By Derek Bonnett:
About a year ago, I grossly offended Manny Pacquiao.
In lieu of applauding his bravery for taking on the much larger Oscar De La Hoya, I questioned the validity of the bout and painted the fight as more of business proposal to ensure an economic surplus for both men. Even when Manny decimated "The Golden Boy", I attributed Oscar’s bewilderment and Nacho Beristain’s silence to part of the script in building Pac-Man toward showdowns with Ricky Hatton and the inevitably come-backing Floyd Mayweather Jr.
I was feeling pretty smart right about this time.
Then the Filipino phenomenon dispatched Hatton with impeccable ease. Finally, I was starting to believe. In spite of having watched Pacquiao dispatch my idol Marco Antonio Barrera and other contemporary legends like Erik Morales, I just didn’t expect him to get this far. I could always find a way for the "next guy" to beat him.
I’m just going to come out and say it. I’ve said it before in various boxing blogs and have been accused of drinking too much of the Pacquiao Kool-Aid, but now I am formally putting it down in writing. Manny Pacquiao, as we all know, is a surefire hall of famer. Not only that, but he is an all-time great after winning titles from flyweight to welterweight. The next statement may shock some, but he is also in the realm of surpassing Sugar Ray Robinson as the greatest fighter of all-time.
Now, I know that Robinson is the consensus holder of this title and has been for some time since he ended a career with scintillating victories over the likes of Sammy Angott, Fritzie Zivic, Jake Lamotta, Henry Armstrong, Kid Gavilan, Randy Turpin, Rocky Graziano, Gene Fullmer, Carmen Basilio, etc. However, one must question how much nostalgia goes into cementing fighters of yesteryear as the pre-eminent pugilists of a certain weight class, era, or for all time.
Examine Pac-Man’s record. After defeating pretty good fighters like Chatchai Sasakul, Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, and Jorge Elicier Julio, the man who debuted at 106 pounds evolved into a pound for pound great by earning victories over Marco Antonio Barrera (twice), Erik Morales (twice), Oscar Larios, Juan Manuel Marquez, David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto. With the exception of his pound for pound contemporary Marquez, he stopped them all.
I’m not trying to dismiss anything Robinson achieved and readily admit he fought way before my time, making it impossible for me to have witnessed his rise to prominence. Perhaps I’m more impressed with the live action I have witnessed within the twenty some odd years I’ve followed professional boxing, but I can readily say that Manny Pacquiao is the greatest fighter of my time. This includes Ray Leonard, Pernell Whitaker, Julio Cesar Chavez, and Ricardo Lopez. Pacquiao’s speed, power, skill, and willingness to fight the best across the board puts him above all of these other icons. Why? Because he repeatedly displayed all of these with dominant performances over the best fighters in each division he climbed into.
I can’t pick against Manny Pacquiao. He’s the best fighter in the world today and, perhaps, the best ever. Should a bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr. come off as most boxing fans expect, I’ll be favoring Pacquiao in that one as well. While Mayweather Jr. and Cotto are very different fighters, the ease in which Pac-Man dismissed the Puerto Rican sensation was incredible. He took the best punches Cotto had to offer, dropped him twice, and busted his face up worse than Antonio Margarito, who some believe had illegal substances in his gloves when they fought.
It makes you wonder.
Regardless of how you feel on the all-time great debate, whoever your man is at the top, Manny Pacquiao is quickly closing the gap.