For most American fight fans, their first glimpse of Manny Pacquiao came in the summer of 2001 when the Filipino whirlwind delivered a scintillating performance in dispatching highly-regarded IBF super bantamweight champion Lehlo Ledwaba inside of six rounds. In the following years Pacquiao would only further enhance his budding legacy by locking horns with the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, and Erik Morales, showing himself to be a fighter with a penchant for the kill despite being a little rough around the edges.
And while Pacquiao has always seemed to have something special inside of him, his run up in weight and through a well-known list of opponents in the past few years has been completely unexpected and thoroughly impressive. In speaking with respected North Philadelphia trainer Naazim Richardson, known best for his work with light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins, he states that the simple fact that nobody saw this coming is what makes Pacquiao’s heroics so unique.
<— Massive slideshow: A look back at the careers of Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, including the thrilling highs and sorrowing lows, with the Pacquiao-Marquez Timeline
“Nobody can anticipate greatness,” said Richardson. “We can anticipate champions, we can anticipate talent; nobody can anticipate greatness. So whenever somebody goes on and does something great, we can’t call that. That’s the reason it is great, because nobody could call it. We picked Sonny Liston to knock out Cassius Clay. We picked Buster Douglas to get knocked out by Mike Tyson. And that’s why these feats are called great, because we couldn’t call it. If we could call it, it isn’t great.”
Pacquiao is now a little over six weeks away from another high-profile encounter as he will face off with Mexico City’s Juan Manuel Marquez for a third time inside of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on November 12th. The first two encounters between the them were memorable, with a split-draw arising after their May 2004 encounter and Pacquiao walking away with a debatable split-decision victory nearly four years later.
Given Pacquiao’s refinements since their first encounter and Marquez’s advanced age of 38, Manny is considered a huge favorite yet Richardson feels the style clash between the two men will always lead to an intriguing match.
“The Marquez fight is an entertaining fight because Marquez knows how to fight Pacquiao,” Richardson said. “He’s probably not the same guy, but he does know how to actually fight Pacquiao. The method has been revealed how to fight Manny Pacquiao but this little joker punches so hard, that usually when they get into it, they go into defensive mode.”
Richardson had the arduous task of trying to defeat Pacquiao in the eight-division champion’s last fight, which ended up being a dominant yet painfully tepid unanimous decision over Shane Mosley in May. Mosley was dropped hard in the third round and spent much of the rest of the fight backpedaling and staying out of harm’s way while Pacquiao plodded forward.
Seeing the fight unfold from ringside, Richardson was taken back to Felix Trinidad’s May 2001 drubbing of William Joppy inside of Madison Square Garden. Hopkins was in line to face the winner, and while Trinidad did electrify the crowd by scoring a first-round knockdown, Joppy found a way to survive up until the fifth round by pumping his jab and constantly moving.
Richardson can’t help but to compare the Trinidad-Joppy and Pacquiao-Mosley fights and in seeing Shane find a way to maneuver away from Pacquiao round after round following his knockdown, he wonders if that might be part of the blueprint on how to defeat Pacquiao.
“To me, Joppy lead me to formulate something where it was obvious how to beat Trinidad,” Richardson reflected. “Because if a man is hurt and tarnished against one of the best finishers of the era, then usually they are finished. But if that man still goes on to get rounds in, people are going to look and say ‘How did he get those rounds in?’”
I have spoken with Richardson in-depth about the career of Floyd Mayweather Jr., who is still looked at as the biggest threat to Pacquiao, but it still seems highly unlikely that the two men will ever meet. It would be a shame but Richardson feels that Pacquiao would be able to look back still knowing that his legacy is intact.
“It wouldn’t be incomplete. He’s amassed so much work and he’s put together so many great championships and to add him jumping in weight classes; them not fighting will hurt Mayweather more than it will Pacquiao.”
Anyone interested in look back at the careers of Pacquiao and Marquez, including their bouts against the likes of Barrera, Morales, Mayweather, Cotto and others, please visit the Pacquiao-Marquez Timeline, which includes shots from photographers Naoki Fukuda and Chris Farina while giving readers an behind-the-scenes look at all the action…
Chris Robinson is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He can be reached at [email protected]