Over a decade ago Manny Pacquiao burst onto the world boxing scene capturing the fans’ imagination with his intoxicating blend of speed and power that left many of his opponents in a heap on the canvas.
All told, Pacquiao has fought a who's who of the best fighters from 112- to 154-pounds in a career that started back in 1995. He’s won 10 world titles in an unprecedented eight-weight classes; four of them as lineal champion.
Just days before his 20th birthday, Pacquiao won his first world title, the WBC flyweight championship. Weight problems saw him lose the title in his second defense but he resurfaced at junior featherweight where he collected the IBF strap.
It wasn't until he fought the first of a trio of Mexican stars that he gained crossover fame in the U.S., stopping Marco Antonio Barrera in the penultimate round of their 2003 clash to collect the lineal featherweight championship (as well as THE RING magazine’s recognition). He would repeat the victory over Barrera four years later, only this time on points.
Between his two fights with Barrera, Pacquiao met Erik Morales on three occasions, losing a close decision in the first bout, exacting revenge with a 10th round stoppage, and taking the trilogy with a third-round shellacking.
Pacquiao most storied history is with Juan Manuel Marquez. The two have fought four times, over nearly a decade. They first met at featherweight, where “PacMan” dropped Marquez three times in the opening round only to see the game Mexican technician got off the canvas on each occasion to fight back. The classic fight ended as a draw.
It took four years for them to meet a second time, at junior lightweight, where Pacquiao would earn a hard-fought split decision to win the WBC title. Three years later they fought the rubber match with Pacquiao winning a hotly disputed majority decision.
It wasn’t until their fourth meeting in late 2012 that Marquez gained a measure of revenge. Both men had touched down before a huge right hand in the closing seconds of the sixth frame deposited Pacquiao face first onto the canvas, where he was counted out. The loss was shocking given the stature in the sport that Pacquiao had earned.
His rise to the top of the sport began in 2008, arguably the best year of the Filipino congressman’s career, when he won the WBC lightweight title and lineal junior welterweight championship with devastating one-punch knockouts of David Diaz and Ricky Hatton respectively. Between those impressive performances, he jumped from lightweight to welterweight and picked apart fellow superstar Oscar De La Hoya, forcing the bigger man to retire at the end of the eighth round.
As a welterweight he beat Miguel Cotto for the WBO title, as well as three-weight champion Shane Mosley. A brief foray at junior middleweight (though he weighed in well under the welterweight limit for the fight) saw him add the WBC laurels to his collection besting the much larger Antonio Margarito.
In mid 2012, Pacquiao was surprisingly beaten by Tim Bradley, losing for the first time in over seven years, a split decision most believed he should have won. That fight was followed by the devastating KO loss to Marquez, which led many to believe that perhaps Pacquiao’s days at the top were over.
However, Pacquiao bounced back late last year by winning a one-sided unanimous decision over Brandon Rios. The Filipino icon believed he showed in his last fight that he is still among the top fighters in the game.
“In my fight against Rios I proved I can still fight at the high level everyone expects from me. I showed I can still control a fight as well as I ever have,” said Pacquiao,a certain future Hall of Fame inductee who collected THE RING’s Fighter of the Year award in 2006, ‘07 and ‘09.
His anticipated rematch with Bradley on Saturday will let the world know if he’s still a pound-for-pound level fighter.
“The only way Bradley can beat me this time is to knock me out,” Pacquiao told RingTV.com. “He cannot outbox me. I will be the aggressor. I will throw a lot of punches at him – more than I threw against Rios – and I will land them. Last time I was too nice. This time, I will finish what I start.”
In the build up to this weekend’s highly anticipated rematch, Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 knockouts), now 35, took time out from his hectic schedule to speak with RingTV.com about the best fighters he has faced in 10 key categories.
Best Overall – I cannot specify one. Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales all had tremendous skills. They commanded respect because they were all multi-dimensional. I had to be on my toes and give them my 100 percent concentration because they were so dangerous in the ring.
Best Boxer – Juan Manuel Marquez – He is the only fighter who really could figure me out and anticipate my moves. He is a brilliant counterpuncher and a tremendous warrior.
Best Jab – Oscar De La Hoya – His jab is a tactical weapon. It can set up a punch or act as a weapon.
Best Defense – Joshua Clottey – and not for a good reason, at least for the fans.
Best Chin – Antonio Margarito – That fight was a war. It was brutal. I threw everything at him and he not only took it but came back for more. Incredible.
Best Puncher – Miguel Cotto – I can still feel some of those punches he threw at me. Staying on the ropes is not the best place to be when you are fighting him. He's also accurate. He's incredible.
Fastest Hands – Lehlo Ledwaba – His hands were blazing.
Fastest Feet – Oscar De La Hoya – He moves so quickly and effortlessly. He is a complete athlete.
Smartest – Miguel Cotto – It was hard to bait him. He has seen it all. I really had to out-hustle him. He made me work.
Strongest – Antonio Margarito – Big and strong is an understatement. His body shots hurt me several times throughout our fight.