Manny Pacquiao has already established himself as one of the 30 greatest fighters of all time. I decided that 10 months ago, before his fight with Shane Mosley, which did little to affect his ranking, although it may have been enough to knock Mosley—who was ranked 100th in that list—entirely out of my all-time rankings.
In his fight Saturday against Juan Manuel Marquez—the constant thorn in Pacquiao's side that has single-handedly affected his aura of dominance over multiple divisions for the past five years—Pacquiao does have a chance to grab a win that could vault him over some of the names I had ranked before him in my well-regarded list of the all-time greatest pound-for-pound fighters.
I'll go through a list of fighters that I could see Pacquiao, currently 27th on my list, catapult if he pulls off a convincing win over Juan Manuel Marquez this Saturday. It might not be a bad idea to have this and that article open in separate windows or tabs so you can compare them.
How Does Pacquiao Fare Against Marcel Cerdan? (No. 26)
Cerdan was a legendary French boxer with a record of 111-4, but only held one title (beating the great Tony Zale) for four fights before losing it to Jake LaMotta. Before a rematch with LaMotta, Cerdan passed away in a tragic plane crash.
Before you scoff at Cerdan's inclusion in a discussion with Pacquiao, keep in mind that in those days, there were only eight divisions and one champion in each division. So that equals eight total titles, compared to the 85 (five per division in 17 weight divisions) we have today. Pacquiao might have realistically won two titles back in those days.
But Marquez, himself a great fighter (one who narrowly missed my list, and would probably now be a mid-90s inclusion on there) gives Pacquiao a chance to move up. I think Pacquiao can be placed ahead of Cerdan with a win over Marquez on Saturday.
Against Marvin Hagler? (No. 25)
This is a much tougher one to justify. Pacquiao scaled weight divisions like nobody's business, but Hagler dominated the middleweight division for nearly a decade and was involved in some of the all-time greatest fights—against Hearns, Leonard and Duran—who are all-time great fighters in their own right.
It's hard to say if Pacquiao's wins stack up that favorably to Hagler's. If anything, I think an argument can be made that I ranked Hagler too low and that he should have been placed more favorably on the list.
If Hagler moves up the list, then we can consider how Pacquiao fares against some of the other names I had ranked higher than Hagler.
Against George Foreman? (No. 24)
George Foreman was one of the most dominant fighters ever, and he totally obliterated Smokin' Joe Frazier (R.I.P. Champ) twice, winning via second-round KO two times. Foreman also was the oldest person to become heavyweight champion (at age 45), and, until Bernard Hopkins won a title at 46 this year, the oldest person to win any world championship in any weight division.
Who can forget him going toe-to-toe for nine rounds with Ali in "The Rumble in the Jungle," in which Foreman would eventually punch himself out and get stunned by a possum-playing Ali late in the fight.
But Foreman only did one division—heavyweight. So perhaps a pound-for-pound ranking is not the appropriate way to gauge his dominance.
I'd say that if Pacquiao looks dominant against Marquez on Saturday, Pacquiao could pass George Foreman and enter into my top 25 all-time list.
There you have it, folks: A dominant Pacquiao win over Marquez can land him ahead of Marcel Cerdan and George Foreman, making Pacquiao one of the 25 greatest fighters of all time.
While this is clearly my opinion and we'll need to see dominance from Pacquiao, beating Marquez this way will greatly help Pacquiao to enhance his legacy.
Now, if he ends up fighting Mayweather and wins, then we could see him moving way up the list, into the range currently held by Julio Cesar Chavez and Sugar Ray Leonard as among the 20 greatest fighters of all time.
But first that fight needs to happen. And before that, he needs to obliterate Marquez.
All in all, it's tough to gauge legacies on a single fight, but it would be nice to see Pacquiao have a chance to really help his career. We haven't seen that in a while, and I'm looking forward to the action on Saturday.