Pacquiao Watch: Measuring greatness

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines - When I was interviewed by Star Sports for a special on Manny Pacquiao, I was asked where he will rank in the history of Philippine boxing.

That was late in 2006.

Too bad, I did not get a copy of that sports special. While it was shown by the local cable TV provider here in General Santos City, the one-hour special which featured other great Asian athletes was cut short because Pacquiao was then in the middle of the 2007 congressional elections. His opponent apparently invoked a Philippine law that prohibits undue media exposure for candidates.

Pacquiao lost in that election.

I was tentative with my thoughts although I already saw greatness in him.

If I remember it right, I said Pacquiao’s greatness will be measured when he is done with boxing.

Gabriel ‘Flash’ Elorde was then still the standard of eminence in Philippine sports and boxing.

Apparently, I spoke too soon.

After all, no one at that time ever thought Pacquiao would, less than 2 years later, crush Oscar de la Hoya in a career-defining victory that transformed him overnight into a crossover sports celebrity. Not to mention marched, nay bulldozed, his way into becoming the only 8-division world boxing champion ever.

Pacquiao not only enthroned himself as the best boxer and athlete the Philippines has ever produced. He is now considered one of best fighters to ever don the laced mitts – count everyone dead or alive on this planet.

Even when he suffered his latest defeat at the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr, Pacquiao’s indelible mark is already secured.

Nobody doubts he will make it as a first ballot entrant to boxing’s Hall of Fame.

In fact, retiring now will even solidify the niche he boxed his way into.

How about Mayweather? If Pacquiao is great, then Mayweather is greater. Right?

As good as he is, acceptance as a consummate fighter has eluded the American Olympic bronze medalist.

Mayweather possesses the qualities that should make people consider him a great boxer. Not that he is not.

But why is universal recognition so elusive for him?

Is it because he is brash? Well, Muhammad Ali was not only brash and vicious trash-talker. He defied and challenged the establishment when he refused to be drafted into the US Army. He once called the eminent Joe Frazier a gorilla. But he became great even before his decline.

Or is it because of his vociferous persona both inside and outside the ring? Mayweather has had several brushes with the law including serving a sentence for battering his wife. Before he spent time in jail, he already received several suspended sentences for minor misdemeanors. He, or his bodyguards, was also involved in a parking lot shooting incident.

Is it because Mayweather put business first before sports? Before he became the top money-maker of boxing, Mayweather, too, fought in less stellar boxing cards. He was defeating opponents his way, though. Sometimes by knockouts but later most of the times by making the other guy look awkward and amateurish over the distance. Is it a fault to collect his paybacks? Of course, he is within his right to make a good living.

Is it because he rubbed people the wrong way?

Or is it because his moments came at a time when there is a dearth of boxing talents in his generation where and with whom he can be measured up against?

True, Pacquiao is a phenomenon. Oscar de la Hoya one of the true superstars of boxing. Miguel Angel Cotto and Ricky Hatton are fringe candidates to Canastota. Shane Mosley may even get there. Juan Manuel Marquez is a definitely going there. They all went down in defeat against him

But the circumstances and the timing of his fights against these 5 common opponents are weighing against Mayweather’s favor when pitted against Pacquiao’s impressive wins over them.

Styles of course make fights and both their styles make perfect matches against their common opponents with the exception of Marquez with whom Pacquiao had difficulties.

Against each other, Mayweather was the better fighter with a style that perfectly complements his size and height advantages over the Filipino boxing icon.

So why does Pacquiao come ahead of him in universal appeal?

Pacquiao, apart from being an explosive and electrifying fighter, has successfully created a likeable innocent and meek persona outside the ring that hides his ferocity when made to wear the punching gloves.

What about Mayweather? He is as good as proved by his undefeated record. It is that the style of Mayweather just doesn’t endear himself to boxing fans which thirst for blood and gore.

Yes, Mayweather is as great as Pacquiao. Maybe even better.

But his greatness will not come in his time. If he goes on to retire undefeated, his feat will be celebrated when he is long gone from boxing.

It is unfortunate Mayweather came ahead of his time. - Rappler.com