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Manny Pacquiao Vs. the Greats Part 2: The Junior Lightweights

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How Would Manny Pacquiao fare Against the Best Super Featherweight Fighters in Boxing History?

At junior lightweight Manny continued his ascent toward mega superstardom. One could also say it was a period of leveling off. His run at 130 was the calm before the storm, and the first division where he encountered problems since his flyweight title run years before. This version of Pacquiao was a great fighter, but still a vulnerable and one-handed one, as evidenced by his loss to Erik Morales and razor-thin decision over Juan Manuel Marquez, both at this very weight.

Manny Pacquiao vs. All-Time Junior Lightweights Fight #1:

Flash Elorde

World Junior Lightweight Champion (1960-67)

88-27-2 (33 KOs)

Analysis: Elorde may not have had the career Manny has had, but the legendary Filipino was considered the best ever of his nation until Manny’s recent ascension. Some old timers may even think he still was the best. Sometimes we can be overly sentimental toward fighters from our youth. He didn’t have much success in other divisions, and did lose a bunch of fights, but from 1960 to 1967 this junior lightweight was the top dog in his division and arguably the best ever at this weight.

Manny is stepping right into Elorde’s wheelhouse at 130. Elorde was a complete boxer-puncher, with speed, skills, and an incredible will to win. Manny at 130, while extremely formidable, was still finding his way. By the time Elorde made it to the top, he had seen it all. Fighting every style of boxer around the world and splitting two bouts with legendary Sandy Saddler will make you grow up fast.

What a fight this would have been. In a super-fast paced, skillful encounter, both men would swap punches on nearly even terms. Elorde would equal Manny in terms of slashing ferocity and viciousness, and begin to nudge his nose ahead in the later rounds. The seasoning and skills of Elorde would allow him to hold an edge going into the later rounds. A right hook in the final round would drop Pacquiao for a brief count, and he would lose a fairly close, but clear decision. At root, you have a still-developing fighter who despite his already-great skills is facing the most-accomplished fighter ever in this division.

Result: Elorde by unanimous decision.

Manny Pacquiao vs. All-Time Junior Lightweights Fight #2:

Alexis Arguello

WBC Super Featherweight Champion (1978-80)

82-8 (65 KOs)

Analysis: Readers of Part One may recall Pacquiao winning a decision over Alexis at 126. What could change in four pounds? Well, Alexis’ level of improvement between the two weights surpassed Pacquiao’s level of improvement over the same period. Arguello’s two-year reign may not be enough to make him the best ever at 130 in a historical sense. But from a naked-eye point of view, he very well may have been the very best junior lightweight to ever grace the ring.

At 130, Arguello had picked up a few of the finer points. He positioned himself better, had an enhanced view of ring geography, and had improved his footwork slightly. The extra weight seemed to help him become a bit more solid in stature. A painfully skinny, young, murderous-punching dynamo at 126, he had matured into a more robust version of himself at 130.

Alexis, however, would always have problems with speedy, imaginative fighters like Pacquiao. For 7-8 rounds, Pacquiao would be having his way, in a continuation from their first fight at 126. But at the end of the day, it’s asking too much of this version of Pacquiao to endure 2 championship fights with the legendary Arguello with no adverse affects. Sometime around round 9, he would make a miscalculation, and run right into an Arguello left hook that would send him to the mat. After taking several trademark Arguello right crosses, Pacquiao would be sent sprawling to the canvas for the ten-count.

They split the first two bouts. Let’s see what happens in the rubber match at 135 in Part 3.

Result: Arguello by ninth-round KO.

Manny Pacquiao vs. All-Time Junior Lightweights Fight #3:

Hector Camacho

WBC Super Featherweight Champion (1983-84)

79-5 (38 KOs)

Analysis: This period represents such a brief portion of Camacho’s up and down career that it is easy to forget. Make no mistake about it, however, as Camacho was absolutely great at 130. It’s been said by some that this version of Camacho had the fastest hands ever seen in the ring. At this time in his career, he was also daring and hard-hitting, an absolute whirlwind. This was before his lifestyle and Edwin Rosario got a hold of him. He then became a defensively over-conscious and sporadic performer.
Manny Pacquiao and Freddie Roach
Camacho’s ungodly speed would be a difficult puzzle for Pacquiao to solve. It is not very difficult to imagine a wary Camacho zipping around the ring like a hummingbird on a triple espresso at the first bell and edging several early rounds. But somewhere in the middle-rounds, Pacquiao, who was no slouch in the speed department, would begin to break through with a series of left-hand shots that would begin to find a home on Camacho’s face.

The more Pacquiao rakes Camacho with lefts, the more defensive Camacho would become. The classic frontrunner, Camacho never reacted terribly well when getting the short end of the stick. Pacquiao’s onslaught would eventually force Camacho to stop taking chances. In almost full-blown survival mode, Camacho would run and hold, barely making it the bell.

Result: Pacquiao by unanimous decision.

Manny Pacquiao vs. All-Time Junior Lightweights Fight #4:

Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

WBA Super Featherweight Champion (1998-2002)

40-0 (25 KOs)

Analysis: As these two prepare to actually face each other it’s important to note the different mindsets in handicapping this fight now, as opposed to what would have happened at 130. Pacquiao’s level of improvement from his junior lightweight days has been phenomenal. Can the same be said for Mayweather? Maybe to some degree, but 130 may represent his apex as a fighter. Not that he slipped, but it was when he was at his most breathtaking. He was in his most dominant and spectacular form and more importantly; he was tested against the best in his division. For those who now criticize Mayweather, it is because they are juxtaposing him against what he was at 130—not only a prodigious talent but also one who took on the best.

With that said, Pacquiao would still represent his most robust challenge at 130. Mayweather never fought anyone at 130 or since with Manny’s combination of skills. Even at that point, Manny had developed into a force that no junior lightweight could have an easy night’s work with. Mayweather would have his hands full and then some.

The same reasons that Mayweather backers use to justify him beating Manny at welterweight are the same things that would be at play at 130, just on a more pronounced level. I’m not so sure that right now Mayweather’s speed, mastery of angles, defense and ring IQ are enough to fend off Manny. Frankly, I have my doubts that it is. But at 130, I think it would be enough. This is the same version of Manny that lost to a post-peak Erik Morales, an almost unfathomable outcome against that caliber of opponent at this point in Manny’s career.

Pacquiao has become a study in positioning and two-handed fury. At 130, these areas had not yet been refined, as opposed to Mayweather who was already the total package. In a close bout, I see Mayweather’s advanced guile and slickness giving a younger Manny major problems. At that point in his career, Manny may have been ill-equipped to deal with not only the speed of Floyd, but his boxing skills and defense as well. Throw in the component that Floyd was also a very hard-hitting junior lightweight, and I think the evidence tips this fight into Floyd’s favor.

Manny would not be without hope in a junior lightweight clash with Mayweather, however. Knowing what he’d be up against, Manny wouldn’t come into the ring with the same mindset he had against the likes of Jorge Solis and Oscar Larios. He would be extremely focused and fired-up, and could conceivably bridge the gap in skills with pure aggression and energy. I think to some degree he would, and this bout would be an absolute classic in terms of skills and thrills.

At 130, Mayweather was already fully tapping into his deep reservoir of greatness, while Manny was still defining the parameters of his.

Result: Floyd Mayweather by majority decision.

Final Thoughts: I feel Pacquiao’s recent run has nudged him just ahead of Alexis Arguello on the All-Time Greats List. Therefore, this places him ahead of everyone on this list historically, including Mayweather. However, historical standing does not override the fact that fighters’ careers should be judged on a continuum, not as a whole. At 126 and 130, Manny was excellent and worthy of all-time placement, but hardly a shoo-in to beat the best ever at those weights.

Stay tuned to Part 3 where a peaking Manny will test his growing skills against the best lightweights of all time.

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 Credit: Frederick Manligas Nacino / Creative Commons 3.0 License

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