KUALA LUMPUR: Only one fighter in history has won world championships in eight weight classes – Manny Pacquiao. The Filipino Filipino great did the remarkable feat starting as a 106-pound campaigner, won his first title at 112 pounds going up to emerge triumphant at 154 pounds.
On Sunday, the Filipino ring legend climbs the ring anew aiming to recapture the world welterweight championship he first won in 2009, defended thrice, lost twice, regained as many times only to lose it again last year.
Standing on his way is current Argentine World Boxing Association titlist Lucas Matthysse, a powerful puncher who is four years younger than him and, likewise, is considered past his prime.
At 39 and in his 23rd year as a prizefighter, the father of five with wife Jinkee, a former fashion model and Sarangani Vice Governor Pacquiao has achieved other fighter before him had and will never be attained in the near future—winning world titles in eight weight divisions.
That’s besides crowning himself, too, the first man to win lineal championship in five different weight classes and win a major world title in four of the original title eight categories, also known as the “glamor” divisions—flyweight, featherweight, lightweight and welterweight.
In so doing, the Pambansang Kamao jumped 48 pounds from where he began higher, ruling the flyweight (112 pounds), super-bantamweight (122), featherweight (126), super-featherweight (130), lightweight (135), junior-welterweight (140), welterweight (147) and super-welterweight (154).
The Pacman would have actually won title in 10 of the sweet science’s 17 weight classes had he campaigned, too, in the bantamweight and junior-bantamweight. He skipped both and won his second world plum a junior-featherweight after ruling the flyweight class.
Three years following his debut in 1995, Pacquiao wrested the WBC flyweight crown from Thai Chatchai Sasakul via an eighth round KO on December 14, 1998. He followed this up by also stopping South African Lehlo Ledwaba in six on June 23, 2001 for the IBF super-bantamweight title.
Then came Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera, who, he, too, TKOed in 11 rounds to claim the RING featherweight throne on November 15, 2003. He met archrival Juan Manuel Marquez for the second of their four meetings on March 15, 2008 for the WBC super-featherweight championship
Three shorter route triumphs followed —over David Diaz (WBC lightweight in TKO in 9 rounds), Ricky Hatton (IBO junior-welterweight KO in 2 rounds) and Miguel Cotto (WBO welterweight KO in 12) followed before Pacquiao nearly ended Antonio Margarito’s career with a 12-round unanimous decision victory.
In winning the super-bantamweight title, Pacquiao stepped in the ring as a late replacement on two weeks’ notice but won the fight by TKO for his second major world title. Held at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, it was his first fight in the United States as well as his first under the tutelage of new trainer Freddie Roach.
He became the first Filipino to be crowned three-division world champ after beating Barrera via TKO in the seventh. A week after returning home, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo conferred him the Presidential Medal of Merit at the Ceremonial Hall of Malacañang Palace.
The following day Pacquiao became the first Filipino sportsman to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Achievements.
In crowning himself the WBC lightweight titlist, Pacquiao became the first Filipino and Asian to became five-division champion and the first Filipino fighter to ever win a world title in the 135-pound division.
Following his demolition of Oscar De La Hoya in a non-title welterweight clash, Pacquiao dropped down in weight to challenge lineal junior-welterweight champion Hatton. He was at his devastating best, scoring the most awesome knockout of his career, a one-shot blow that left his rival out cold in the center of the ring. It was voted knockout of the year 2009.
Cotto was Pacquiao’s first title fight as a welterweight and proved to be the most impressive performance of his entire career. He dropped Cotto in the third and fourth rounds, busted him up, walked him down before stopping him in a tremendous fight viewed as the apex of Pacquiao’s career.
In the history-making battle with Margarito, Pacquiao was outweighed by 17 pounds but still dealt the enemy with savage beating. The encounter should’ve been stopped in middle rounds as Pacquiao inflicting Margarito career-altering eye injury and breaking his orbit. He took though heavy shots leading many to believe his best days as a fighter were over.