Home Columns Manny Pacquiao vs. The Greats Part 1: The Featherweights

Manny Pacquiao vs. The Greats Part 1: The Featherweights

How Would Manny Pacquiao Fare Against the Best Fighters in Boxing History?

As Manny Pacquiao builds on his legacy it is perhaps time to put some of his accomplishments in historical perspective and to compare him to some of the all-time stalwarts in the divisions he has conquered.

Let’s begin at featherweight, where Manny exploded into the boxing consciousness on an international level. I have actually seen people paid to write about boxing claim he was not a featherweight champion. It is a preposterous notion of epic proportions. Naseem Hamed was the featherweight champion. He lost to Barrera. Barrera lost to Pacquiao. That is as linear as you can get.

Debating this on the basis of him not being recognized by an alphabet soup organization is an argument steeped in failure. To deny him status as a former featherweight champion is shilling for the sanctioning bodies and has no place in the arena of legitimate boxing writing.

So how would he do with the some of the better all-time featherweights?

Manny Pacquiao vs. The Greats Fight #1

Willie Pep

World Featherweight Champion (1942-48, 1949-50)

229-11-1 (65 KO’s)

Analysis: At one point, Pep was 134-1-1. That’s not a typo. You don’t build a record like that and get universally recognized as one of the top 5 fighters of all time for no reason. Pep was the greatest featherweight of all time by a margin that can only be rivaled by Ricardo Lopez at strawweight. He was without peer and known for possessing a level of boxing genius that is still marveled at today.

It is important to note that at featherweight Pacquiao had not yet reached his apex. While already showing flashes of his current juggernaut form, he was still unrefined in many areas and not the two-handed terror he is now. When you think of him being troubled by Juan Manuel Marquez’ boxing skills it becomes nearly impossible to imagine him beating the wizardly Pep. Pacquiao would be a handful for Willie to be sure and have his moments. But in the end, this less-advanced form of Manny would fall prey to the other-worldly skills of the “will o’ the wisp.”

Result: Pep by unanimous decision.

Manny Pacquiao vs. The Greats Fight #2

Alexis Arguello

WBA Featherweight Champion (1974-77)

82-8 (65 KO’s)

Analysis: “El Flaco Explosivo” was an extremely tall (5’10”) featherweight who generated freakish power from his string bean physique. Alexis collected one highlight-reel KO after another against the best in the world. Featherweight was where he first shined, later becoming a legendary triple champion and a member of the upper pantheon of boxing greats.

Arguello, like Pacquiao, had his best days after he left 126. While certainly great, Alexis was not quite as robust of a challenge at featherweight as he would later be at 130 and 135. The styles play a big role here. Manny would be in great danger of Alexis’ long range, one-punch power game. To a greater degree, however, Manny would present problems with his slashing style and movement. When one recalls Arguello’s struggle with shifty Ruben Castillo, it becomes easier to imagine Manny getting off first repeatedly against the stationary Arguello. Manny would get hit and busted up, but his toughness and skills would win the day.

Result: Pacquiao by unanimous decision.

Manny Pacquiao vs. The Greats Fight #3

Salvador Sanchez

WBC Featherweight Champion (1980-82)

44-1-1 (32 KO’s)

Analysis: Sanchez is the great “what coulda been” story of all time. Killed in a car crash at 23, he had already tallied huge wins at featherweight over Danny Lopez (twice), Juan LaPorte, Ruben Castillo, Wilfredo Gomez, and Azumah Nelson. He was a prodigious boxing talent with power, smarts, guile, and incredible ring generalship. By the time he passed away, he had already become an advanced study in the art of boxing.

I have been staring at the screen for a half hour, unable to make a pick. I think of Sanchez being pushed to the limit against a green Azumah Nelson, and I can picture Manny outpointing him. But while I think Manny has surpassed him historically, I go back to Manny at 126 not being the Manny we know now. He was a reasonably close facsimile of the fighter we see today, but still not at his peak.

I see a close fight with many close rounds. It becomes difficult to imagine the fight not being close. There would likely be a rematch and rubber match. The fight would be tense, action-packed, and leave little to separate the two. I just think at this point, Sanchez is a bit too advanced for Pacquiao. I see Sanchez’ counterpunching mastery getting him a razor-thin decision.

Result: Sanchez by majority decision.

Manny Pacquiao vs. The Greats Fight #4

“Prince” Naseem Hamed

36-1 (30 KO’s)

WBO Featherweight Champion (1995-2001)

Analysis: It’s easy to remember Hamed for the Barrera loss, an emotionally crippling defeat that suddenly ended Hamed’s run at the top. Fans, however, should remember the fruitful and unique reign of the “Prince.” He helped bring the lower weights back into the spotlight and was more than just glitz. He was an awkward, super-fast, one-punch KO artist with a long list of world-class victims. He inevitably became a victim of his own hubris. At a time when he was poised to become a mega superstar, his effort, focus, and commitment tailed off.

Against Pacquiao, Hamed would quite possibly be hurt badly. He might be lucky Barrera came along first. Hamed’s jive and bluster would have no affect on Manny. Hamed’s comical facial expressions would soon be rendered dead serious, as Manny would immediately begin whacking Hamed with straight lefts. Hamed’s power could surface in the form of a flash knockdown, but he would be getting nailed too much to gain solid footing in this fight. After getting dropped several times and taking an awful battering in a surprisingly one-sided fight, Hamed would finally go down.

Result: Pacquiao by ninth-round knockout.

Looking Ahead: Stay tuned for the next installment of this series, as Manny tackles the greatest junior lightweights of all time, including a matchup with fellow Filipino great Flash Elorde.

The Manny Pacquiao vs. The Greats series from ProBoxing-Fans.com is more of the nonstop buildup for Mayweather vs. Pacquiao that we’ll be providing on the site. So whether you are interested in Pacquiao vs. Mayweather predictions, or columns and fantasy fights like these, check back in often.

Image Source: Frederick Manligas Nacino / Creative Commons 3.0 License