Monday, November 15, 2010


Philippine Congressman Manny Pacquiao won the vacant World Boxing Council super welterweight championship by soundly whipping Antonio Margarito in 12 rounds Saturday night at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. With this victory, he has won world championships in eight different weight divisions. The Pacman has won world titles at 112, 122, 126, 130, 135, 140, 147 and now 154 pounds.

Most of Pacquiao’s fights have been against opponents bigger than the congressman from the Philippines. Margarito was much taller and outweighed the Pacman by 17 pounds.
Many boxing writers and TV commentators are calling Pacquiao ‘the greatest fighter of all time.’ I’m not sure I’d go that far. All time is a long time. I will agree that Pacquiao is the greatest fighter in modern boxing history. Better than Muhammad Ali, the former great heavyweight champion? You bet Pacquiao is better than Ali.
However, I would nominate Stanley Ketchel, a fighter from the pre-modern boxing era, as the greatest fighter of all time. Ketchel, dubbed The Michigan Assassin, was world middleweight champion 1908-1910 and is rated by many boxing historians as the best middleweight ever to put on the gloves. He threw devastating knockout punches from any angle with either hand.
I think Ketchel was the best fighter ever, not just the best middleweight. Ketchel was fearless, even taking on heavyweights, including the great champion Jack Johnson. He had a record of 52 wins, four losses, four draws and four no decisions, with 49 wins by knockout.
The late boxing expert Nat Fleischer wrote that Ketchel was, "One of the greatest fighters of my time. All stone and ice concentration when he entered the ring. The moment he entered his eyes were the eyes of a killer. Ketchel scorned the word retreat. A demon of the roped square he made his opponents think that all the furies in Hades had been turned loose on them. He got his punches away from all angles. If he missed with one hand, he would nail him with the other. He was game as a bulldog and tough as a bronco."
Heavyweight boxer Jack Root said of Ketchel, "He possessed fists of iron, had a fighting heart and his self-confidence was unmatched." Veteran fight manager Dan Morgan stated that, "Ketchel was an exception to the human race. He was a savage. He would pound and rip his opponent’s eyes, nose and mouth in a clinch. He couldn’t get enough blood. His nickname "Assassin", fit him like a glove."
The Michigan Assassin’s life was cut short when he was shot in the back and killed by the common law husband of a woman with whom he had been having an affair. His last words were, "I'm so tired, take me home to mother."

All that is not to take anything away from Manny Pacquiao. From living in poverty on the streets, to boxing champion, to one of the richest athletes in the world, to congressman, the Pacman has come a long way and earned his place as the greatest fighter in modern boxing history.

Had Pacquiao been a heavyweight during Muhammad Ali’s prime, the Philippine Congressman would have made mincemeat out of Ali had they faced each other in the ring. Ali’s self-described ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee’ style would not have worked against the Pacman. Just ask Margarito.

Arguably the bravest fighter ever, Margarito took a terrible beating for eleven rounds. In the third round he suffered a cut under his right eye and he fought the rest of the fight with that eye almost swollen shut. Nevertheless, Margarito fought back gallantly in every round. Pacquiao eased off in the 12th and final round to keep from seriously injuring his bigger opponent. Right after Saturday night’s fight, Margarito was hospitalized with a broken right eye socket that will require surgery.  

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