Because past is prologue, it’s worthwhile to revisit it in advance of Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao, May 2 on pay-per-view.
Here, we examine a list of Manny Pacquiao’s biggest wins, in reverse order from #10 to #1. By biggest here, we mean — the best opposition he defeated, based on that fighter’s form at the time, with deductions for debatable results. Before, we looked at Floyd Mayweather’s biggest wins.
10. Juan Manuel Marquez III, 2011
As with Mayweather, Marquez is probably the best fighter either of them have defeated. Unfortunately for them, circumstances matter. And in Pacquiao’s two wins over Marquez (the other two were a draw and a knockout loss), the win in their third meeting, at welterweight, was the least defensible. Few if any thought Pacquiao won the third meeting, unlike the first two meetings, which were both close and difficult to score.
9. Chatchai Sasakul, 1998
This was the first of Pacquiao’s four true/lineal championships — more than anyone else but Mayweather, with whom he shares the record — and it came at flyweight, early in his pro career; in fact, he was a mere 18 years old. He wasn’t the longest-reigning champ and it would be years longer before Pacquiao made a true international splash, but it was the start. He put Sasakul flat on his face with his then-unstoppable left hand.
8. Lehlo Ledwaba, 2001
Moving up to junior featherweight, this was a mid-step “coming out” for Pacquiao, who stepped as a late replacement opponent for an HBO bout where the commentators weren’t even sure how to say his name. Pacquiao proceeded to make mincemeat of Ledwaba, then the division’s legitimate champion, breaking his nose in the 1st round and then forcing him to quit on his stool in the 6th.
7. Oscar De La Hoya, 2008
For the non-hardcore fan, this was the introduction to Pacquiao, against an opponent of whom they’d heard. And it remains an impressive stoppage performance for a fighter leaping up two divisions, from lightweight to welterweight, in a bout where he was the underdog. Where it loses some of its starch is with the state De La Hoya was in to get down to 147 lbs., with Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, noting IV marks on his arm that pointed to surgical rehydration.
6. Timothy Bradley II, 2014 (pictured above left vs Pacquiao; via Jeff Gross, Getty Images)
If anything, this win deserves a higher ranking — Bradley was coming off his 2013 Fighter of the Year campaign and was a top-5 pound-for-pound boxer. To be fair, Bradley was a more natural junior welterweight, but then, so was Pacquiao. Following the devastating knockout loss to Marquez, Pacquaio beat an undersized Brandon Rios and then answered his unjust loss to Bradley in their first meeting, winning without a shadow of a doubt against a curiously strategically misguided Bradley.
5. Ricky Hatton, 2009
Pacquaio was at the frightening peak of his power punching against Hatton, then the junior welterweight champion. Mayweather, to be fair, had softened Hatton up slightly with a knockout, but Hatton had also reestablished himself the fight before against Paulie Malignaggi. Pacquiao dispensed with Hatton like he was powerwashing bugs off his car’s windshield, stopping him in two rounds with one of the best KOs of all time.
4. Miguel Cotto, 2009
Whatever doubts there were about Pacquiao as a welterweight after the De La Hoya win, he put them to rest with a stoppage of Cotto in one of the best years of his career. A well-regarded Cotto had suffered a damaging loss to Antonio Margarito in 2008, then rebounded with a hard, difficult-to-score fight against Joshua Clottey, before stepping in with Pacquiao. He came out well, but quickly was put into a shell by a nasty 4th round knockdown. He’d evade a KO until the 12th round, when the ref stopped it.
3. Juan Manuel Marquez II, 2008
This is another win over Marquez where there is serious disagreement among fans. But of the two wins, this is the one that’s most viable — it really could have gone either way, same as their draw in the first meeting. Fighting at junior lightweight, Pacquiao’s greatest career nemesis gave him 12 rounds of hell and vice versa, with plenty of fodder for debate about what the final result should’ve been. Ultimately, the judges scored it for Pacquiao, which wasn’t at all crazy.
2. Erik Morales II, 2006
In their first meeting, Morales busted up Pacquiao and mixed smart counterpunching with aggressiveness to halt Pacquiao’s march toward greatness. That halt was only temporary. Pacquiao would regroup, develop his right hand to become less one-dimensional, and then stop the great Morales in 10 rounds. It would be even more impressive if Morales hadn’t lost his previous fight, an ill-considered move up to lightweight against the tricky Zahir Raheem.
1. Marco Antonio Barrera I, 2003
Riding high off a win over hated rival Morales, Barrera was the consensus pound-for-pound top 3 boxer in the sport. Pacquiao, fighting him at featherweight, where Barrera was king, smacked him around like he was a rag doll. Perhaps the ring wear was getting to Barrera by then, but this was an eye-opening performance that turned Pacquiao into a star of the lower weight classes. Barrera’s corner stopped the fight in the 11th, and Pacquiao had a career-defining victory.