Like most boxing superstars, Manny Pacquiao gets both underrated and over-valued. His ardent supporters loudly trumpet his status as “the only eight-division world champion in history.” But that fact has to be considered in its proper historical context. This is the era of alphabet-soup insanity. There are world-title holders and then there are legitimate world champions.
Pacquiao’s claim to a world championship at junior middleweight is pure bologna. He beat Antonio Margartio for the WBC version of that title. Neither Pacquiao or Margarito were even ranked at 154 at the time and they fought for the vacant belt at a 150-pound catchweight. Pacquiao never defended the belt. It was straight-up promotional nonsense.
Pacquiao beat two very good fighters to win belts at welterweight–Timothy Bradley and Miguel Cotto. But ultimately, he was never more than No. 1 contender to Floyd Mayweather’s lineal welterweight title. At 135 and 122 pounds, he captured belts of limited value, before jumping to another weight class.
Pacquiao has held lineal claims on the title at flyweight, featherweight, super featherweight and super lightweight. Four lineal world championships is a remarkable career achievement. Pacquiao’s climb from 112 pounds to elite welterweight contender is nearly unprecedented in the sport’s history, particularly in recent decades.
Only a pure hater would deny that Pacquiao is an all-time great. He is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But I ultimately cannot rate him among the elite of the elite. To place him in the all-time top 10 is laughable. I would not find room for him in my own top 25.
Among fighters who campaigned in the same weight classes as Pacquiao, I have to place him behind Sugar Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong, Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Gans, Benny Leonard, Roberto Duran, Pernell Whitaker, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Aaron Pryor, Alexis Arguello and, of course, Floyd Mayweather. And that is not even a complete, fully thought-out list.
I would place Manny Pacquiao somewhere around the same spot as the great Julio Cesar Chavez. I would rate Pacquiao a little bit ahead of his greatest rival, Juan Manuel Marquez, based on overall resume. But I also think Marquez deserved to win in both their second and third fights, and Marquez knocked him cold in the fourth bout.
But ultimately, there have been a lot of truly great fighters in the history of boxing. Ranking them across generations is never going to be a definitive exercise. Pacquiao