Philippines, 29 Feb 2024
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Pacquiao at 40 fights Broner to cement legacy

The Philippines? pride Manny Pacquiao celebrates his 40th birthday today. A month and three days from now, The Kibawe, Bukidnon-born sensation joins boxing greats who have ignored their age by continuously fighting and winning world titles.

On January 19, 2019, at age 40 and 33 days, Pacquiao fights American Adrien Broner for his World Boxing Association welterweight belt matching the feats accomplished by great fighters before him, including, among others, Sugar Ray Robinson, George Foreman, Bernard Hopkins, Archie Moore and Larry Holmes.

Less than 30 years ago, most fighters were out of boxing long before age 40. In fact, 35-year-old boxers were viewed as elderly because only a handful still were competing effectively. Since then, advances in nutrition and training techniques have lengthened careers to an extraordinary degree.

At age 39 in July this year, the eight-division champion Pacquiao technically knocked out Lucas Matthysse of Argentina in the seventh round to annex the latter?s WBA 147-pound title and matched arch-rival Juan Manuel Marquez?s, who, also at age 39, transformed the trajectory of his legacy, unfortunately at the expense of the Filipino icon.

With a single punch, Marquez became the first fighter ever to win The Ring?s Fighter of the Year, Fight of the Year and Knockout of the Year awards in the same year. When Marquez blows out the 40 candles on his next birthday cake August 23, his top-five pound-for-pound status will remain rock solid ? an unthinkable concept a generation ago.

Pacquiao?s stoppage of Matthysse, though, was his fourth trip to the welterweight throne he won three times before, lost as many times and recaptured as many times, too.

Already the only man to crown himself champion 11 times in eight weight divisions, the fighting legislator stands to add another brick to his already legendary foundation, one that never would have been crafted had he followed through on his eventual retirement.

The question that needs answering now, therefore, is this: Will Pacquiao be the best over-40 fighter who has yet lived? Or are there others that remain above him -- Robinson? Foreman? Moore? Holmes?

Robinson, boxing history?s greatest fusion of speed, power, intelligence and toughness was long past his peak by the time he turned 40 on May 3, 1961 but the remnants of his peerless talents was still enough to beat more than 68 percent of the fighters he faced over the next four-and-a-half years. Robinson?s record after age 40 ? 30-10-3 (15) with one no-contest.

At age 47 in May 2011, Bernard ?The Executioner? Hopkins became the oldest man ever to win a major boxing championship after out-pointing WBC light heavyweight titlist Jean Pascal in Montreal, breaking George Foreman?s record of 45 years 310 days set in November 1994.

When ?Ancient Archie? turned 40 on December 13, 1956 he was shaking off the effects of his second failed crack at the world heavyweight title against Floyd Patterson, who, by winning, became the youngest man ever to win the undisputed heavyweight title and thwarted Moore?s attempt to become the oldest.

Still, Moore was the reigning light heavyweight champion, a title he had held since December 1952 when he dethroned Joey Maxim in his adopted hometown of St. Louis. Moore?s record after age 40 ? 26-2-2 (16).

When Foreman ended his 10-year retirement at age 38, the world responded with derisive laughter, condescension, criticism and concern. Big George, now an ordained minister, paid no mind to it and kept chugging along. His deeply-held faith, both in God and in himself, told him that his quest would eventually bear fruit and in the end he got the last laugh. Foreman?s record after age 40 ? 17-3 (12).

Many boxing pundits thought they had seen the last of ?The Easton Assassin? when Mike Tyson crushed the 38-year-old Holmes in less than four rounds. Holmes, however, knew differently. Holmes? record after age 40 ? 21-3 (10).

Other 40-year-old and above fighters who continued dancing atop the ring despite their age are: Kid Azteca, record after age 40 ? 25-1-2 (22); Roberto Duran, 18-7 (9); Vitali Klitschko, 3-0 (2) 18-7 (9); Thulane ?Sugar Boy? Malinga, 4-4 (2); Jack Britton, 30-11-3 (0) with one no-contest.

Photo: Manny Pacquiao jumps at an imaginary basketball ring during a break of his training at the Wildcard Gym in General Santos City Saturday in preparation for his upcoming fight against Andrien Broner of the United States on Jan. 19 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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

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