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Lessons for greatness
He is a folk hero in his native Philippines, which got him elected to the Congress, but his greatest fame is what he has accomplished in the ring.
Pacquiao began his career as a junior flyweight, fighting at 107 pounds but he made his fame when he moved into the featherweight division and began his challenge against the trio of great Mexicans, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez.
On November 15, 2003, Pacquiao came out stopped Barrera in the 11th round. He knocked Marquez down three times but Marquez came back to produce a draw in their championship bout and he lost a unanimous decision to Erik Morales.
In those bouts, Pacquiao showed power with his left hand but he proved vulnerable to right hand counters from Mexican fighters. At that stage in his career, he depended upon his speed and left hand to win fights but he was not a complete fighter.
He hired Freddie Roach as his trainer and Roach changed Pacquiao’s style and turned him into a complete fighter by adding a right hand jab to the southpaw’s arsenal.
Plus, he learned to use the whole ring by moving and countering bigger fighters.
The ability of Pacquiao to change styles proved to be his biggest accomplishment since it allowed to neutralized bigger fighters with his speed and power, which he maintained as he moved up in rank.
He defeated Morales twice by TKO, plus decision victories over Barrea and Marquez but he then decided to make history by moving up to lightweight division and knocking out champion David Diaz plus a surprise victory over Oscar De La Hoya, fighting a welterweight.
While many viewed the De La Hoya victory as a victory over an aged fighter (despite that many pundits favored De La Hoya going into the fight), Pacquiao stopped the top junior welterweight Ricky Hatton in two rounds.
After demolishing Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey and Antonio Margarito over the past year, “Pacman” has established himself as best boxer over the past decade. For many boxing pundits and fans, the judgment on whether he is the best over the past decade is dependent on if he beats Mayweather.
There may be another way to consider the question on who is the best pound for pound and look at who Pacquiao has beaten. Almost every division he’s fought in, he beat the best.
Look at his record over the past decade and you see that he defeated some of the best fighters of his generation. He beat Marquez once and drew with him as well, defeated both Morales and Barrera twice, Ricky Hatton in two rounds, Miguel Cotto, a solid champion, lightweight champ David Diaz, former champions Oscar De La Hoya, Antonio Margarito and Joshua Clottey among others.
Each victory enhanced his reputation and his popularity, already strong in Asia became a world wide phenomena as he took his tour to the states when he beat some of the best Mexican fighters.
Today, Pacquiao’s success as a PPV star rests on two factors. The first factor is that he did not just fight the best fighters but defeated the best of his generation from flyweight to welterweight and the second factor is that he is an action fighter which means great fights with great fighters.
Pacquiao provides a lesson for fighters who want to be great. The first lesson is never rest on your laurel and keeps improving on your game. He changed his style as he moved up in weight by adding a solid jab and learn to use the whole ring.
The second lesson is if you want to be great, then you have to beat other great fighters. Muhammad Ali’s greatness came because he fought the best of his era and beat them.
Pacquiao has done the same thing and this helped built his popularity as well. The final lesson is to provide action fights. He throws punches, and is not afraid to take risk.
Combine all three lessons and you have a great fighter for the all ages.