Manny Pacquiao: Middleweight Champion Of The World?

After claiming the linear middleweight championship (despite being more of a blown up junior middleweight), Sergio Martinez has some options that he didn’t have a few years ago, when he was better known as “Who the Hell Is” Sergio Martinez?

A rematch with Kelly Pavlik looms, thanks to a rematch clause in Pavlik’s contract. A rematch with Paul Williams is arguably the most attractive fight for Martinez, given the sensational battle they fought in December of last year. Alfredo Angulo and the Plaster Blaster are other candidates, though I find those options less attractive (terrible style matchup for Angulo, and I’m not even opening the can of worms that is A****** M********).

However, the fact that Martinez is a relatively small middleweight, combined with the fact that Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley are occupied with one another and Pacquiao is talking of fighting later this year whether or not he wins his election, led me to consider a notion that seems slightly insane on the surface: could Pacquiao fight for – and possibly win – the middleweight championship of the world?

(All aboard!)

We’ve been here before. When Larry Merchant floated the idea of Pacquiao fighting Oscar De La Hoya a couple of years ago, it seemed like some fanciful Abraham Simpson rambling. Eventually, as we all know, Pacquiao not only fought the Golden Boy but obliterated him, forcing him to retire on his stool.

Now, Pacquiao is an established welterweight, no matter how long he holds onto his world junior welterweight title. He might be a “blown up” welterweight in the sense that Martinez is a “blown up” middleweight, but with three wins and two knockouts in the welterweight division, size is no obstacle for the PacMan.

Before Joshua Clottey was tapped for the March 13 date at Cowboys Stadium, Bob Arum liked to talk of potentially matching Pacquiao with junior middleweight beltholder Yuri Foreman, the Straight Right Rabbi. The goal was to achieve an eighth different division with a world title, an unprecedented feat.

Pacquaio already holds the record for divisions in which he won a title belt with seven, as well as divisions with a linear title at four. Against Martinez, he could potentially add to both of those totals with the linear middleweight championship, one of the most prestigious titles in the sport. Freddie Roach was opposed to the idea, claiming that Pacquiao is at his maximum weight. However, how much weight exactly would Pacquiao have to gain to have a legitimate chance against Martinez?

First off, let’s hypothesize that both sides would have to agree to a catchweight that would still qualify for defense of the middleweight championship. So, let’s say that they sign to fight at 155 pounds, 1 pound above the junior middleweight limit. Remember, ANY fight between 155-160 pounds is a middleweight fight (techinically, any fight between 154.1-160 pounds), and the middleweight championship is defended in middleweight fights, not exclusively in fights with a 160- pound limit.

Second, let’s further hypothesize that the contract stipulates checking weight a second time on the day of the fight, with a limit on how much a fighter can gain after the weigh-in. Let’s say a limit of 163 pounds, eight pounds over the hypothetical contract weight. Such stipulations would help mitigate the size disadvantage for PacMan. He will be at a disadvantage no matter what, but not to any extremes. And I speculate that Martinez would be agreeable, as he has no reported trouble making 154 pounds anyway and a fight with Pacquiao would earn him a payday that would dwarf his gross earnings in boxing to date.

With the right build-up, the fight could arguably be the biggest in Pacquiao’s career. That’s like saying you’re the best boxer in Cuba – it really means something. Would Martinez, were he to weigh 160 pounds on fight night, really be THAT much bigger and stronger than Clottey, who may have weighed even more when he stepped in the ring with PacMan?

In an attempt to help strengthen my argument, I took a quick look at the career record of the fighter to whom Pacquiao draws the most comparisons, at least in regards to weight-hopping: Henry Armstrong. As I suspected, Armstrong rarely tipped the scales at the welterweight limit when he defended that title. In fact, Armstrong was often outweighed by 10 pounds or more in his welterweight defenses, sometimes coming in as a legitimate lightweight.

So, even if Pacquio were to come in at 150 pounds, he would be at no less of a disadvantage against Martinez than Armstrong was against a number of challengers, the majority of which he mowed down with ease. He really wouldn’t be at much more of a disadvantage than Mayweather was when he fought Oscar De La Hoya at junior middleweight (in terms of weight, not overall matchup).

As for the fight itself: the matchup is awesome. Pacquiao and Martinez share some similarities in style, as awkward southpaws who rely on quick movement and odd angles. Martinez is fast but Pacquiao is even faster, also helping to negate the size differential. And Pacquiao boasts as much natural punching power as anyone in the sport, while Martinez is not a particularly heavy-handed fighter.

Were Pacquiao to somehow win the middleweight championship, he would rocket even further up the rankings of all-time great fighters. Were he to fail, he would be commended for trying. Either way, the buzz would be tremendous for boxing and Pacquiao would have another fight to capture the imaginations of fans, without the doom and gloom associated with Pacquiao-Mayweather.

Maybe this is just some more fanciful Grandpa Simpson rambling. But with Pacquiao, we’ve seen before that fanciful ramblings can unexpectedly turn into fascinating realities.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.