Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pacquiao’s historic quest

by Jojo Robles
manilastandardtoday.com

Some people say that Manny Pacquiao’s fight this weekend is historic because if he wins he would become the first fighter to win championship belts in seven different weight classes, the first time that’s been done. As boxing writer P.H. Burbridge wrote on the East Side boxing Web site (eastsideboxing.com):

“For Manny Pacquiao, a win puts him in a class all by himself. He would have accomplished a feat that no boxer in the history of the sport has ever achieved and that’s winning a seventh championship in a seventh weight division.

“It’s a mark that you might not see equaled or broken in your lifetime. A feat that our grandchildren will marvel at. Much [like] the way we marvel at Henry Armstrong’s feat of holding the featherweight, lightweight and welterweight titles simultaneously 70 years after the fact. [If Pacquiao wins,] people will similarly be talking about Manny’s accomplishment.

“Most of us will be long dead and gone and our ancestors will still be throwing this man’s name around. Who knows, maybe this accomplishment will become boxing’s version of [football coach] Don Shula’s record in the NFL of most wins for a head coach. It might be damn near impossible to break. Shula was a head coach for over 30 years! In today’s age of one bad season and “there’s the door” it’s hard to imagine anyone being around long enough to even challenge him.

“Maybe the same will be true of a seven weight-division champion. In a sport that’s becoming increasingly more fiscally conservative and becoming far less historically adventurous, who would even dare undertake such a lofty challenge? Especially, if it’s not in your best financial interest to do so.

“It may make more financial sense to stick around your division and defend your title [like Floyd Mayweather Jr. – JR]. The circumstances would have to be just right to justify a move up and, let’s be honest, we’ve just been lucky that those circumstances of late have suited Manny Pacquiao. I’m pretty confident that much of this happened in a natural, unplanned manner.

“Obviously, Team Pacquiao were astute enough to identify the opportunities and capitalize but the landscape really suited Manny’s run at history. If [Antonio] Margarito was still on top at welterweight along with Paul Williams and maybe even Shane Mosley, the chances of Manny moving up to challenge would have been highly unlikely. But because Miguel Cotto is generally viewed as damaged on a number of levels, Pacquiao and his people have based their run on that perceived weakness. The stars have aligned to make all this possible from Bob Arum representing both guys to Freddie Roach convincing himself this is the right guy at the right time....

“Certainly there’s no one on the horizon today that has a real shot at it. Floyd Mayweather Jr. has the distinction of being a five weight-division champion but he would have to win the middleweight AND the super middleweight title just to match Manny. We all know that’s not likely and we also don’t expect Floyd to challenge for the 122 or 126 lb championships, either.

“Manny will be the MAN! Period!”

* * *

But as far as Pac-man’s recent personal history is concerned, the bout with Puerto Rico’s Miguel Angel Cotto is already significant even before it begins because it will be the first time in a long time that the Filipino champ will be an odds-on favorite. Of course, it will be pointed out that Pac-man wasn’t exactly the underdog in his fights against David Diaz and Oscar de la Hoya, both of which took place fairly recently, as well. But these two bouts were just like treading water for the Pinoy champ —I’m talking about his two last fights, when Pacquiao really started to get the attention of sports fans (not just fight fans) the world over.

These were Pac-man’s battles against Oscar de la Hoya and Ricky Hatton, two fancied boxers who were both predicted almost universally to put the hurt on Pacquiao even before the first-round bell was rung. Of course, after Pacquiao had punched the Golden Boy into retirement and sent the British champ off to dreamland in the second round, the know-it-all boxing fans were quick to point out that both of them were shot fighters when they faced off with the Filipino.

De la Hoya was weight-drained and old, they said; Hatton was a pub fighter with no defense and a career record that was window-dressed with patsies, they added. Neither was a true test for Pac-man, said the very same people who had predicted Pacquiao’s demolition.

But Cotto is an entirely different set of boxing gloves altogether. The Puerto Rican champion that Pacquiao will face is acknowledged to be the bigger and more powerful fighter, younger than the Filipino and definitely in his prime.

And yet, Pacquiao is the 3-1 favorite in Las Vegas, according to the vote of the people who actually put their money where their mouth is, the bettors. Now, that’s historic.

There might be some truth to what that slimy promoter Bob Arum is saying, regarding the betting odds, that the bookmakers’ calculations are just being skewed by the heavy bets being made by Filipinos backing their champion. On the other hand, Arum also insists that Pacquiao is “the only social welfare system of the Philippines” to drum up the Pinoy fighter’s so-called generosity at home, so we’ll have to take whatever he says with a huge boulder of salt.

The truth is, the so-called experts are just about equally divided in their predictions about the Pacquiao-Cotto fight. While Pacquiao has endeared himself to fight fans the world over for his exploits, there is definitely no shortage of boxing analysts and fans who pick the Puerto Rican over the Filipino.

This marks a definite sea change in the way people view the Pac-man, who is used to entering the ring against elite fighters as the decided underdog. And to shocking the world when he raises his hands in victory afterwards by vanquishing his heavily-favored opponent.

(If Pacquiao wins and Floyd Mayweather Jr. decides that Pac-man is small enough and money-making enough to challenge, then the odds will surely be against the Filipino once again—something that Pacquiao will probably like. This early, a lot of fight fans are expecting that fight to come to pass because the money will just be too big for either to refuse, even if most of them believe it will be a one-sided affair in favor of the undefeated fighter that they call “Money.”)

The fact of the matter is, whatever the outcome of this weekend’s fight, Pacquiao will already be acknowledged as one of the greatest-ever practitioners of the “sweet science,” as they used to call it. He is already hands down the greatest Filipino sportsman who ever lived—and that’s saying a lot in a country that has never seen anyone as world-renowned in the sporting world as the fighter from General Santos.

Having said all that, I’m picking the odds-on favorite on Sunday—and hoping that Mayweather is up next in 2010. Go Pac-man!

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