Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao began his professional career as a teen, campaigning from junior flyweight to bantamweight before finally finding his stride as a featherweight against the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez and Eric Morales.
Presiding between featherweight and super featherweight, Pacquiao competed in a number of high profile bouts to compile an impressive record against the gamut of Mexico’s finest. Under the tutelage of Freddie Roach, he was transformed from a one dimensional slugger to a dynamic combination puncher with blinding hand-speed and concussive power. As king of the lower divisions, the accolades endowed upon him befitted one bold enough to have taken on all comers and talented enough to have succeeded the vast majority of the time.
Then came his recent foray into the welterweight division.
If Pacquiao and the recently unretired Floyd Mayweather Jr. are to be included, then six of the top ten pound for pound fighters in the world compete at welterweight. It is inarguably the class of sport. So while it is understandable that even a fighter of Pacquiao’s caliber might tread through such water with some trepidation, his greatness will be determined by whether he opts to do so with heart and skill inside the ring or by the flick of a pen outside of it.
Simply, Manny Pacquiao is not a welterweight.
As a pseudo welterweight, Pacquiao has adopted the tactic of negotiating prizefights at catch weights which are expressly intended to undermine a competitor’s capacity to offer resistance, effectively waging war at the negotiating table before the fight has even begun because Freddie Roach knows that Pacquiao is realistically too small to compete with the more formidable fighters in the division.
It is precisely for this reason that his handlers have resorted to jostling for paydays against the big names in the division under the pretense that they compete at seemingly arbitrary limits; essentially defining their own weight classes on a case by case basis. So while a flaccid Oscar de la Hoya is acceptable at the official 147lb limit, a post Margarito Shane Mosley is out of the question even at 140.
While many might applaud the apparent business savvy, the practice leaves something to be desired from an aficionado’s perspective.
When the expectation is a contest between peaking athletes, Team Pacquiao’s tactic is distinctly perverse and contrary to what fight fans are inclined to see. There is no merit in competition when weight drain has rendered one participant a shadow of his former self. There is no honor in vying for advantages on the scale in the interest of a payday or a name on a dossier. Such victories are empty and devoid of the reverence with which they are typically associated.
The bottom line is that if Manny Pacquiao is to be a welterweight, then he should contend at welter against welters. If not, there are other talented competitors roving the junior welterweight division with whom he can tussle. While the names won’t have quite the sparkle as a Mayweather, Mosley or Cotto, he’ll find no timidity or lack of talent in Bradley, Guzman and Khan.
Essentially, Pacquiao can be the noble warrior or the sly businessman, but he’ll find being both simultaneously a tougher trick to turn.