On a cold night of November 15, 2003 in San Antonio, Texas, Manny Pacquiao, fighting for his fourth fight in the United States, TKOed Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera in the 11th round to crown himself the RING MAGAZINE featherweight champion.
That was the then soon-to-be 25-year-old third world title in as many weight divisions following his conquest of the World Boxing Council flyweight crown at the expense of Thai Chathai Sasakul five years ago in Thailand and the International Boxing Federation super-bantamweight plum over Lehlo Ledwaba in his first outing in the American soil 2001.
That, too, actually was the first of three of Pacquiao’s greatest fights that occurred in this month o November.
For the Pacman, as he is also known, would win five more world championships in five categories the rest of his journey, two more this month the World Boxing Organization welterweight coming on November 14, 2009 and November 13, 2010.
Pacquiao took the147-pound world diadem from Miguel Cotto, whom he stopped in the 12th and final round of a brutal confrontation at the MGM Grand in actually his only second bout in the welterweight class after which he climbed to the super-welterweight division he following year and disposed Antonio Margarito off for the title.
Like his fight with Ledwaba held in Las Vegas the Filipino pound-for-pound king wannabe was the underdog against Barrera (1-4), then considered as the world’s best featherweight, in that November 15 encounter, which he and the nation is commemorating its 14th anniversary today.
The soon-to-be eight weight division world belt-holder had moved to a new weight class from light-flyweight, flyweight, super-bantamweight to featherweight against the dangerous Barrera, the lineal champion and an elite pound-for-pound fighter who was just coming from a great winning run after beating Naseem Hamed to attain the lineage.
In another sensational performance reminiscence of his similar showing against Ledwaba, he dropped his fellow future Hall of Famer in the third and 11th rounds that forced Barrera’s corner to throw the towel stunning most everyone else. That was the fight that gave birth to the Filipino the recognition as a ring legend.
Six years later on November 14, 2009, the former two-time congressman now senator would claim the WBO 147-pound crown by sending Cotto on the seat of pants for good following 12 rounds of seemingly unending exchanges of power hitting seldom seen in fights in any division nowadays.
This title showdown was Paquaio’s second in the welterweight category after sending legendary Oscar De La Hoya to retirement a year prior and this, too, could be the most impressive performance in his entire career.
The husband of Sarangani Ex-Gov. Jinkee, knocked Cotto down in the third and fourth cantos butted him up, walked him down and stopped him seconds before the encounter ended in a tremendous show of boxing prowess which, to many spelled the apex of his career.
“Miguel Cotto came as the ultimate test of my fighting ability,” Pacquiao told this writer after the grueling grind. “Indeed, it was a very physical battle. Undoubtedly, Cotto was one of the best and the fiercest I ever fought. He forced me to dig deeper than I ever had to pull through.”
“Manny Pacquiao is the best ever fighter I ever saw,” promoter Bob Arum declared after the bout. Or something to that effect. “Better than Muhammad Ali!
Pacquiao though never stopped any of the succeeding fighters he danced with atop the ring since then, including arch-enemy Juan Manuel Marquez, big strong man Antonio Margarito and Timothy Bradley, world champions all, among mothers.
He cut Margarito to pieces a year later though on November 10, 2010, in 12 rounds for the history-making and unprecedented WBC juniors middleweight gonfalon, his eighth at the cavernous Dallas Cowboy Arena in Arlington, Texas.
The former pound-for-pound King Pacuiao came to he fight 17 pounds underweight but to the surprise of 50,000 plus spectators, still managed to give the ex-International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and WBO welterweight titlist a savage beating.
That was a dominant performance that should have been stopped in the later rounds and awarded the Filipino what could have been his 39th KO triumph. Pacquiao, in fact, so streamrolled Margarito by inflicting him with a career-altering eye injury and breaking his rival’s orbital bone in emphasizing his superiority.
He did take some heavy shots though from Margarito, leading him to declare after the punishing experience he won’t fight again in that heavy division. “This was my most physical and punishing fight. Margarito had such a reach and weight advantage over me. My ribs ached for a long time after that fight, “ he recalled.
“Once was enough for me at that weight,” he surmised. “Someone asked me if I wanted to defend the title and I said, no thanks. I thought that in that fight I had reached my limit in terms of weight class.”
“I fought a good fight and the atmosphere at the Cowboys Stadium was so memorable. I think the fight should have been stopped. Margarito took a lot of punishment,” he said.