On September 17, 1999, a weight-drained Manny Pacquiao lost his World Boxing Council (WBC) world flyweight crown to Medgoen Singsurat of Thailand via third round knockout. A well-placed punch to the midsection sent the then 19-year old Pacquiao to the canvas in the first defense of his title he won via fourth round stoppage from Gabriel Mira on April 24, 1999.
With the loss, Pacquiao could have joined permanently the list of Filipino world champions who lost their world titles in their first defense and never became world champions again. Among them were Frank Cedeño (flyweight), Pedro Adigue (light welterweight), Bernabe Villacampo (flyweight), Ceferino Garcia (middleweight), and Morris East (junior welterweight), just to name a few.
If there is any consolation at that time, Pacquiao was one of the few Filipino boxers who won their world titles at 19 years old or younger, counting Ben Villaflor (junior lightweight) and East, among others.
But who would ever thought Pacquiao, whose rag-to-riches story is an inspiration to millions of Filipinos, would bounce back and become the richest and most successful boxer out of the Philippines and Asia?
By the time he fights Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 2 in Las Vegas in what is billed as “The Fight of the Century,” Pacquiao would boast of winning collaring world titles in an unprecedented eight divisions: flyweight; super bantamweight; featherweight; junior lightweight; lightweight; junior welterweight; welterweight; and junior middleweight.
Pacquiao was also recognized by the prestigious The Ring magazine as the world champion at featherweight, junior lightweight, and junior welterweight.
From his crushing defeat in Thailand, Pacquiao was able to recover remarkably with six successive stoppage wins before facing Lehlo Ledwaba for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) superbantamweight title. Coming in as an underdog and still virtually unknown to the US boxing media, Pacquiao made relatively easy work of Ledwaba, who possessed the moniker “Hands of Stone.” The African fighter was stopped in the sixth round in an undercard fight staged at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, which would host a good number of the Filipino’s future big-money bouts.
While Pacquiao had to settle for a technical draw in a fight against Agapito Sanchez on November 10, 2001 for the IBF and World Boxing Organization world superbantamweight titles, the Filipino racked up four stoppage wins to line him up against Marco Antonio Barrera of Mexico in a battle between a young and up-coming fighter and an accomplished veteran. No world title was at stake in the fight held on November 15, 2003.
In what was one of Pacquiao’s best fights, the Filipino stopped the Mexican in the 11th round. Pacquiao would later meet archrival Juan Manuel Marquez in his next bout held on May 8, 2004. The fight ended in a draw, even if Marquez was knocked down three times in the first round. The IBF world featherweight title was among the belts at stake in the bout.
While Pacquiao proved his mettle by winning two of three fights against Erik Morales, both by stoppage, the big money fights for the Filipino started with his eighth-round stoppage of Oscar De La Hoya on December 6, 2008. De La Hoya was reportedly paid $20 million while Pacquiao earned $6 million.
From then on, Pacquiao would get paid in the tens of millions of dollars in his next fights against Ricky Hatton (to win the International Boxing Organization world junior welterweight title), Miguel Cotto (World Boxing Organization world welterweight title); Joshua Clottey; Antonio Margarito (WBC superwelterweight title); Shane Mosley; and Marquez (third meeting).
Pacquiao, however, hit a stumbling block when he lost his WBO world welterweight championship to Timothy Bradley on June 9, 2012. And while Pacquiao also got a big payday when he faced Marquez for a fourth time on December 8, 2012, he was knocked out by the Mexican in the sixth round of a see-saw battle.
Pacquiao would recover and pocket tens of millions of dollars in his decision wins over Brandon Rios (for vacant WBO world welterweight title), Bradley and Chris Algieri.
With a record of 57-5-2 with 38 knockouts, Pacquiao has figured in more fights compared to Mayweather who sports a 47-0 record with 26 KOs.
Pacquiao’s five losses would attest to his being an imperfect boxer who banked more on aggressiveness in the mold of Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns, Mike Tyson and even Rocky Marciano. And boxing historians and fans alike loved these fighters.
But Pacquiao’s being able to establish his name in the United States without having a sterling amateur career like De Le Hoya, or not belonging to a family of boxers like Floyd Mayweather may be the more remarkable feat. Floyd’s father Floyd Sr., and two uncles Roger and Jeff were former professional fighters. Roger also won world titles in two divisions.
Great Filipino boxers like Pacquiao, Gabriel “Flash” Elorde and Pancho Villa never come in succession within a few years. We might never see a boxer similar to Pacquiao in the decades to come. Or he may be the only one of his kind from the Philippines.