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Thursday, November 28, 2013

THE MANY FACES OF MANNY PACQUIAO: World’s Boxing Icon (Part 1)

The Golden Eras of Philippine Boxing
Photo courtesy of inquirere.net
Undoubtedly, the name of Emmanuel "Manny" Dapidran Pacquiao will remain in the world’s sports history as one of the most revered and exciting prizefighter in the field of boxing. 
Before the surge of Manny Pacquiao, boxing history books has recorded 2 other prominent Filipino pugilists who made their niches in the international boxing scene.

Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.com
The First Golden Era
Francisco Guilledo a native of Ilog, South Negros Occidental and more commonly known in boxing circle as Pancho Villa was the first Filipino who carved the Philippines name in the international boxing map.  After winning local boxing fights, Pancho Villa  was invited to fight in the United States and captured the 1922 American Flyweight championship by an 11th round knockout over incumbent champion Johnny Buff. Villa would later win the World Flyweight Champion on June 1923, coming from a knockout of Jimmy Wilde in the 7th round, after knocking down the Welshman in the 4th and 5th rounds, resulting to Wilde’s retirement from boxing. 

The Filipino World Flyweight Champion successfully defended his title several times and never relinquished it until his death just two years later in 1925 at a young age of 23. Villa was inducted into the International Hall of Fame and added to the Ring Magazine own Boxing Hall of Fame. Only 5 foot 1 inch tall and weighing no more than 114 lbs., Francisco Guilledo, acclaimed by many  quarters as "the greatest Asian fighter in boxing history "recorded a total of 92 wins, (23 by knockouts), 9 losses and 4 draws.

The Second Golden Era
Gabriel “Flash” Elorde was another Filipino professional boxer who won the World Junior Lightweight Championship in 1960 by knocking out Harold Gomes in the 7th round. In 1963, Elorde was declared as WBC and WBA champion and held the junior lightweight division record for 7 years, the longest title reign on record. He defended the crown 10 times until June 15, 1967 where he lost a majority decision to Yoshiaki Numata. He was much loved in the Philippines as a sports and cultural icon, being the first Filipino international boxing champion since Francisco Guilledo (Pancho Villa). Elorde retired with a record of 88 wins (33 KOs), 27 losses and 2 draws and was named "the greatest world junior lightweight boxing champion in WBC history" in 1974. A chain smoker, Elorde died of lung cancer at the age of 49. Elorde was inducted to the International Hall of Fame.
After the golden era of Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, there were many other Filipino boxers who prominently made their marks in international boxing as world champions albeit in short-lived fashion. Among them were Roberto Cruz, Pedro Adigue Jr., René Barrientos,  Bernabe Villacampo,  Erbito Salavarria,  Ben Villaflor, Rolando Navarrrete,  Frank Cedeno, Dodie Boy Penalosa, Rolando Bohol and  Luisito Espinosa.

The Third Golden Era
Photo courtesy of examiner.com
The Philippines was not considered a formidable stable for world boxing champions until an obscure Filipino pugilist with a blonde-dyed hair and flame trimmed trunks named Manny Pacquiao came into the boxing world. As an entertaining star of a local boxing program “Blow-by-Blow”,  Pacquiao's name was an attraction both to the audience and tele-viewers not only because of his aggressive style, but more on his unique appearances and catchy surname. Then, nobody had thought that Pacquiao would pave the way for the third greatest era of Philippine boxing and a new wave of Filipino boxers.

Wikipedia recorded that “On December 4, 1998, Pacquiao upset Thai Champion Chatchai Sasakul in Thailand to win the WBC Flyweight Championship (his first world title). On his title defense, Pacquiao lost his title on the scale and was knocked out in the fight by Medgoen Singsurat of Thailand. Pacquiao was unable to the make flyweight limit and move to super bantamweight division. Pacquiao, for the second time in his career, was the heavy underdog against South African Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, the reigning IBF Super Bantamweight Champion. On June 23, 2001, Pacquiao won his second world title in 2 different weight divisions. In 2003, Pacquiao's career rose to its peak as he stopped the then reigning The Ring Featherweight champion Marco Antonio Barrera of Mexico via 11th round technical knockout. From then on, Pacquiao has acquired 3 lineal (The Ring) titles and four major (WBC & IBF) world titles along six different divisions- flyweight (112 lbs.), super bantamweight (122 lbs.), featherweight (126 lbs.), super featherweight (130 lbs.), lightweight (135 lbs.) and light welterweight (140 lbs.). On, November 14, 2009, Pacquiao surpassed Oscar De La Hoya's record of six-division titles by stopping WBO welterweight champion Miguel Angel Cotto to win his 11th title across seven divisions. 

A year later, he made history by being the first boxer ever to win 8 world titles in 8  weight divisions as he dominated Mexican slugger Antonio Margarito to win the vacant WBC Light Middleweight title. Since 2003, Pacquiao amassed a record of 16 wins, 1 loss and 1 draw in his last 18 fights (his only loss came against Mexican Erik Morales, whom he defeated 2-times all by knockouts in their trilogy). The Filipino fighter defeated some of the best oppositions available along the way to his superstardom including Mexicans Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Márquez and Antonio Margarito, British Ricky Hatton, Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, and Americans Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley.

Photo courtesy of boxing360.com
Manny Pacquiao is the first and only 8-division world champion, in which he has won 11 world titles, as well as the first to win the lineal championship in 4 different weight classes. At one time, Manny was also listed the second highest paid athlete in the world.

Pacquiao was named "Fighter of the Decade" for the 2000’s by the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA), World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Organization (WBO). He is also a three-time “The Ring” and BWAA "Fighter of the Year," winning the award in multiple years ; in 2006, 2008 and 2009, and the Best Fighter ESPY Award in 2009 and 2011. Pacquiao was long rated as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world by some sporting news and boxing websites, including ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Sporting Life, Yahoo! Sports, About.com, BoxRec and The Ring.
The Pacquiao – Brandon Boxing Bout

True to my earlier foresight, there was no doubt that Pacquiao will win against Rios. Every boxing fan would agree with me that Rios is notches down below the level of Pacquiao. Rios cannot be considered within the shades of Eric Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Timothy Bradley, Ricky Hatton  and Juan Manuel Marquez, fighters whom Pacquiao made “mince meat” in his more than a decade of conquests of the world’s top ranked boxers.  

I have watched the Pacquiao - Rios fight on TV which I have recorded, for 6 times. Surely it was a dominating performance by Manny Pacquiao, winning almost every round of the whole bout. It was an overly unmatched fight with Rios desperately looking for a “lucky” punch in the later rounds. But Rios never made even a single threat to win over Pacquiao.

Out of curiosity, I reviewed the earlier recorded fights of Pacquiao against Cotto, Shane Mosley, Margarito and Marquez. Definitely the Pacquiao of the Rios fight is not the same Pacquiao in his earlier fights, not even a shade of his own “Pacman” self. Gone is the sting of the 1-2-3 combination punches that toppled down Barrera, Cotto, Victor Ortiz, and Margarito. Nowhere were the juggernaut cross-over left hooks that sent Ricky Hatton and Morales to the canvas, not aware of what happened. Once the deadliest “slayer” of top caliber prizefighters, Pacquiao has not registered a “stoppage” victory for over 4 years.  More than that, Pacquiao endured back-to-back defeats last year against Tim Bradley and a shocking knockout by Juan Manuel Marquez in a span of a 19-year boxing career.  Is age catching up with Pacquiao?

Photo courtesy of gmanetwork.com
According to the legendary boxing analyst Larry Merchant Pacquiao “ has eased up, his brute power of old slowly being diminished by the termite of age. For Merchant, nothing, not even a knockout win in the latter rounds, could have swept the age factor under the rug for Manny Pacquiao as the Filipino boxing hero announced his return with what pundits here, like the grizzled American, said was an unremarkable decision victory over Brandon Rios. “I would have loved to see him win by stoppage, but you can’t expect an old bull to kick harder than it used to,” said Merchant after the fight.  The grizzled American boxing guru had told the Inquirer on the eve of the fight that “it’s a fair assessment” to assume that Pacquiao, who will turn 35 next month, may have lost his aura of invincibility due to his advancing age. “Merchant thinks that Pacquiao, more than his phantom opponent Floyd Mayweather Jr.  is “a little bit past his prime” and that his disquieting knockout defeat to Juan Manuel Marquez almost a year ago unraveled a “certain decline.” “Usually, when (fighters) get beaten up or stopped when they’re older it’s a reflection of certain decline,” said the 81-year-old former reporter and television broadcaster.

Many believed, as I do, that  when great boxer like Pacquiao, at his peak and close to immortality,  is knocked out the savage way Pacquiao was, something essential  is lost and can never be regained.  Just the mere image of a fallen hero, face down hitting the canvas and seemed lifeless for a couple of minutes… a morbid fear exists forever, a constant reminder of the prizefighter's mortality.

After the Pacquiao-Rios fight, updated report showed Floyd Mayweather retaining his top best “pound for pound” boxer title , with  45-0 win loss record with  26 knockouts. Rounding  the top 5 are Andre Ward, Guillermo Rigondeaux,  Roman Gonzales and Sergio Martinez. Pacquiao is listed as no. 7  following his tormentor Juan Manuel Marquez at no. 6 and upcoming undefeated welterweight champion Danny Garcia at no. 8.  

For us Filipinos, Pacquiao is our national hero. He is a world’s boxing icon who comes once in a lifetime that provides a glimmer of hope for the Philippines. The victory of Pacquiao over Rios is a wisp of fresh air for the Filipinos, amidst the devastation of the super typhoon Yolanda and the corruption scandals rocking the country for so long a time.    

Coming soon...Part 2 – Pacquiao as a Reluctant Politician

Rogelio G. Balo
Central Valley, California USA
Nov. 26, 2013

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