Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Weighing In On Manny Pacquaio

WITH the official announcement of his upcoming November 2009 bout with Miguel Cotto for the WBC Welterweight title, Manny Pacquiao is once again making headlines. As he moves up to Cotto's weight division, he is once again regarded as "the underdog." And that's the way he probably likes it.

Earlier this year, I was asked by GARAGE magazine to write a tribute piece of sorts on Pacman as seen in the eyes of boxing experts and sportswriters. This was prior to his fight with Ricky Hatton, who as one of those "experts" noted below should not be taken lightly, even by the GenSan native. Well, we all saw how Pacquiao took Hatton seriously, all right.

And here's how seriously I took that writing assignment, or should I say, writing challenge. Puwede na bang sportswriter?

Is Manny Pacquiao truly the world’s greatest?

HE is already the greatest boxer the country has ever produced. With his numerous achievements, Emmanuel “Manny” Dapidran Pacquaio is certainly a world class fighter who has done the Philippines proud many times over.

Even before his recent victory over fellow boxing legend Oscar Dela Hoya, he was already declared by Ring Magazine, the bible of the boxing world as “pound for pound, the world’s greatest fighter” after Floyd Mayweather, Jr., the man who previously held the title announced his retirement from the sport.

By “inheriting” the pound for pound title by default, there are still a few naysayers who have expressed their own doubts as to whether the pride of General Santos City truly deserves to be called the greatest in his time. Just how good or great is Manny Pacquiao also known as the “People’s Champion” then? And how better can he still get?

Reputable sportswriter who are also regarded as experts in boxing analysis have in several instances put Manny’s legend in perspective. The reigning WBC Lightweight Champ is, after all, the reigning champion in four divisions. And there’s a very good reason for that.

“More than the power, the conditioning and the skills, the size of his heart is what makes Manny Pacquiao the champion that he is,” wrote Quinito Henson in a feature profile of Pacquiao for People Asia Magazine. “No fighter has more guts, courage and determination than this southpaw. His spirit is what propels him to victory against all odds.”

In his article, Henson, a veteran sports analyst and regular commentator for the local coverage of Pacquiao’s fights, revealed the humble beginnings of the prized fighter. From his arrival in Port Area, Manila without a single centavo in his pocket to how he managed to work his way up to the top of the boxing ranks, Pacquiao has been all about heart.

Henson and other local sportswriters are not the only one impressed with Pacman’s fighting spirit. Marv Durmon of the Business and Finance Examiner attributes Pacquiao’s ring prowess to his humble beginnings. He wrote: “Boyhood Manny’s desperation for food and scraps of money was in direct proportion to the plight of his family for survival. “Pacman” the boxer’s desperation in the ring is in direct proportion to the magnitude of his struggle as a child. Marco Antonio Barrera, Eric Morales, Oscar de la Hoya—fought, and lost to, a desperate fighter; he has been desperate all his life.”

Stephen Galloway of echoes this sentiment: “All I can say is I offer my total respect to Manny Pacquiao for his admiration and courage,” he wrote.

“It is righteous to say that over the recent years Pacquiao has become somewhat of a boxing legend as well as a Filipino hero (So much so, he has even had his face printed on detergent bottles, foods, political posters and even toilet roll in his home country) I can’t speak for everyone but I certainly wouldn’t like to get caught disrespecting Pacquiao’s face with used toilet roll.”

He got that right. As the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Pacman is ranked ahead of valued fighters like Joe Calzaghe, Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley and more significantly, his next opponent Ricky Hatton who is only ranked number 9. The guy at number 2, Juan Manuel Marquez was already beaten by Pacquiao in a thrilling match last year that continues to beg for a rematch that is not likely to happen anytime soon.

Because even as Hatton is sitting way below Pacquiao in the pound-for-pound rankings, no one, not even Pacquaio is taking this deadly puncher for granted. “Facing Hatton certainly won’t be a walk in the park for the Pac-Man as bookmakers propose,” Galloway points out. “On the night Pacquiao must decide to either run or brawl with Hatton, if he comes to brawl I think Ricky would give him an ass whooping,”

“Also The Filipino added that he will be fighting Hatton at 140 pounds, a division he has yet to test,” he continues. “Whereas Hatton has clearly proved himself with an unbeaten record at the 140Lb mark, his only defeat coming in 2007 against Floyd Maywether where he boxed at 145 pounds for his first time opposing to his comfort zone of 139 ¾ to140 pounds. At the 140 mark The Hitman has beaten notable fighters such as Castillo, more recently Paulie Malignaggi and his biggest win to date against Kostya Tszyu all at his niche of 140 pounds.”

But that’s also where Pacquiao’s heart and fighting spirit comes into play. After Pacman’s demoltion of Dela Hoya, Henson granted a radio interview that puts the Pacquiao legend in perspective. Describing Pacquiao’s feat as “a David slaying a Goliath,”

Henson goes on to say, “Parang yung meron siyang challenge, mas lalo siyang susubok. Doon siya gumagaling, doon niya pinapakita sa mundo, na yes we can. (He takes on any challenge. He showed the world that yes, the Filipino can). Napakita niya that even if he’s an underdog, hindi siya titigil (He showed that even if he was the underdog, he will not give up). He showed the heart of a champion, he showed the heart of a Filipino.”

So is Manny Pacquiao truly the greatest fighter in the world? “Pacquiao was able to demonstrate not only that he's the world's best pound-for-pound fighter, but for the first time, how good he really is,” wrote Mark Kriegel of FoxSports. Com. “For months now, you have heard that a good big man beats a good little man. But what of a great little man?”

Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports has this to say. “The fight (with Dela Hoya) ended any debate whether Pacquiao or light heavyweight Joe Calzaghe deserves the top spot in the mythical pound-for-pound race, but it also sent a one-time legend into retirement,” he declares. “Manny Pacquiao unequivocally established himself as the finest fighter in the world.”

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