Boxing's only eight-weight World Champion Manny Pacquiao takes his talent to Brisbane, Australia, on July 1st to face Jeff Horn, while Floyd Mayweather is set to face UFC star Conor McGregor in August.
Which of the pound-for-pound greats has a better resume? Glynn Evans attempts to find out.
For the avoidance of any doubt, let it be clearly stated that Floyd Joy Mayweather Jnr AKA ‘The Pretty Boy’ or the ‘Money’ man has been the best boxer - both technically and commercially – of this current Millennium.
However, best does not always equate to greatest.
It’s true that on 2nd May 2015, ‘The (self proclaimed) Best Ever’ comprehensively defeated Manny Pacquiao, his only legitimate rival to the claim, by margins of eight points and four points (twice) in their long overdue showdown for multiple versions of the world welterweight title.
But that, in itself, proves little. Regardless of whether the ‘Pac Man’ was compromised by a shoulder injury (as he claimed post-fight), the Filipino southpaw is a naturally smaller man – at 19 he snared his first world title down at flyweight while, at a similar age, Mayweather was a featherweight Olympian, four categories above. Besides, both were in recess when the business belatedly got done.
Numerically, it’s a mismatch that would shame even the notoriously ambivalent Oklahoma Boxing Commission. Atlanta Olympic medallist Mayweather, a perfect 49-0, has won four more world titles (11-7), triumphed in 11 more ‘Big Four’ world championship bouts (26-15) and defeated five more world champions (22-17).
His career earnings (estimated in excess of $650 by Forbes magazine) eclipse those of every other athlete, never mind Pacquiao or any other boxer.
So why did the Boxing Writers Association of America, HBO, the WBC and WBO all honour Pacquiao as their Fighter of the Decade (noughties) ahead of Mayweather? As nineteenth century Prime Minster Benjamin Disraeli was prone to preaching: ‘There’s lies, damn lies, and statistics!’
Pacquiao claws back credence with less measurable tangibles. Pro boxing is essentially part of the entertainment business and, certainly in latter years, the egotistical and bombastic ‘Money’ man was invariably more entertaining when he was not wearing his gloves. Between the ropes, his clinical mindset seldom progressed beyond getting his hand raised.
In fairness, Phantom Floyd merits consideration as one of the greatest defence fighters ever. Years of practice enabled him to completely master his craft and his capacity to twist opponents inside out certainly delights the purists.
But Pacquiao’s kamikaze mindset, blistering hand speed, potent combinations and crippling ‘take out’ power suggest that it will be his tapes that ‘still to be born’ fight fans will seek out 50 years from now.
Thirty-eight of Manny’s wins came by stoppage (trumping Floyd’s 26), and though his hold in kayo percentage is surprisingly marginal (58% to 53), where Mayweather grinds victims down, Pacquiao could send them to sleep. Ask Ricky Hatton.
And the Filipino’s greater capacity for risk taking wasn’t just restricted to fight night. How many times did Mayweather enter a fight as an underdog or even money nap? Conversely, Pacquiao has been rolling the dice ever since, as a teenage flyweight, he travelled to Thailand to dethrone the very able WBC champion Chatchai Sasakul.
Subsequently, he has entered as an outsider against gifted, dangerous and frequently bigger foes such as Lehlo Ledwaba, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Oscar De La Hoya and Mayweather.
Similarly, tests against Juan Manuel Marquez, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto and the massive Antonio Margarito were pretty much ‘pick’em’ with trade insiders. While Mayweather, particularly in his more senior years, has been guilty of overt caution in protecting his ‘0’, Pacquiao gambles for the right to be considered great.
The man from General Santos City in the Philippines certainly dealt more emphatically with common opponents. While Mayweather’s 2009 points victory over Pac nemesis Marquez was more convincing than the split and majority that Manny registered, the ‘Money’ man was rocked to his boots by Shane Mosley who Pacquiao thumped to the carpet. (Both logged landslide verdicts).
In their remaining head-to-heads, Pacquiao boasts a clear advantage. Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto both saw the finishing flag against Floyd but were terminated early by the Filipino who also eliminated Hatton eight rounds quicker than ‘TBE’ managed.
Additionally, Pacquiao’s accomplishments have been achieved across a far broader weight range. While Mayweather claimed global titles from super-feather to super-welter (a span of 24lbs), the Filipino southpaw – bereft of the nepotism that the Mayweather dynasty exercised, to smooth Floyd’s passage – began life as a 16 year old strawweight.
Despite completely skipping the super-fly and bantam classes, he hoovered up world titles in eight divisions (if you include Ring belts at feather and super-lightweight) spanning 10 weight categories and 42lbs.....that’s three stone!
And more often than not, he beat the man who beat the man.....seven titles were acquired by toppling defending champions.
A final but very relevant consideration is their roles as ambassadors for our sport and it is here that Pacquiao really hangs Mayweather out to the dry.
Trash talking sells tickets and few have mastered this integral part of the industry better than Mayweather. However, convictions for domestic violence, plus a penchant for flaunting bling and spraying $100 bills leaves a sour taste in the mouths of many within boxing’s essentially working class fan base.
While FMJ has conducted his professional business exclusively in the 50 states, the native Filipino – in addition to 26 fights on US soil and 35 in his homeland - has showcased his wares in Japan, Thailand (twice), Macau (twice), conducting himself with class and dignity at every port.
Though previous vices included a gambling addiction, alcohol abuse and infidelity, the born again Evangelist is a committed philanthropist, obscenely generous to his impoverished countrymen. He serves on the nations Senate and, it’s said, brings crime to a complete standstill in the Philippines, every time he wages war between the ropes. He is blessed with the common touch.
Though Floyd emerged victorious when the pair finally went head-to-head last year and is commonly perceived as the superior all-round fighter, don’t be surprised if history remembers Manny more fondly.