Come Monday morning, boxing fans are looking at a potentially historic prospect: the final fight week of Manny Pacquiao’s career. Like many major boxing stars, he’s been over-rated by those who revere him and criminally cut down by his haters. A fair assessment of his legacy is that he is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters of this young century. And in his prime, he was one of the most exciting fighters of all time.
One of the most common stats offered in Pacquiao’s favor is that he’s the only eight-division world champion in history. But to call Pacman an eight-division champion is a bit of a stretch. His most ridiculous claim is to championship status at junior middleweight. He was awarded the vacant WBC version of that belt for defeating Antonio Margarito at a 150-pound catchweight, four pounds below the true junior middleweight limit. Margarito had only even fought once at junior middleweight, beating non-contender Roberto Garcia after getting knocked out at welterweight by Shane Mosley. And Pac never defended that belt. It’s pure alphabet-soup shenanigans to claim that Pacquiao was truly a junior middleweight champion.
Pacquiao has been the lineal champion in four divisions. In 1998 he beat Chatchai Sasakul for the lineal flyweight championship. Although there were no alphabet-soup trinkets on the line when he defeated Marco Antonio Barrera in October 2007, that win made him a major star in the sport and the man who beat the man at 126 pounds. He then jumped to 130 and beat rival Juan Manuel Marquez by split decision, to capture another lineal title at super featherweight.
When Pacquiao recorded his stunning Round 2 knockout of Ricky Hatton in October 2009, it made him the lineal champion at 140 pounds. Once again, no ABC trinkets were involved in the fight. But Hatton was the man at 140 pound and Pacman smashed him.
Pacquiao had credible alphabet-soup belts at 122, 135 and 147 pounds, as well. Ultimately, this most impressive part of his legacy is his amazing climb from flyweight champion to welterweight superstar. In the first decade of this century, he had one of the most exciting runs in the sport’s history, routinely knocking out future Hall of Famers like Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto and Oscar De La Hoya.
Pacquiao fanboys who want to hail him as the greatest of all time are delusional. I personally wouldn’t put him in my all-time top 20. But there’s no doubt at all that he’s been a very special fighter and that we’re not going to see anybody quite like him ever again.