Danny Flexen assesses the six best victories of the glorious Manny Pacquiao career
Still got it! That was the message generated by the superb victory Manny Pacquiao won over Keith Thurman last July. The split decision verdict (which really should have been unanimous) not only delivered the Super WBA welterweight title into the hands of the Filipino legend, but also re-established him as one of the very finest welterweights on the planet. But where does the triumph rank among his very best wins?
6. W rsf 10 Erik Morales (Jan 2006)
Pacquiao had weight-making issues leading up to his first two career losses. He then went 15 fights unbeaten before Erik Morales outscored him at 130lbs in March 2005. Morales had lost a second fight to Barrera so it was a surprise when he outboxed Pacquiao. Sandwiched between this and their rematch, Morales fell up at lightweight to Zahir Raheem, but that was considered an ill-conceived move and bad style match. Back at super-feather, another close fight looked on the cards but, following an even start, Pacquiao handed Morales a severe beating, showing he could overcome adversity and a man who had previously had the better of him.
5. W rsf 11 Marco Antonio Barrera (Nov 2003)
Despite the 24-year-old featherweight Pacquiao having already won world titles in two divisions, the majority of pundits were still shocked when Manny ran through the in-form Mexican like a buzzsaw. Barrera was on a winning run of eight, including virtually ending Naseem Hamed’s career and gaining revenge over Erik Morales, but was never really in the fight with Pacquiao.
4. W KO 2 Ricky Hatton (May 2009)
Many will rank this higher but as we now know Hatton had endured a nightmare training camp under Floyd Mayweather Sr and was only three fights removed from falling to the latter’s son. Still, the way in which Pacquiao obliterated Hatton and served up the “Hitman’s” only ever defeat at 140lbs was stunning in its execution. It also came within a 15-fight run of ridiculous achievement that makes Pacquiao the most decorated boxer of his generation.
3. W Pts 12 Keith Thurman (July 2019)
It seems a little strange to include Thurman, as talented as he is, among the other standouts on this list. But this one is far more about context. Pacquiao had fallen to contentious defeat to Jeff Horn just three fights beforehand and frankly looked old in doing so. Thurman had a rocky experience against Josesito Lopez following a long, injury-enforced hiatus, but still was favoured, initially, to beat Pacquiao, who is a decade his senior, although the “Pac Man” was the betting favourite by the time the opening bell rang. Manny vanquished an unbeaten opponent, a supreme athlete and one of the world’s best welterweights, with an evolved skill-set that has partially replaced raw aggression with veteran smarts.
2. W Rsf 12 Miguel Cotto (Nov 2009)
A truly outstanding triumph, the highlight of which was the ability of Pacquiao to adjust early in the fight and gradually wear down the Puerto Rican hero. Cotto’s only previous setback was a similarly late stoppage against Antonio Margarito, but that one became clouded in controversy once the Mexican was found with illegally ‘enhanced’ handwraps before a subsequent contest with Shane Mosley. He came in as the reigning WBO champion at welterweight and this was Pacquiao’s first title shot in the division, although the match was made at 145lbs. Cotto started brightly, timing Pacquiao with hard shots, but Manny’s beard held up and he took over before the match eventually turned into a beatdown of a future Hall of Famer.
1. W rtd 8 Oscar De La Hoya (Dec 2008)
This has to be the Filipino’s finest hour. So unfair was this match thought to be, in Oscar’s favour, that plenty of normally sensible names felt the fight should be cancelled to preserve Manny’s safety. This was Pacquiao’s welterweight debut and he had only ventured up to lightweight – taking the WBC belt from David Diaz – in his previous contest. De La Hoya, despite being in the autumn of his career, had pushed Floyd Mayweather all the way just two fights before and only lost via split decision. That was at 154lbs and the legendary “Golden Boy” had not competed at welter for almost nine years. This was widely seen as an indicator of De la Hoya’s greatest advantage but, in reality, almost certainly contributed to a demoralising, one-sided end to a beautiful 16-year journey in the professional game. Not only was this Pacquiao thoroughly dominating a bigger, highly decorated foe, it also put the icing on the cake of his superstar status.