His total body of work is second to none when compared to other great boxers of our generation. He’s only one of a handful of fighters in history that has surpassed his potential and expectations. This rare accomplishment should be appreciated by boxing fans and analysts.
Still his wins and accomplishments are too often downgraded and attributed to his opponents’ shortcomings instead of his ability to find a way to win. Many of his critics ignored his win versus Oscar De La Hoya since the latter was supposedly past his prime and weight drained. Yet, many of those critics knew those circumstances beforehand and still picked Oscar because they did not think that Manny had the boxing ability to pull out a victory.
But a funny thing happened as Pacquiao not only beat Oscar but did it in a dominating fashion. Then he followed that up with a performance for the ages against Hatton. Once again, more attention was given to the assumption that Hatton was washed up and no longer an elite fighter. The fact is that no one had beaten Hatton at 140 and was still in his prime.
Pacquiao’s record in the lower weight classes had also been put into question. Some accuse him of ducking Tim Austin and Rafael Marquez by skipping the Bantamweight Division. Pacquiao would have fought those fighters in heart beat if given the chance. What most boxing fans fail to realize was that Filipino fighters despite of their talent and accomplishments had a difficult time obtaining a fight in the U.S.
Many promoters did not think that there was a market for Filipino fighters. The only visible Filipino fighter here in the U.S. during the 90’s was Luisito Espinosa. Pacquiao was a champion at flyweight and had a solid record, yet only Freddie Roach and Murach Muhammad were willing to take a chance on him.
Nonito Donaire validated this issue in an interview at Eastside Boxing when he said " Early in my career I could not get a fight, I was the one that was chosen on two days notice. I never had the choice to make things happen. When I tried to sign with managers in the past I was told that Filipinos were not marketable. I was told that Filipino fighters couldn’t break an egg…but Manny has helped change all of that and we are thankful for everything he has done for the Filipino boxing world."
There is no doubt Pacquiao would have accepted a fight with either Austin or Marquez since a fight with either fighter would have given him his highest payday and the recognition that he had been seeking. The same reason that he took a fight with a respectable champion in Lehlohonolo Ledwaba on two weeks’ notice.
Another criticism that has been thrown at Pacquiao is the issue of catchweights. But many fighters including Leonard, Chavez, Hearns, and Hopkins have all had catchweight fights. Yet, no one has taken more heat than the current Pound for Pound King. He’s only had one catchweight fight, which was against Cotto, who is one of the better welterweights around and it was at a fair weight of 145. Sure, he could have stayed at 140 and cleaned out the division, but he chose to take on a greater challenge as he always does. Oscar De La Hoya, once mentioned that it’s more difficult to become a multi-divisional champion than to clean out a division.
His thirst for the best of challenges is the main reason that he’s now considered by most as the best fighter Pound for Pound today. The impressive win against Cotto further enhanced his legacy and no matter what happens from now on, his place among the greats will remain secured. Even his most ardent critics are finding it more difficult not to give him the respect that he deserves.
But why did it take so long for fans and analysts to fully appreciate Pacquiao? It’s because it’s something different and unexpected. Who would have thought that a Filipino would be considered not only the best boxer, but arguably the most bankable superstar in a sport usually dominated by Americans and Latinos?
Remember when the U.S. basketball team started to lose in the Olympics? We had a difficult time accepting that other nations were catching up with us in terms of basketball skills. Just imagine if the Americans started dominating the sport of soccer. Soccer fans from Latin and European nations no doubt would find excuses to downplay the accomplishment of the U.S soccer team.
It’s just human nature to find it difficult to accept something different. Some have even brought up the issue that Pacquiao supposedly has not face any black fighters. But when confronted with the facts that he fought Agapito Sanchez and Ledwaba; those critics modified their criticism to how Pacquiao had not fought any African American fighters. The fact is when Pacquiao was at the lower weight classes he fought the best and the top fighters just happened to be Asians and Latinos.
It’s also a generational issue; some people just cannot accept the fact that an athlete from today has reached the same level as their sport heroes from the past. It’s impossible to compare fighters from different eras because there is no way to prove who was better. It’s also been proven in history that just as records are made to be broken, another athlete is bound to arise to set new standard in his/her respective sport. We saw this with Tiger Woods in golf and Michael Jordan in basketball.
It’s time to appreciate Manny Pacquiao as he personifies our ideal athlete; one with an undying desire to continually improve and provide the best performance to the fans. He’s earned every bit of the success and accolades that he has garnered. For a non-American who barely spoke English to become one of the most popular athletes in the world only shows the significance of his accomplishments.
However, it should be noted that Pacquiao’s success is not only attributed to his work ethic but by the choices he’s made. While others chose the path of money, Pacquiao chose the path to greatness. He may not be the most technically skilled fighter, but the most gifted and talented don’t always become the best. It’s about maximizing your potential and meeting the expectations that you set for yourself. Manny Pacquiao has achieved that and it’s the reason that he’s secured in his legacy and is in a “win-win” situation no matter what he does from here on out.
Author: Oliver Suarez