By Clive Bernath: Regardless of which way you look at the situation it is very difficult to put a case together for any boxer other than Manny Pacquiao to be named SecondsOut’s Fighter of the Year for 2009.
That much was proved when the votes came in from our knowledgeable group of SecondsOut writers, who overwhelmingly ticked the box marked MANNY PACQUIAO.
If you dig deep enough into the 2009 fight archive one could make a case for Vitali Klitschko’s three successful heavyweight title defences at the age of 38 or even Timothy Bradley’s excellent WBO junior-welterweight title wins over Kendall Holt and Lamont Peterson. In the end, though, there could be only one winner.
The most famous man in the Philippines crept up steadily onto our radar when he knocked out Chatchai Sasakul in the eighth round to claim the WBC flyweight crown in December 1998. Despite slipping up against Medgoen Singsurat less than a year later, Manny has progressed steadily under master trainer Freddie Roach. In fact it would be 15 fights and six years later before ‘Pacman’ would experience the bitter taste of defeat again. That loss in March 2005 was a close unanimous 12 round defeat to Mexican legend Erik Morales.
Prior to the Morales defeat Manny had enjoyed mixed fortunes with two other Mexican tough guys, an 11th round tko win over Marco Antonio Barerra and a draw with Juan Manuel Marquez(Marquez was down three times in the opening round). But it was the close defeat to Morales that finally made the tv suits and fans alike wake up to ‘Manny Mania’.
Fast forward a couple of years and Manny would score two stoppage wins over Morales, out-point Barrerra and some would say was fortunate to sneak past Marquez via split decision. Whatever, ‘Pacman’ became the proverbial pain in the backside with Mexican fight fans, who were unfortunate enough to witness Pacquiao all but end the careers of two of their most respected warriors.
By the time Pacquiao squeaked past Marquez in the rematch in March, 2008, he had won world titles at three weights, fly, super-bantam and featherweight. Surely Pacman’s 5ft 6 frame had reached it full potential at 130lbs, right?
Wrong. Manny’s achievements up till now had made him not only rich beyond his wildest dreams but also the most famous sporting icon in his native Philippines but he wanted worldwide recognition and there was only one way to go and that was north, to 135lbs. The man of choice was Chicago’s David Diaz, who owned the WBC lightweight crown. Diaz was a solid looking lightweight who had a very respectable 34-1-1-(17) , record going in and many experts thought the step up for Manny was too much. Guess what? Manny destroyed him, he had too much speed, accuracy and power for the champion and Diaz retired after eight rounds. The countdown to super stardom had begun. The win over Diaz was sensational, a four weight champion from 106lbs to 135lbs, surely he could not top that?
Wrong again. Six months later the entire boxing business was stunned when the tiny ‘Pacman’ announced he was facing the much bigger Oscar De La Hoya at 145lbs. Whether anyone admits it or not, only a handful of people in the boxing business gave Pacquiao a chance of victory. Agreed, Oscar was in the twilight of his career and he had struggled to make 154lbs against Floyd Mayweather Jr the previous year but surely Oscar was still too much of a handful? Not at all, Manny completely dominated ‘The Golden Boy’ with the same speed and power that had destroyed David Lopez months earlier. Eventually Oscar, too, was forced to retire on his stool at the end of the eighth round.
After such a successful trio of career defining victories, which included world titles in two higher weight divisions it seemed inconceivable that Pacquiao could raise the bar in 2009 but guess what? He did just that.
Five months into 2009 ‘Pacman’ locked horns with Britain’s Ricky Hatton in a battle of explosive power punchers at 140lbs. Despite Hatton’s stoppage loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr, Ricky had bounced back with wins over Juan Lazcano and Paulie Malignaggi to enforce his reputation as the world’s No.1 at 140lbs.
When the fight was announced the experts again reserved judgement on Pacquiao, reasoning that he had beaten a severely weight drained and completely spent Oscar De La Hoya but in Hatton he was facing a much stronger and fully focused fighter.
Hatton literally ran from his corner when the first bell rang in a bid to stamp his authority but it was Pacquiao that struck the first serious blow when he connected with a solid right cross within the first half minute of the fight. Hatton continued to move forward attempting to trap Pacquiao on the ropes and unleash his trade mark left hooks to the body. But Pacquiao stayed on the move, kept his composure and again found the target with overhand rights as Hatton lunged in at close range. And within two minutes of the first bell sounding Pacquiao floored Hatton with an overhand right.
Hatton stayed down on one knee until the count of eight and bravely tried to fight back but ‘Pacman’ could smell victory and went after Hatton again, raining in lightening fast two fisted attacks until Hatton again hit the canvas with a few seconds remaining in the opening round. Pacquiao continued to rock Hatton with right hands in the second round but it was a ferocious left hook that terrifyingly knocked Hatton clean out with just seven seconds remaining that not only claimed a famous victory but cemented his legacy beyond any doubt.
The destruction of Hatton was mighty impressive but the 12th round tko victory over Miguel Angel Cotto in November to claim the WBO welterweight crown was simply sensational. For the third successive fight Pacman was labelled the underdog and one could fully understand why. Victories over De La Hoya and Hatton were somewhat tainted because the general feeling afterwards was that both had past their sell by dates. But the same could not be said of Cotto, who despite taking the fight at 145lb instead of the 147lbs welterweight limit, was not weakened by making the weight and pretty much still in his prime. The Puerto Rican champ remained pretty competitive for the first two rounds but from the third session onwards Pacquiao slowly and painfully punished Cotto with the same devastating power and accuracy that destroyed Hatton. When the fight was stopped after 0.55 of the 12th and final round all three judges had Pacquiao in front by scores of 109-99,108,99 and 108-100, such was the little Filipino’s dominance.
Considering all of the above it is understandable that there is only one possible winner for this year’s SecondsOut Fighter Of the Year award and that is Manny Pacquiao.
January 1, 2010