blue a taller and bigger Antonio Margarito in 2010.

That bloody unanimous decision victory clinched for him the “Fighter of the Decade” for 2000 to 2009 over archival Floyd Mayweather Jr who himself made a comeback to boxing after two years of retirement in 2009. That was besides accorded “Fighter of the Year” accolade three times.

Before making it to the 147-pound category, the then lightweight Manny fashioned out one of the greatest upsets in prizefighting history with a TKO in 9-round conquest of Barcelona Olympics gold medalist Oscar De La Hoya in his debut as welterweight in 2008.

Manny would suffer back to back ring losses in 2012, losing his WBO world welterweight jewel in a questionable split decision to American tough guy Timothy "Dessert Storm" Bradley before getting knocked out by Marquez in December in a non-title showdown.

Calls for going back to private life sprang following this double whammy. But as he has been saying often: “Hindi pa tapos ang laban!”

He regained his WBO crown by outclassing the talkative Bradley in 2014. He finally earned a crack at Mayweather after a long almost six years of talks, and lost again in a fight christened “Fight of the Century” for the sixth time in his career due to an injured right shoulder and his inability to solve the ”Money’s” hit and run tactics.

That much-awaited May 2015 contest generated an all time record high of nearly four million pay per view buys worldwide.

But Manny would again come back the following year repeating over Bradley in the third of their trilogy before taking on big American Jessie Vargas and, again, for the third time crowed himself the 147-pound king.

Then came the 12-round loss to former Australian school teacher Jeff Horn, who robbed him of his WBO belt via another controversial verdict.

But again, Manny surprised the entire boxing world by winning yet another world title, though the WBA regular welterweight belt in stopping a former dreaded KO artist himself Argentine Bomber Lucas Matthysse inside seven rounds in a bout held in Kuala Lumpur in 2018.

He successfully defended the same title by pounding out a unanimous decision win over Adrien Broner then took the challenge of then undefeated Keith Thurman, knocking the latter down in the early going, to win via a close split decision in 2019.

Due to inactivity brought about by the Covid 19 pandemic, he was stripped of the crown in an unmerited decision by the WBA, which it awarded to Cuban Yordenis Ugas pro bono.

Ugas became a legit champion after winnng over Manny while subbing for Errol Spence, who claiming injury, begged off from a title encounter scheduled in 2019. That prevented Pacquiao from re-claiming the throne he rightfully owned until unceremoniously taken away from him.

That victory over Yoo definitely indicates Manny is back. When, millions of his fans worldwide will have to wait.

And it won’t be for long.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Eddie Alinea.

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