This weekend, pound-for-pound boxing king Manny Pacquiao takes on Shane Mosley in a matchup nobody wanted to see.
But that doesn’t mean the people won’t pay to see it. Because the 32-year-old Filipino sensation has a large following built over the last four-and-a-half years since the last battle in his trilogy with Erik Morales.
When talking about his escalation in the sweet science, “following” is the key word. As in, following the lead of Floyd Mayweather Jr.
I am a fan of Pacquiao and his all-action, all-the-time style. He is ferocious, tenacious and a vicious puncher. He is what the game needs.
On the other hand, I am also a fan of Mayweather despite his overly defensive style. He is calculating, evasive and often monotonous.
As a boxing enthusiast, I can appreciate both avenues to success. The undefeated “Money” Mayweather has made us marvel in his wizardry even if we acknowledge it is not always the most exciting display. However, the name of the game is to hit and not be hit—and nobody does it better.
Pacquiao has forged a following by pummeling enough pugilists that the public had to take notice and admire. With a “Pac Man” contest, you expect blood and a beatdown. He is the best at that.
But let’s take a look at the career arc of Pacquiao since late 2006. He has many notable fights and fighters on this portion of his resume, including Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito. Great fighters, and Pac Man beat them all. The only real contest was against Cotto, but he was eventually beaten into submission.
He also has popular icons Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton on his ledger. But they were far from their best days when facing Pacquiao.
Against De La Hoya, Pacquiao pounded him into retirement over eight rounds in a match that got everyone’s attention. With De La Hoya’s global popularity and the world watching, this became Pacquiao's moment to grab the ball and run. He did just that.
Pac Man’s very next fight was against the once-beaten star from England, Ricky Hatton. What happened next was one of the great knockouts in boxing history, as Pacquiao shot his power left hand into Hatton’s chin, dimming his lights immediately in the second round. That highlight was played over and over. Hatton also hasn’t fought since then.
Two tremendous victories that put him on the map beyond boxing, but both have a distinct similarity: Mayweather beat them first. Not as convincingly, but that was never Money’s style.
This is not to say that Pacquiao is riding on Mayweather’s coattails because that is certainly not the case. But while we give Pacquiao continuous praise, we should do the same for Mayweather. It is not like his career is filled with a bunch of has-beens and never-will-bes.
Mayweather has also taken on quality contenders in a variety of weight classes: Jose Luis Castillo twice in his prime, DeMarcus Corley, Zab Judah. In 2001, he dominated Diego Corrales in a fight even his father thought he would lose. So he is definitely not afraid of challenges.
In September 2009, Mayweather took on Juan Manual Marquez, who moved up in weight, and dominated him. Yes, the weight gain definitely affected Marquez, but let’s also acknowledge the ability it takes to frustrate a pound-for-pound staple. But instead of praise for the skill, he was criticized for taking on a smaller guy. That was a case of Mayweather following Pacquiao’s lead and doing significantly better.
Pacquiao fought Marquez twice, in which they basically went even-up. The first fight in May 2004 was a draw despite Marquez being downed three times in the opening round. In the second fight, in March 2008, Pac Man was given a narrow split decision though many who witnessed it thought he lost. Either way, Marquez proved to be his equal, and that may be the reason Pacquiao is a bit hesitant to make a third fight.
Obviously, when two guys are in, and around, the same weight classes for years, they will have common opponents. This leads me to two things. First is the fight with Mosley.
Why is Pacquiao taking on this 39-year-old? Because Mosley is one of the best of this time. He is still a quality opponent and, maybe most importantly, still a name that resonates.
A year ago, Mayweather conquered Mosley, who was coming off a very impressive destruction of Margarito. But after the Mayweather loss, “Sugar” Shane went on to a draw with Sergio Mora last September. While Mora is a decent fighter, the fact Mosley couldn’t beat him shows he has slipped some. For Pacquiao, the risk doesn’t match the size of the name.
Second is a fight between the two best fighters we have in this generation. The reasons for this not happening yet are plenty, and both sides are to blame. Mayweather probably takes on more of that blame, as he continues to battle legal issues and continues with this semi-retirement business.
Ultimately, whether Pacquiao is following Mayweather’s lead or not, the only thing left to decide the best of this generation is to fight. No talk, no legal drama, no politics. Just fight.