By Vivem Soriano
Eagle News Service
On Sunday, July 15, Filipino ring icon and boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, the sport’s only 8-division world champion, will challenge Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse for the regular WBA welterweight belt at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Pacquiao currently holds a record of 59 wins with 38 knockouts, 7 losses and 2 draws. Matthysse, meanwhile, carries an impressive record of 39 wins, with 36 via knockout, 4 losses and 1 no contest.
Pacquiao is coming off a highly controversial defeat, losing his WBO welterweight crown against Australian boxer Jeff Horn via unanimous decision in July 2017.
Matthysse meanwhile is coming off two stoppage wins, a TKO victory over Emmanuel Taylor in May 2017 and an 8th-round knockout win over Tewa Kiram last January 27.
Before the Pacman battles the Argentinian power puncher, here is a look back at the five most memorable bouts of his amazing career:
- Lehlohonolo Ledwaba
6th round TKO win to capture the IBF Jr. Featherweight Title (122 lbs.)
June 23, 2001 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada
Fighting as a replacement boxer in just two weeks’ notice, this was also the Pacman’s first bout in the US and, most importantly, his first under the tutelage of trainer Freddie Roach.
This fight is considered as Pacquiao’s coming-out party and big break into the mainstream boxing scene in the US as he was practically unknown in America before this fight. Jim Lampley, George Foreman and Larry Merchant, the boxing commentators that night, had practically no idea who he was back then that they were mispronouncing his name all throughout the bout. So was Michael Buffer, who announced his name as if he was saying a curse word.
But once the bout began, Pacquiao made sure they would never forget the boxer with the yellow-dyed hair.
Pacquiao surprised Ledwaba with his fast and powerful left hand that the South African’s nose was already bleeding badly during the 1st round. The domination continued in the 2nd round after the Pacman scored a knockdown on a short but powerful left straight. Ledwaba had some moments during the 4th and 5th rounds but Pacquiao replied with more power shots, scoring another knockdown in the 6th round before finishing the South African a few seconds later.
- Antonio Margarito
Unanimous decision win to capture the WBC Super Welterweight Title (154 lbs.)
November 13, 2010 at the Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas
Yes, Pacquiao was the clear and overwhelming favorite. But before the fight not a few could help but get worried because he was still facing a much bigger and heavier guy.
Margarito was just coming off a suspension after it was discovered that, before his bout against Mosley the year before, there was an illegal substance on his wraps similar to plaster of Paris. There was therefore suspicion he had been fighting with loaded gloves all throughout his career. The controversy put into question all of his wins, including his most famous victory against Miguel Cotto.
Though the bout was for the then-vacant WBC Super Welterweight Title, the fight was held at a catchweight of 150 pounds. Margarito was obviously much bigger (he was 5’11” while Pacquiao was only 5’6”) and entered the bout with a 17-pound (165-148) weight advantage after the weigh-in.
Pacquiao’s superior boxing skills and blazing hand speed won the day, giving him a dominating and brilliant unanimous decision victory. With the win, Pacquiao won a world title on a record eight weight classes, becoming the only boxer in history to do so.
But some believed the bout should have been stopped earlier. Referee Laurence Cole was criticized for not halting the fight sooner as it was clear that Pacquiao, who was begging for the fight to be stopped, was badly hurting Margarito. Margarito was hurt so badly he suffered a severely fractured right orbital bone, leaving him with a permanent eye injury. The big Mexican was unable to attend the post-fight press conference because the ring doctor was so worried he could get blind. He was immediately transported to a waiting ambulance to a nearby hospital.
The event was attended by 41,734 fans at the ultra-modern Cowboys Stadium and generated 1.15 million PPV buys.
- Marco Antonio Barrera
11th Round TKO win to capture the Ring Magazine and lineal featherweight title (126 lbs.)
November 15, 2003 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas
This was the bout that catapulted Pacquiao to elite boxing status. This was also Pacquiao’s first campaign in the featherweight division, making him a heavy underdog for almost all boxing pundits then.
Fighting in front of an entirely hostile Mexican crowd, Pacquiao overcame a highly questionable 1st round knockdown (replays showed it was a slip) en route to a complete and utter destruction of Barrera, then considered the top featherweight and a pound-for-pound best at the time. The Mexican was completely surprised by the speed and power of the Filipino southpaw, unable to find any answer against his power shots and combinations which were coming from all angles. Barrera was so frustrated he threw an illegal punch against Pacquiao while referee Laurence Cole was trying to separate them from a clinch, costing him a point deduction during the 9th round.
Barrera’s corner threw in the towel at the 11th round, finally realizing that the bout was clearly lost.
- Juan Manuel Marquez
6th round KO loss in a non-title welterweight bout (147 lbs.)
December 8, 2012 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada
The bout started slowly. Both fighters appeared to be so familiar and wary of one another after 36 rounds of trading punches that the two appeared to be more concerned about not getting hit by the other than throwing punches.
But in the 3rd round, Marquez floored Pacquiao with a booming overhand right, the first time the Pacman was knocked down in any of their four bouts. The Mexican continued his dominance during the 4th round as he continually tagged the Filipino slugger with combinations punctuated by his right hand.
Pacquiao recovered and dominated the 5th round, flooring Marquez with a powerful left straight. Marquez tried to turn the 5th around with some significant punches that appeared to have affected Pacquiao. But the Pacman regained control during the last minute of the round, tagging Marquez with unanswered combinations highlighted by a solid right hook which buckled the Mexican’s knees and leaving him with a bloodied face.
The domination continued in the 6th round. Pacquiao stalked the Mexican slugger and it even appeared that he would finish off Marquez in that round. But with just a few seconds remaining in the round, Pacquiao went in and forced Marquez into the corner with a combination. Marquez smartly ducked the punches, let Pacquiao come in then launched a vicious right straight into the Filipino boxer’s face which sent the Filipino icon crashing down to the canvas. Pacquiao laid unconscious for a few minutes as if he was dead.
The loss against Marquez was so devastating that veteran boxing analyst Merchant wondered if we would ever see Pacquiao fight again. Though the Pacman eventually recovered and won against Rios, avenged his first loss against Timothy Bradley and dominated the much bigger Chris Alghieri, the brutal loss against Marquez clearly had an effect on Pacquiao’s style on his succeeding bouts. It was obvious after that that Pacquiao had become more cautious and less aggressive. It appeared as if he was no longer looking to finish his opponents off and was just content to outbox them. In short, the punching volume was still there, but the killer instinct seemed to have been gone.
This played well right into the plans of Floyd Mayweather Jr., whom Pacquiao fought and lost to in May 2015. The American cleverly danced around Pacquiao during their bout, knowing too well that the Filipino icon would hesitate to come forward to throw those combinations. His punches were countered by Mayweather’s crisp left jab and superb right hand straight.
- Oscar De La Hoya
8th Round TKO win in a non-title welterweight bout (147 lbs.)
December 6, 2008 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada
So why is this the most important bout in Pacquiao’s career?
The Ledwaba fight was his big break. The first tussle with Barrera gave him elite boxing status. But his beatdown of the legendary Oscar De La Hoya made him a legend of his own.
Fighting at a catchweight of 147 pounds, which is also the welterweight limit, the De La Hoya-Pacquiao match was dubbed “The Dream Match.” The diminutive Filipino was facing a 5’10’’ giant who had been campaigning at much higher weight classes. This was Pacquiao’s first foray above the 135-pound weight limit which just a few months before was also his first and only bout yet at lightweight, where he beat David Diaz for the belt. There was serious concern that Pacquiao could get badly hurt considering that De La Hoya had been battling it out at the middleweight division. Many thought Pacquiao would never be able to handle such heavy punches.
But Pacquiao put on a performance of a lifetime. His speed and accuracy were just too much for the bigger De La Hoya. The American couldn’t seem to figure out where the punches were coming, appearing confused and helpless inside the ring. Pacquiao was so quick that De La Hoya couldn’t even throw a punch, much more land one. And in the few moments he was able to hit the Filipino boxer, Pacquiao proved that he could handle and absorb the punches.
The worst pummelling was during the 7th and 8th round, where Pacquiao repeatedly tagged and connected with powerful combinations and De La Hoya appeared to be just hanging on to survive the round. De La Hoya also stopped punching, allowing Pacquiao to press more and more with his unrelenting assault. The end came when De La Hoya, sitting on his stool at his corner, said he could no longer continue before the start of the 9th round. The bout was officially declared as an 8th round TKO victory for Pacquiao.
Pacquiao cemented his status as the best boxer and pound-for-pound fighter in the world, only relinquishing the top spot after losing to Bradley via a highly controversial and disputed split decision loss in June 2012.
The win paved the way for Pacquiao to become champion in eight weight classes, a feat only he has achieved in the long history of the sport of boxing.