Finally. After years of ignoring the clamor for him to retire, after a spectacular 26-year career where he brought home world titles in a record 8 weight classes, after a surprise loss to little-known Yordenis Ugas last August, our very own boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao has finally decided to hang up his gloves.
In a glorious run starting in 1995, Pacquiao picked up his first world crown – the WBC flyweight title – in 1998 at a tender age of 19, when he knocked out heavy favorite and defending champ Chachai Sasakul of Thailand. He would lose the title after 2 bouts to another Thai fighter, Medgoen Singsurat, as he struggled to maintain his growing weight.
In 2001, Pacquiao went to the USA to try his luck there, ending up in the Wildcard Gym in Los Angeles where he met Freddie Roach. Roach would be his father-figure, his mentor-trainer, his friend and adviser from then on. Roach would hone Manny’s talents, and he would go on a world-title collecting spree, mowing down legendary names and titleholders left and right.
In 2001, Manny annexed the IBF super bantamweight title via KO over South African Lehlo Ledwaba. He was a last-minute replacement with Ledwaba installed as a heavy favorite to retain his crown. No matter. Despite being given just a 2-week lead time, Manny would totally demolish Ledwaba in 6 rounds.
He would then take the Ring featherweight belt via TKO over Mexico’s Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003. Manny would win the vacant WBC super-featherweight crown with a TKO win over another Mexican, Hector Velasquez in 2005. He would have more colorful skirmishes with Mexico’s trio of Hall of Fame-bound fighters in the featherweight category – Juan Manuel Marquez (2 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss), Eric Morales (2 wins, 1 loss trilogy) and Marco Antonio Barrera (2 wins).
Manny invaded the lightweight division in style, mauling USA’s David Diaz in 2008. From hereon, Pacquiao’s star would shine brighter and brighter as he whipped another trio of Hall of Famers in Oscar de la Hoya (in 2008), Ricky Hatton (for the IBO light welterweight title in 2009) and Miguel Cotto (for the WBO welterweight title in 2009).
In 2010, Manny would take the WBC super-welterweight title via a bloody unanimous decision win over the notorious Antonio Margarito. This would be the heaviest Manny would ever go, as he finally acknowledged the limits of his weight. From then on, he would stay in the welterweight division, where he would meet such worthy opponents as Shane Mosely, Timothy Bradley (2 wins- 1 loss trilogy), Juanma Marquez again (to whom he suffered a scary KO loss in 2012), and Floyd Mayweather Jr (to whom he lost in what is now known as the richest boxing bout ever). He now ends his career with 62 wins, eight losses and two draws, with 39 of those victories coming by knockout.
Pacquiao, now 42, holds the distinction as the only fighter ever to have held titles in 4 different decades, having won his first title in 1998, and losing his last title in 2021. He is the last remaining boxer from the golden boxing era of the 1980s to the 90s. Championing that era were the likes of Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Roy Jones Jr, Bernard Hopkins, Felix Trinidad, Oscar de la Hoya, Shane Mosely, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, Julio Cesar Chavez, Aaron Pryor, Floyd Mayweather, the Mexican trio of Marquez, Morales and Barrera, and many more. These were the names and faces that thrilled the boxing world during those times. With Pacquiao’s retirement, it is curtains for the pre-2000s boxing era.
Manny was easily one of boxing’s biggest draws in the 2000s. He is still one of the most recognizable faces of boxing today. His name is well known and respected in all corners of the world, rallying people from all over with his rags-to-riches story, plus his humble, friendly demeanor. He is an inspiration to many. His is a Cinderella story that everyone dreams to emulate.
In his 15-minute farewell video, Manny said: “It is difficult for me to accept that my time as a boxer is over. Today I am announcing my retirement. I never thought that this day would come. As I hang up my boxing gloves, I would like to thank the whole world, especially the Filipino people, for supporting Manny Pacquiao.” Manny is the country’s best known athlete, hands down. He has made the country proud, and has – in more ways than one – helped provide economic development and jobs for many of our countrymen.
Manny Pacquiao will now take on a new challenge, having announced his plans to run for the presidency of the land. This will be a different ballgame for Manny, but he plans to go ahead with the same determination, the same confidence with which he ruled the boxing world.
How he fares in this new arena will be another matter. It is a totally different ballgame, with a totally different set of rules…. if indeed these rules are followed.
For more on Manny’s storied boxing career, pls read:
Cover pic courtesy of Live About. Other pics courtesy of: New York Times, Premiere Boxing Champions, ABSCBN.com, Ring TV, Boxing News, Denver Post, Boxing Scene, Kami.com.ph, YouTube, the LA Times, and World Boxing News.