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This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.
I admit I'm not the boxing fan I used to be. Maybe you can relate. There was a time when I wouldn't miss a big fight. That was back in the day of Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler, early Mike Tyson. One development that drove me away, for sure, was the proliferation of all these various organizations that give legitimate recognition to championship titles.
Manny Pacquiao's magnificent performance Saturday night on every front…skill, conditioning, speed, smarts, even compassion….secured the Filipino Congressman's earned place as one of the greatest fighters in history. All the more impressive when you understand Pacquiao's natural weight class these days as Jr. Welterweight, under 140 pounds. He carried a lot of muscle for his small frame, 148 pounds, into the ring on Saturday, and at that against an opponent six inches taller and nearly 20 pounds heavier.
The achievement of the World Boxing Council's Super Welterweight belt by a boxer so small that he started his career as a 110-pound Flyweight is not to be undermined. Manny Pacquiao is not only bursting with talent and focus as an athlete, but his charisma, even more so than Oscar Golden Boy de la Hoya's, is bringing fans such as myself back to the sport, by the thousands: 1.4 million tuned in to the Pay Per View telecast; 41 thousand showed up at Cowboys Stadium. This guy sings John Lennon's "Imagine" on late night talk shows, with not only a sweet voice but a conviction in his eyes through the lyrics "and the world will be as one," that you tend to believe he will in fact one day be the President of the Philippines. His feature on 60 Minutes shows him, unlike so many other boxers, not to be a fighter at 31 who needs the spotlight, needs the pay day, to further his non-athlete life, but rather a fighter who thirsts for the action within the ropes.
I have no argument against calling The Pacman at least one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters ever. He deserves to be named simultaneously with the two Sugar Ray's, Robinson and Leonard. He is even approaching world-wide stature on a par with Muhammed Ali. The only hype I can't buy into is the many titles, many belts. Headlines Sunday blared "Pacquiao Makes History with 8 Titles in 8 Divisions." But when you scan down the list of these eight Titles, there are some under the World Boxing Council, some under the International Boxing Federation, and then the World Boxing Organization, and some are ratified by The Ring. As a matter of fact, two of his belts are counted separately, one by the WBC and one by The Ring, just because those two outfits call their 130-pound category by different names. The WBC calls 130 pounds the Super Featherweight and The Ring calls 130 the Junior Lightweight.
Manny Pacquiao doesn't need any hype. He's the real deal. All he really needs is a bout with undefeated Floyd Pretty Boy Mayweather….that is if Pretty Boy can somehow avoid the possible 34-year prison term he's facing for felony robbery, coercion, grand larceny, and domestic battery.
Come to think of it, Pacquiao doesn't really need the Mayweather fight. He's brought a nobility of sorts back to boxing. And he future out of the ring is no less than one of the world's leaders.
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that's The Score.
Banner image: Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines (R) and Antonio Margarito of Mexico in action in their WBC World Super Welterweight title fight, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on November 13, 2010. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images