Denzil Batchelor – writer (1947), “Boxers are as various as fingerprints, no two are alike. There have been champions who hated the game and animated punch bags who could not get enough of it.”
- Fans must be pleased with boxing in 2009 and on the British front we haven’t done too badly, even though our two main crown pullers, Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe are out of the picture we still have three world major belt holders.
Amir Khan looked good when taking the W.B.A. world title belt off the experienced Ukrainian, Andreas Kotelnik, last June and better still when retaining it with a one-round demolition job on Dimitriy Salita on December 5th.
Our W.B.C. title holder Carl ‘The Cobra’ Froch confidently took his title belt to the States and retained it by stopping the American, Jermain Taylor, in the final round and then kept his belt in the UK after outpointing another American fighter, Andre Dirrell, who was thought of in the States as a tremendous prospect who had been unbeaten in 18 fights.
Then in November, David Haye from London had people in Bermondsey and Crystal Palace running up and down the streets with Union Jacks waving, as if England had just won the World Cup, after running rings around the Russian giant Nikolay Valuev to win the W.B.A. world heavyweight championship.
We’re almost certain to see the three Brits in the ring again in the spring attempting to retain their title belts, so that’s something to really look forward to.
However, the fight that is scheduled to really set the boxing fans’ pulses racing is that between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao who are without doubt the two greatest fighters of the modern era. It’s definitely the fight that fans want to spend their money on and it could be a record breaking moneymaker outstripping the Oscar de la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather contest, which turned out to be the richest prize fight of all time, approaching 2.4 million pay-per-view buys, which brought the total revenue for the event to approximately 165 million dollars.
Mayweather won his first world title belt 12 years ago and is still unbeaten in 40 fights, but for years he needed a popular opponent to draw a big crowd. However for the past four years he himself has become more popular with the fans, more so since he put on his jiving shoes during his recent 21 months break from the fight game and went on the American television version of our own Strictly Come Dancing.
For the past few years, Mayweather has been classed as the best pound for pound boxer on earth and insists that he is the greatest fighter of all time. The 32 year old even reckons he is better than both Muhammad Ali and ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson. The current undisputed world welterweight champion, nicknamed ‘Pretty Boy’ said, “I have won world titles at five different weights and I can quit today and I’ll be known as the best fighter that ever lived.”
Mayweather is one of the slickest movers in boxing today and the best upper body mover in the sport, while possessing the best jab in the business, not unlike an old school maestro boxer. By moving up weights to beat Oscar de la Hoya at light middleweight almost three years ago and then stretching out Ricky Hatton a year later, he could arguably at the time, consider himself as the best boxer of his generation. He didn’t do his reputation any harm when returning to the ring in September after his 21 month lay off to easily outpoint the current world lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez, the best Mexican fighter in the game at the present time.
In the pound for pound debate over the past few years, it seemed to have been Floyd Mayweather, then everyone else, but with each passing contest you could almost see the gap shrink that had existed between him and Manny Pacquiao and now it’s a two horse race between the two to see who is the best fighter in the world at present.
In the past, Manny Pacquiao had a reputation as a wild man outside the ring, drinking, all night revelling and a few illegitimate children, but he has calmed down since being with the world’s top trainer/coach, Freddie Roach, and has steered clear of temptations. He’s changed since being with Roach, who has turned the Filipino into as superb and vicious a fighting machine as we’ve seen in a long time. He’s now a complete fighter who uses both hands, jabbing and hooking with his right from the southpaw stance and landing bombs with his left hand.
Pacquiao’s last few fights against the best opposition around has highlighted the differences in terms of Mayweather’s and Pacquiao’s fighting styles and their personalities and from a fan’s perspective Mayweather loses in each one of these comparisons and maybe will eventually lose the war too when they meet. Pacquiao seems to be a humble, down to earth personality not far removed from the poverty of his childhood in the Philippines, while Mayweather has often come across as a spoiled millionaire athlete, although I must admit that I’m a great fan of his technical boxing abilities in the ring.
To Filipinos, ‘Pac Man’, as Pacquiao is nicknamed, carries them away from the daily realities of a third world economy. As a result he is literally everywhere in the Philippines. On the roads nearly every poster features him promoting products from property to hamburgers and he seems to have taken over the economy. One internet site receives more than 30,000 visitors a day leading up to one of his fights. His life story made a few years ago, The Manny Pacquiao Story, is still shown in cinemas nationwide.
He’s Manny the Mexican basher, having dismantled every Mexican fighter they’ve pitched against him over the years, some of them being termed as greats in the boxing world and all trying their best to beat him to regain Mexican pride.
So it’s no wonder that his countryfolk look at him as mythical, like a god who is to be worshipped. His is the Cinderella story that most Filipinos would want to happen to them.
Boxing fans worldwide must be really excited at the thought of these two great fighters squaring up to each other in the ring this year. Then we’ll find out if Floyd Mayweather is as great as he says he is. There’s only one way really and that’s by seeing him needing a doctor between rounds and then seeing his response when he’s seriously hurt, putting him in a dark place where he’s never been before.
The powerful punching of the smaller Pacquiao might just put him there.By George Reed
This article appears in the print edition 607 of Island Connections