By Hans Olson
With Manny Pacquiao set to take on undefeated challenger Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley this Saturday on HBO Pay-Per-View, let’s reflect on what Boxing Insider sees as Pacquiao’s five best victories:
5. Manny Pacquiao vs. Ricky Hatton, May 2, 2009
Still riding high off his 8-round destruction of Oscar De La Hoya the previous December, Pacquiao moved back down a few pounds to fight the lineal champ at 140 lb., Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton.
The fighting pride of Manchester, England, Hatton had won that lineal claim when he dethroned the great Kosta Tszyu nearly four years prior.
Although just a couple fights removed from being knocked out by pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather, “The Hitman” was impressive beating Paulie Malignaggi in November 2008.
Ironically, many in the press attributed this to Ricky taking in his former foe’s father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., to train him.
Mayweather Sr., along with Pacquiao guru Freddie Roach, would steal HBO’s 24/7 spotlight, both trash talking during much of the stellar four-part reality series, each boasting with brash bravado what their tutelage would inspire come fight night.
On the night, it would be Manny Pacquiao himself making the most emphatic statement, ending “The Hitman’s” career with a devastating left hand.
4. Manny Pacquiao vs. Miguel Cotto, November 14, 2009
Going for his seventh world title in a seventh weight division, Pacquiao took on one of the finest fighters of his generation, Miguel Cotto.
Although Cotto may have compromised himself to a degree by fighting Manny with a 145 lb. “catchweight,” (Timothy Bradley told The Ring as much in its November 2009 issue, saying that “Cotto has to come down, and that will weaken him,” and that “a lot of people don’t realize how tough that is to suck up those two pounds”) it was Manny’s blazing speed, diversity, punching power, and most importantly, his chin that ultimately did the proud Puerto Rican in.
Taking as good as he gave, Manny ultimately gave Miguel way too much for him to handle.
3. Manny Pacquiao vs. Erik Morales II, January 21, 2006
When Pacquiao initially fought Erik Morales in March of 2005, he lost for the first time on American soil…something that hasn’t happened since.
But in January 2006, everything was at stake for Pacquiao, none more great than his pride.
In an instant classic that rivaled their first meeting, Manny dug down deep and eventually stopped the Mexican legend in the tenth.
Pacquiao would go on to batter Morales once more that November, but it’s their second bout that will forever be one of his greatest–and sweetest–victories.
2. Manny Pacquiao vs. Marco Antonio Barrera, November 15, 2003
Often described as the defining moment in his career, Manny became universally recognized as the best Featherweight in the world when he stopped Marco Antonio Barerra at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX.
From a boxing standpoint, it was impressive in that not only did he win a belt in his third different weight class, he did it in his first fight at Featherweight against one of the best fighters in the world at the time, pound for pound…and he knocked him out—something no other fighter has been able to do.
1. Manny Pacquiao vs. Oscar De La Hoya, December 6, 2008
This was the fight that changed everything.
Manny Pacquiao, jumping up two divisions, annihilated the “Golden Boy” in what seemed to be at the time a huge, huge upset.
Billed as “The Dream Match,” Pacquiao quickly made it a nightmare for Oscar De La Hoya.
Using lightning bolt straight lefts and rapid fire combinations, Pacquiao was utterly dominant, winning nearly each and every second a fight few saw him winning when it was signed.
After the culmination of the 224 landed shots rendered De La Hoya answerless, he retired on his stool at the recommendation of trainer Nacho Beristain (“He’s too fast for you Oscar!”).
And so began Manny’s worldwide march of superstardom.
With the one fight everyone wants to see against Mayweather being blocked by Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum, fight fans will take what they can get: and what we’ll get this Saturday will be Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley.
If Bradley envisions himself as a future superstar, he’d be wise to look no further than Manny’s win over De La Hoya.
Manny beat a legend, and thus he became one.
Then again, as we look back on Pacquiao’s five best wins, it can be hard to envision that happening.
But hey, that’s why they fight the fights.