Manny Pacquiao, who fights undefeated Tim Bradley Saturday night in a welterweight title bout at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, has become a fighting phenomenon, a boxer and personality who captured the hearts and minds of fans outside of boxing.
They watch Pacquiao work, going through one opponent after another, with an exciting and action-packed style, and remain convinced he is the greatest boxer on earth and one of the all-time greats.
But an examination of the path that began four years ago to propel Pacquiao to this level questions what those results really mean.
Is the greatness of Manny Pacquiao an illusion?
It started in December 2008 when Pacquiao surprised everyone by moving up in weight and easily handling Oscar De La Hoya, stopping him in eight rounds.
However, De La Hoya had lost three of his last six fights – including a loss to Floyd Mayweather, a common thread in Pacquiao fights – and was nearly 36 at the time. De La Hoya retired after that fight.
Next came Pacquiao’s seemingly-impressive knockout of Ricky Hatton in two rounds in May 2009. But Hatton was a shot fighter at that point, done in my his personal demons and softened up by Mayweather, who had beaten Hatton mercilessly over 10 rounds in December 2007.
Then came Pacquiao’s seemingly-impressive dismantling of Miguel Cotto 12 rounds in November 2009. But Cotto was damaged goods at the time, still clearly suffering the effects of the pounding he took from Antonio Margarito in July 2008, when Margarito was fighting with plaster of paris as hand wraps.
Pacquiao next faced journeyman Joshua Clottey, and easily won a 12-round decision in March 2010. But it was well documented that Clottey received very little support from Pacquiao’s promoter, Top Rank, to train and prepare for the fight. And while Pacquiao dominated the fight, his face appeared to show far more damage than Clottey’s when the fight was over.
Next came a brutal beating over 12 rounds of Margarito – who was fighting without the plaster in his gloves this time.
Pacquiao’s next challenge was 39-year-old Shane Mosley, who he decisioned in 12 rounds – as Mayweather did one year earlier.
Finally, there was the war against Juan Manuel Marquez, Pacquiao’s nemesis, in November 2011. Pacquiao barely won a majority decision, and a number of observers believe he lost the fight. Mayweather easily decisioned Marquez in September 2009.
Is this a record of dominance? Or good fortune and matchmaking?
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