I don't like Boxrec.com.
I respect the effort: A database of fights, reaching back through the decades of a sport that has more or less defined the whole meaning of "sport" for me. But I still don't like it, and the reason I don't can be summed up in two words:
Homicide Hank held three championships simultaneously, which represented more than a third of professional Boxing in his era. He's the stuff of legend. But if you browse boxrec.com's list of the top 100 All Time Pound for Pound fighters in history, he doesn't exist. He's not #98 or #99 or even #100. For the record, #100 is a Thai named Pone Kingpetch. I don't know who he is, either.
Manny Pacquiao fights like Armstrong fought. It's not just the weight jumps, either. Like Armstrong, his offense is naturally, almost merrily, murderous. They were both happy warriors who I don't think truly understood that they weren't supposed to be able to do the things they were doing. And, true to form, Pacquiao's most recent assault on Miguel Cotto looked as natural as a rainstorm in April. Manny's the five star ring general who started as a non-com, and by the mid rounds, he was playing the southpaw 1-2-1 on Cotto like a maestro hammering a Yamaha. It was weirdly premature for HBO's crew to call for a stoppage in the 7th round, but it also wasn't. It wasn't that Cotto was getting beaten to the verge of injury, like Oscar was. It was more like watching one chess grandmaster blow a crucial move, and deciding whether to watch the inevitable endgame play out. For Lampley, Steward and Lederman and the entire Cotto clan, the game was already over. Merchant wanted it to play on. So did I.
It was a great boxing moment, watching Cotto play out that losing hand. I saw the same sparks of defiance that marked all the great championship fights I've ever seen. I saw the Arguello who battled Pryor -- and the aftermath, and the questions that last to this day. But the triumph of Pacquio was more Armstrong-esque than that. There hasn't been any controversy about Manny Pacquiao, and there won't be. He's the genuine article. He can sing or star in goofy movies or run for president. But the slashing, insistent combinations he throws are the most important thing he'll ever do in his life, if only because he is so damn good at them and he makes them look so damn easy.
I'm a Manny Pacquiao fan, and have been a Pacquiao fan for years. But this latest fight has made me think about boxing in a different way -- which is hard when you are a crusty curmudgeon! I would bet Armstrong had a similar effect on the curmudgeons of his time. For us, boxing is all about size and weight, and transcending 40 pounds over a career is equivalent to running a 4.4 on the moon. But whether Cotto was "damaged goods" or not, Pacquiao pulled off a trick that only Boxing's most elite desperadoes would dare try. Space age websites like boxrec.com will probably be kinder to Pacquiao than they are to Armstrong -- at least in the short term. After all, he fought a larger man who specialized in beating the living hell out of southpaws, and he instead beat the living hell out of him.
And he made it look easy.
Floyd Mayweather: Stay far, far away.
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)