clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Has Manny Pacquiao "ducked" African American fighters?

Manny Pacquiao and Murad Muhammad, together back in better days.
Manny Pacquiao and Murad Muhammad, together back in better days.

In the lead-up to the aborted superfight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, there were a number of allegations about Pacquiao.  Overshadowed by the allegations of steroid use were the allegations that Pacquiao had intentionally avoided facing any African-American fighters in his career.  Nate Campbell made the original allegation, and today it was repeated by Pacquiao's former promoter Murad Muhammad, who has stated that he kept Pacquiao away from African-American fighters while he was promoting Pacquiao.  Do these allegations have any merit?  Let's take a look at who was around different weight classes when Pacquiao was there:

Flyweight - March 1998 to September 1999

I'm starting with 1998 here rather than the beginning of his career because March 1998 was the first time Pacquiao had fought outside of the Philippines, where African-Americans are in particularly short supply.  The primary African-American competitor in the lower weight classes at that time was Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson.  His last fight at flyweight came in September 1998, which was before Pacquiao had even won a title.  In 1999, Johnson fought at 115 while Pacquaio was defending a title at 112.  Another possibility would have been IBF flyweight titlist Will Grigsby.  As anyone who follows boxing probably knows, you don't see too many unification fights between guys who only fight on opposite ends of the world, and without either fighter being a draw, this fight was no different.  The other prominent African-American in the weight at the time was Arthur Johnson, who was knocked out by Too Sharp in one round.  This period of Pacquiao's career came before Muhammad was his promoter, and he had never fought in the United States up to this point.

Super Bantamweight - September 1999 to July 2003

There's an argument that Pacquiao didn't need to jump three weight classes, so this includes the prominant African Americans at 118 as well.  Until Pacquiao signed with Muhammad in April of 2001, Pacquiao continued to only fight in Asia.  There were two prominent African-Americans in this time period around this weight class - Junior Jones and Tim Austin.  During the entire period, Austin fought in the 118 pound weight class, where he was defending his IBF bantamweight title the entire time.  By 1999, Jones was already fighting at featherweight and super featherweight, and by the time Pacquiao signed with Muhammad, Jones was exclusively fighting at 130.  Unless Tim Austin would have been willing to give up a belt to move up, or unless Pacquiao could have lost the extra four pounds, there just wasn't any legitimate African American challenger during this period.  Long-time featherweight contender Kennedy McKinney retired before Pacquiao had fought in the United States, and was one weight class up as well.  Tracy Harris Patterson was even further removed from the weight class.

Featherweight - October 2002 to December 2004

I'm starting early here, since Pacquiao did take one fight at this weight while defending his super bantamweight title.  Here's where Pacquiao started to become a household name.  From September 2000 through November 2003, Derrick Gainer held a title at this weight.   Pacquiao first became a draw when he shocked Marco Antonio Barrera for a win.  Only two weeks earlier, Juan Manuel Marquez had defeated Gainer.  Could Pacquiao have faced Gainer instead of Barrera?   Possibly, but both fighters were represented by Bob Arum at the time, and Top Rank was trying to build up a superfight between the two when Pacquiao and Marquez got in the way.  Pacquiao and Marquez then faced each other shortly thereafter. 

Previous featherweight titlist Freddie Norwood had already moved up to lightweight by the time Pacquiao started fighting at featherweight.  At the end of this period, Muhammad and Pacquiao split ways.  Pacquiao subsequently sued Muhammad for withholding too much of his purses in violation of the Ali Act, and settled for a rumored seven figure sum out of court. 

Super Featherweight - December 2004 to March 2008

During the time when Pacquiao was a super featherweight, there were very few top African Americans at all in the weight class.  Chico Corrales had already moved up to lightweight (and, frankly, didn't have the slick style people seem to be worried about anyway).  Nate Campbell had moved up to lightweight and wasn't much of a name.  Possibly most prominent was Lamont Pearson, who was on his way out by the beginning of Pacquiao's time at the weight and retired by the end. 

Lightweight - March 2008 to July 2008

Pacquiao only took one fight at lightweight, against David Diaz.  Since Pacquiao was adding to his belt collection, he could have gone after one of three fighters - champion Joel Casamayor, unified titlist Nate Campbell or titlist David Diaz.  Diaz was obviously the easiest fight of those three, there's no doubting that.  But at the time, Nate Campbell was locked up in a lawsuit with Don King.  Does Campbell settle the lawsuit if he's approached for a Pacquiao fight?  Maybe, but we'll never know.

Light Welterweight / Welterweight - July 2008 to Present

Other than Floyd Mayweather Jr., it's tough to make an argument that Pacquiao has ducked anyone.  He fought the three biggest names (other than Mayweather) out there in De La Hoya, Cotto and Hatton.  He beat two titlists in their dominant weight classes.  Even now, with him facing Joshua Clottey, he still took on the best fighter legitimately available, as Shane Mosley and Andre Berto were signed to fight each other at the time.  And hopefully, Mayweather-Pacquiao will still happen someday.

In summary, it seems unlikely that Pacquiao was 'ducking' African American fighters.  One would need to make a pretty tenuous argument to say that he should have faced any African American fighter.  The most legitimate gripes are with respect to Derrick Gainer (and Bob Arum handpicked Pacquiao to be the opponent for his other fighter)  and Nate Campbell (who was tied up with lawsuits when Pacquiao had the opportunity to fight him). 

As for Muhammad's quote?  Seems like sour grapes to me.  Pacquiao was his prized representation.  Now, after cheating many of his clients, he represents nobody of significance.  And you know what?  Boxing's probably better off that way.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bad Left Hook Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your global boxing news from Bad Left Hook