One of boxing’s all-time greats Manny Pacquiao returns to the ring this weekend, defending his WBA ‘Regular’ welterweight title against former four-division titleholder Adrien ‘The Problem’ Broner at The MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Ahead of the bout, we’ve taken a look at some of the defining fights in the storied career of the ‘Pac-Man’…
Oscar De La Hoya (2008)
On December 6, 2008, reigning WBC World lightweight champion Pacquiao moved up two weight divisions to face the six-division titlist Oscar De La Hoya at the MGM Grand in a fight referred to as “The Dream Match’. While most felt the naturally smaller Pacquiao would come up short, he would put on a ferocious display to totally dominate ‘The Golden Boy’.
Though already regarded as one of the leading pound-for-pound fighters in the world, his one-sided beatdown De La Hoya would turn the Filipino into a global superstar. Pacquiao showcases blinding hand speed from the outset, bewildering his opponent with relentless combination punching. Badly hurt in the seventh, the seemingly-weight drained De La Hoya lost hope and after eight rounds, legendary trainer Nacho Beristain threw in the towel to save him from further punishment.
Pacquiao had romped to a wide lead on all three judges’ scorecards before stopping his future ‘Hall of Fame’ opponent, sending him into retirement and making a mockery of the age-old boxing expression “a good big’un bits a good little’un”.
Juan Manuel Marquez (2004-2012)
While Pacquiao and Mexican icon Juan Manuel Marquez faced each other four times over a nine-year span, each fight played a significant part in the storied careers if both fighters – and as such, all deserve recognition.
With each bout gripping the attention of the boxing world more than the one before, their quartet of match-ups began in May 2004, when Pacquiao challenged for ‘Dinamita’s WBA/IBF World featherweight titles.
The diminutive Filipino buzzsaw exploded out of the blocks, sending Marquez to the canvas three times in a blistering opening round. Seemingly undeterred, Márquez hauled himself to his feet, showing tremendous heart and durability to weather the early storm before dragging himself back into the fight.
As the bout wore on, Márquez effectively utilised his trademark counter-punching style to neutralise the aggressive style of Pacquiao. At the sound of the final bell, following a very close fight – almost unthinkable after the first round – the bout was judged a controversial split draw. Following the fight, the controversy would continue, after it was revealed that judge Burt Clements scoring the first round 10-7 to Pacquiao instead of the customary 10-6: effectively costing him the victory on the scorecards.
Their highly-anticipated rematch in March 2008 saw Pacquiao emerge victorious via split decision in another hard-fought, all-action encounter.
Dubbed ‘Unfinished Business’, the bout saw Pacquiao rip Marquez’s WBC World super featherweight title from him, becoming the first Asian fighter in history to become a four-weight World champion.
The fight was closely-contested from the outset and saw both men cut, however, the decisive moment came in the third round when Pacquiao floored Marquez with his signature left hand. Though both men felt felt they had done enough to steal victory, it was the Mexican was once again left with a point to prove after Pacquiao booked the decision by the narrowest of margins.
Three years later, in November 2011, Pacquiao again seized victory – this time at welterweight – with a hotly-disputed majority decision allowing the Filipino to hold on to his WBO World title.
In yet another close – and some say controversial – meeting, Pacquiao retained his title with scores of 114–114, 115–113, and 116–112. The Las Vegas crowd, however, booed with disdain at the outcome, with many feeling Marquez’s counter-punching and combination punching effectively neutralised Pacquiao en route to a victory for the Mexican icon.
Marquez would leave the ring shortly after the announcement, later going on to bemoan the sport’s political murkiness, with many believing the decision was influenced by Pacquiao’s negotiations for an eventual money-spinning showdown against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The fourth and arguably most infamous of their series of bouts came just one year after their third encounter, with the two men facing off in Las Vegas for the final time.
With Pacquiao having lost his WBO World title in a highly-contentious points reverse to Timothy Bradley in his prior bout, the WBO would create a ‘Champion of the Decade’ belt for the two men to compete for.
The fight itself was an exhilarating showstopper, with Marquez sending Pacquiao to the canvas for the first time in more than 38 rounds in the third with a wide, looping overhand right. Pacquiao would pick himself up to return the favour in the fifth, and looked to be firmly in the ascendancy as he unloaded on a bloody and beaten Marquez in the sixth.
However, Pacquiao’s reckless aggression would betray him, with Marquez silencing the arena with a monstrous overhand right that sent the then-33-year-old crashing face-first to the canvas with just one second remaining in the round. Pacquiao lay unconscious for several agonising minutes, suffering his first stoppage defeat in thirteen years. For Marquez, 39, it was the perfect way to close the book on a rivalry that had, so far, seen him shortchanged.
The bout was named as ‘2012 Fight of the Year’ by Ring Magazine, as well as a ‘Knockout of the Year’ award for Marquez. Despite demand for a fifth bout, Marquez would flatly refuse, instead retiring just two fights later.
Erik Morales (2005-2006)
The second series of fights to feature on this list, Pacquiao would move up to 130lbs in March 2005 – just two fights removed from his first bout with Marquez – to face another Mexican legend in three-weight World champion Erik Morales.
Despite entering the bout as a sizeable favourite, Pacquiao would be out-fought by the older man from the opening bell, with Morales utilising his height and reach to score the upset unanimous decision victory. After sustaining a cut over his right eye from an accidental clash of heads in the fifth round, Pacquiao was unable to sustain his now customary two-fisted attack and was hurt by Morales en route to his first loss since 1999.
After bouncing back from defeat with a sixth round TKO of Héctor Velázquez – and with Morales suffering a shock reverse to Zahir Raheem on the same day – the two men would face each other in a return bout in January of 2006.
This time, the younger, fresher Pacquiao would dominate Morales from the opening bell; beating him to the punch and throwing a tremendous amount of punches in the process. ‘Pac Man’ was unfortunate not to score knockdowns when he sent Morales tumbling into the ropes in the second, before knocking him into the referee in the sixth – but would not have to wait much longer to send ‘El Terrible’ to the canvas.
Ahead on all three judges scorecards and with Morales starting to feel the pace, Pacquiao would gain revenge for his loss the year prior by becoming the first man to stop the Mexican great; after two knockdowns in the tenth round saw referee Kenny Bayless call an end to proceedings.
In November of the same year, the two men would come together for their rubber match at The Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
This time, however, Pacquiao would blow through Morales, setting a relentless pace from the get-go, sending Morales to the canvas for the first time late in the second round. Though Morales fought bravely, he was simply overwhelmed by the speed and power of is opponent, and was dropped again midway through the third.
Pacquiao would go on to close the show in sensational style, dropping Morales for the final time just three seconds removed from the end of the third, with the famously-durable Mexican shaking his head and surrendering the bout – handing Pacquiao a 2-1 series victory and putting an end to their rivalry once and for all.
Antonio Margarito (2010)
After a string of sensational performances at welterweight, Pacquiao would seek a World title in an unprecedented eighth division in November 2010; stepping up to face rugged Mexican banger Antonio Margarito for the vacant WBC World super welterweight title in Dallas, Texas.
Despite the bout being agreed at a catchweight of 150lbs, Pacquiao would come in over five pounds under the limit at 144.5lbs. However, it would have little bearing on the outcome, with Pacquiao blitzing Margarito from the opening bell to the last.
Following an intense build up – which saw Margarito’s team mock Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach suffering from Parkinson’s Disease – Pacquiao entered the bout on the back of an unusually-anger-fuelled camp.
Promising before the bout to punish Margarito for his pre-fight antics, Pacquiao piled on the punches, dishing out a savage, brutal beating that left Margarito with grotesque facial swelling and a deep cut beneath his right eye. Such was the severity of the punishment, Maragarito would be taken to hospital after the academic unanimous decision scorecards, suffering a fractured orbital bone, and would never be the same fighter again.
Pacquiao would reveal years later that he was urinating blood for a number of days following the bout, and that the sheer size of Margarito persuaded him to never again fight above the welterweight limit.
Ricky Hatton (2009)
Following his one-sided drubbing of De La Hoya at welterweight in his previous fight, Pacquiao made his 140lbs debut in May 2009 against two-weight World champion and Ring Magazine beltholder Ricky Hatton at The MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Though Hatton brought with him an army of singing fans – thought to be in the tens of thousands – the British legend would succumb to a sensational early stoppage defeat, being sent down to the canvas twice in the opening round by the awesome Filipino.
A hard-right hook – dubbed ‘Manila Ice’ by Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach – was the source of the first knockdown, before a hard left hand sent Hatton down just moments before the sound of the bell to end the first session. Shaken and on unsteady legs, the Mancunian looked in total shock at the speed and punch volume of the razor-sharp Pacquiao.
The second saw Hatton attempt to recover and gain a foothold in the fight, stalking Pacquiao for most of the round without much success and eating hard left hand counters for his efforts.
However, with less than ten seconds remaining, Pacquiao would unload his signature straight left hand flush on Hatton’s chin, knocking him unconscious instantly and sending him crashing to the mat where he lay unresponsive for several minutes. The knockout was awarded ‘Knockout of the Year’ by Ring Magazine and is considered by many to be the most devastating finish in Pacquiao’s storied career.
The win saw Pacquiao become just the second man in boxing history to become a six-division World champion – alongside Oscar De La Hoya – and also the first man to win the Lineal title in four different weight-classes. It would also reaffirm his status as the best ‘pound-for-pound’ fighter on the planet.
Article by: Emmily Simcock
Follow Emmily on Twitter at: @emmily_jane