Manny Pacquiao has fought mostly at welterweight since 2008, when he moved up to beat Oscar De La Hoya into retirement. Since then, he's won titles at 140, 147, and a super bogus 154, while also mostly dominating his opponents and becoming one of the game's two biggest stars.
But as Pacquiao nears his 36th birthday and his career approaches its final stage, it's worth wondering what's left, more politically than physically. But before we get to that, let's talk about where Pacquiao's already been at 147 pounds.
Five Best Wins
- Miguel Cotto (2009-11-14)
- Timothy Bradley (2014-04-12)
- Juan Manuel Marquez (2011-11-12)
- Oscar De La Hoya (2008-12-06)
- Joshua Clottey (2010-03-13)
When really examining Pacquiao's welterweight résumé, one has to be impressed. Not only has it always been a division he's really too small for, but he's faced a lot of tough fighters, and what he's accomplished at 147 pounds is, in my opinion, every bit as impressive as what Floyd Mayweather has accomplished at the same weight.
Here are the fighters Mayweather has beaten at 147: Sharmba Mitchell, Zab Judah (coming off of a loss), Carlos Baldomir, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, Victor Ortiz, Robert Guerrero, and Marcos Maidana (twice). It's really easy to poke holes in either guy's record at the weight, to be honest, but they've both faced a lot of good fighters. Mayweather has not lost, while Pacquiao has. We'll get to that part momentarily, though.
The best win for Pacquiao, in my estimation, is Cotto. Cotto was expected to challenge Pacquiao, who was fighting for just the second time at 147 pounds, and there were even those who thought that Cotto, still in his prime and a good boxer-puncher, would beat Pacquiao. Cotto did challenge Manny, for about four rounds. And then it was a wipeout, stopped mercifully in the 12th round, Cotto having taken tremendous punishment.
That was Pacquiao's last stoppage win, too, and that's worth noting. But I think it's also worth noting, as I mentioned recently at greater length, that since then, Pacquiao has faced some iron-jawed dudes: Josh Clottey, Antonio Margarito (at a 150-pound catchweight), Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez (twice), Brandon Rios, and Timothy Bradley (twice). I don't see any shame in not stopping those guys, or any evidence that Pacquiao's power is less than it was before. He also dropped or hurt every single one of them, save perhaps for Clottey, whose turtle defense helped him avoid significant punishment.
After Cotto, I'm going with Manny's rematch win over Tim Bradley earlier this year. It was a thorough, complete victory, more impressive than even the first fight, which I absolutely thought Manny won. Pacquiao looked fast, sharp, and strong, better than he had in November 2013 against Brandon Rios, where after 11 months off, I thought he did look a hair rusty, even if dominant.
One could argue for Pacquiao's 2011 win over Marquez in their third fight as his best as a welterweight, but there was enough legitimate controversy and enough opinion that Marquez deserved the nod that I bump it down to third, just because of that. But if you want to say Marquez is the best win because he's the best fighter of the three, I also believe that would be entirely fair.
For fourth place I'll go with Oscar De La Hoya, who was an old, weight-drained (his own fault), part-time fighter that Pacquiao manhandled and retired, making Manny a superstar in a torch-passing fight. And for fifth, I'll take an in-prime Clottey over Mosley or Rios, one of whom was washed up, the other of whom was a pure tune-up opponent on paper and in execution.
Pacquiao's 2012 loss to Tim Bradley was so bogus that I don't even want to go over it again. It's been talked to death, and everyone knows what that fight was, and how bad the decision was, too. Denial of Pacquiao being the clear winner of that fight is wild to me. It's conspiracy theory stuff, but in reverse.
The December 2012 loss to Marquez, though, was definitive. "Lucky punch" or whatever, Marquez knocked Pacquiao clean out at the end of round six, putting an end to their rivalry, or at least that would appear to be the case for now, as Marquez has repeatedly turned down a fifth fight between the two. It was once again a battle of two of the best in the world, and on this occasion, Marquez got his hand raised.
Up Next and Beyond
Chris Algieri (20-0, 8 KO) is next for Pacquiao this Saturday in Macau, and Pacquiao is the clear favorite. (As of this writing, Manny is the favorite at -800, or 8-to-1. It's not terribly absurd for the modern "super-fight," but there's really not much belief that Algieri is a serious challenge for him.)
If Pacquiao does win, there's been talk of him leaving the welterweight division and dropping back down to 140 pounds, something the WBO at least seems to be taking seriously, as they stripped Algieri of his 140-pound belt, which he won in June, possibly so that they can give Pacquiao a fight for the vacant belt after this, if he does indeed move down in weight.
At 147 pounds, Top Rank's cupboard is getting bare. Though they're open to working with Golden Boy Promotions again, that does not seem to extend to working with Al Haymon in anything more than a mandatory challenger type situation, and that would still be a problem at 140, potentially.
There are almost no top welterweights who aren't with Haymon. Mayweather, Maidana, Shawn Porter, Devon Alexander, Amir Khan, Keith Thurman, and Robert Guerrero are all with Uncle Al. At 140, Haymon has Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse, Lamont Peterson, and Adrien Broner.
Either way, Pacquiao is potentially looking at a void after this. Unless they can finally pay Marquez enough money to fight for a fifth time -- which is always possible -- there just doesn't seem to be a marquee fight for him out there, and frankly, he's struggled in that regard for a couple years now. Outside of the Marquez fights, Pacquiao has struggled in pay-per-view sales, relatively speaking, since 2010. Unattractive matchups haven't captured the attention of the public, and the death of any serious hope for Pacquiao vs Mayweather (or Mayweather vs Pacquiao, as it were) has seemingly hurt both of those fighters on pay-per-view, because without each other, they're seen as prohibitive favorites, and perhaps the story has gotten old for "the casual fan."
If Manny beats Algieri, and unless the dam breaks and Haymon and Top Rank can at least peacefully ignore each other to make fights happen, his next fight might not be a whole lot more interesting. How excited would you really be for Pacquiao vs Jessie Vargas? Or Pacquiao vs Viktor Postol?
In terms of just the boxing, neither of those fights are awful. But because of his success and his status, Pacquiao fights are expected to be events, and that just hasn't been the case lately, other than within the bubble of professional boxing. For boxing, they're big. But they're not as big as boxing can be when something really captures the imagination of the public at large, even in today's boxing world.