By Rasec Rinba
Manny Pacquiao has been called many names. Pound-for-pound King. 8-Division Champion. Fighter of the Decade. Cherry-picker? Not really fitting for someone considered by most to be the best fighter of today. But nonetheless, the name has cropped up more than once, especially with his recent choices of aging opponents in Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez.
But what is a cherry-picker? Urban Dictionary defines it well: A cherry-picker is one who chooses easy tasks over challenging ones.
So is Pacquiao a cherry-picker? Before we start our analysis, a principle we have to consider is that we have to judge the validity of Manny’s adversaries based on the circumstances before the contract was signed, and NOT on the lopsided outcome. With this in mind, let us begin our analysis to the period when Pacquiao finally became the Pound-for-Pound king. This title was given to him after winning his Lightweight championship match against David Diaz in July, 2008. Why start at this point? It’s because this was the time when he was already expected to take on the best opposition without excuse. His stature demanded it.
For his first two fights as Pound-for-pound best, no one questioned his choice of opponents. Pacquiao had to go up two divisions to fight former champion Oscar De La Hoya who was actually the favorite coming in while everyone wanted to see him face Ricky Hatton, not just because the fight was expected to be ultra-exciting, but also because Hatton was the lineal champion at 140 pounds.
But in 2009, a few questioned the choice of Miguel Cotto as Manny’s next opponent. Some would accuse Pacquiao of ducking Shane Mosley who was the number one welterweight at the time. The contention here, however, is that Cotto beat Shane in their own match. Miguel is also younger, in his prime and has a better record. Although he was beaten by Margarito who was later trounced by Mosley, on paper, both were more or less the same caliber. In the end, the deciding factor on why Cotto was chosen was that Miguel is promoted by Top Rank like Manny and more importantly, he draws more viewers in his fights. The bottom line is: Cotto was not a step-down in level when compared to Mosley. Pacquiao’s choice is justified.
It has to be noted that at this point onwards, Floyd Mayweather is undeniably the best opponent for Pacquiao. But we all know this story. We know the arguments. What I can only say about this in relation to our topic is that Manny has expressed his desire to fight Floyd and the majority believe Mayweather is the one cherry-picking. ‘Nuff said.
With Floyd out of the equation, Pacquiao was left hanging in the early part of 2010. He would eventually choose Joshua Clottey who was ranked fifth. While being number five doesn’t look too impressive, he was actually the best AVAILABLE welterweight at that time. Mosley (# 1) was scheduled to fight Andre Berto (#4) when Manny (#3) was shopping for a challenger. Floyd was #2, so the next best option was Clottey. In truth, it wasn’t such a bad match-up when it was signed. It just felt that way after losing the prospect of a super-fight with Floyd.
Next up was the come-backing Antonio Margarito. He’s freakishly huge, a former champion, and a man hungry for redemption. Compared to all the welterweights and below, Margarito was the most dangerous fight for Manny. The only asterisk in this fight was that it was for a Light Middleweight crown which admittedly, neither Margarito nor Pacquiao deserved a shot at. Still, no one in his right mind would consider this a cherry-pick. Margarito used to be the most avoided fighter in the division. I think he still would be if he fought at welterweight. By the way, did I mention he’s freakishly huge?
With Mayweather still on vacation, Pacquiao was left with 3 opponents to choose from for his first fight in 2011: Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez and Andre Berto. Among the three, Marquez was perceived by the majority as the most deserving. But in the end, the Pacquiao sweepstakes went to Mosley. The problem with this scenario is that at this point in his career, nobody was considered a major threat to Pacquiao except Floyd. Manny would have been criticized whoever he chose. Besides, the argument then was that, even at his age, Shane could easily beat Marquez while Berto was still unproven, not to mention a virtual unknown to the general public. All three had pros and cons but all of them would have been huge underdogs. So choosing Shane over Marquez and Berto wasn’t as big a deal and it definitely couldn’t be called cherry-picking.
Lastly, Pacquiao would choose Juan Manuel Marquez for his coming fight this November. Some say that it should have been then-WBC welterweight champion, Victor Ortiz but it would again boil down to the same argument as Manny’s previous options. Ortiz was unproven and Marquez was, as I mentioned, the one people wanted before the Mosley fight. Plus, there is a historical significance to this third match after having the first two ending in controversy. So this time, Manny gave in to the fans. It’s just a wonder how people can still insert Victor’s name after clamoring for Marquez just a few months earlier. So despite Marquez’s advanced age, Pacquiao’s choice is legitimate.
While I agree that Manny’s recent opponents have not exactly been stellar, it is only because the best and logical adversary is still putting roadblocks to the fight. In summary, I believe that the Pacman has still taken on the best AVAILABLE challenge since his rise to super-stardom. So no, Manny Pacquiao is NOT a cherry-picker. That title is reserved for someone else.
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