By Ingming Aberia
Manny Pacquiao’s career record—which currently stands at 52 win (38 by stoppage), 3 losses (2 by KO), and 2 draws—could have been 56 wins and 1 loss instead.
Pacquiao’s first bad night was on February 9, 1996. He was 17, essaying his 12th professional bout against Rustico Torrecampo. Like all normal human males his age, his growth glands pumped calcium and protein into his blood stream in unprecedented doses. He was getting older than a boy although still younger than a man. He was growing up, physically.
Pacquiao faced Torrecampo some two pounds heavier than their agreed catchweight of 110 pounds, and was slapped with a heavier pair of gloves. At this stage of Pacquiao’s ring life the struggle with keeping body weight within the prescribed limit was probably as taxing as winning fights itself. His full capacity—concentration, reflexes, stamina, etc.—was compromised. In the second round of the Torrecampo fight he took a lethal left and reacted in a way that described his sub-par physical condition. He was knocked out. His record in 1996: 11-1.
In 1999 he defended his WBC flyweight (112 pounds) title against Thailand’s Midgoen Singsurat and lost it on the scales, one day before the fight. He was overweight and was stripped of his title. During the fight itself, Pacquiao offered little resistance to Singsurat and was TKO’d in the third.
The Singsurat title fight was more of a lapse on the part of Pacquiao’s handlers than on the boxer himself. The kid was 20, nearing 21, and still growing up. He should have been advised to relinquish the superfly belt and try the heavier division. And which they did—after the loss—at a price. The next Pacquiao fight—vs Reynante Jamili—suggested the difficulty he was having in trying to meet lighter weight limits; it was contested at the super bantamweight (122 pounds) division, skipping two weight classes—the super fly (115 pounds) and bantamweight (118 pounds) classes.
For this lapse in Pacquiao’s management team, his record, after sprinting to 15-0 following the Torrecampo loss, was halted at 26-2. It should have remained at 26-1 or, with another opponent and another weight class, should have improved to 27-1.
As an IBF super bantam champion, Pacquiao engaged Agapito Sanchez in a unification bout on November 10, 2001. Sanchez headbutted Pacquiao at least twice (once in the second round, which looked accidental for the untrained eye, and another in the sixth), spun Pacquiao’s head in the second, and repeatedly hit Pacquiao with illegal blows—below the belt (thrice in the first round alone, twice in the third, twice in the fourth, once in the fifth), and during the break. In the sixth round, the ring physician ruled that Pacquiao was not fit to continue on account of the headbutts and halted the bout. The official result of the bout was technical draw, from scores of 55-57, 56-56, and 58-54.
There was enough ground for the referee—Hall of Famer Marty Denkin—to disqualify Sanchez for repeated infractions. Excluding the Singsurat error, Pacquiao’s record at this time should have improved to 35-1. Instead, his 2001 win-loss-draw record slid to 33-2-1.
On May 8, 2004, Pacquiao dueled Juan Manuel Marquez to a draw in a featherweight (126 pounds) WBA-IBF world title fight. One judge erred in his calculation and gave Pacquiao 1 point less in his official scorecards. The result—a split draw—should have been a win for Pacquiao, raising his record to 42-1 instead of 39-2-2 (accounting for the Singsurat loss and Sanchez draw).
A year later, March 19, 2005 Pacquiao met Erik Morales for the first time. At about the same time 3 years earlier, Floyd Mayweather Jr met Jose Luis Castillo to contend for the latter’s lightweight crown. Mayweather won the fight by unanimous decision, but outside of the official verdict there were strong suggestions saying he lost it. The HBO commentators working the fight, for one, disagreed with the judges. Larry Merchant, towards the end of the last round said: “I thought Castillo might have kept his title.” Harold Lederman had scores of 115-111 for Castillo.
After the Castillo fight, Mayweather’s record climbed to 28-0. Given another set of circumstances, that could have been 27-1. Six years later his record improved to 41-0, which might have been 40-1.
But back to the 2005 Pacquiao-Morales bout. The regulating commission, Nevada State Athletic Commission, had to draw blood samples from Pacquiao on the eve of fight night because it lost the blood samples drawn from Pacquiao weeks earlier. Pacquiao lost to Morales but did attribute some of it to his weakened condition due to the blood loss. Given his struggles at the scales in previous fights—which suggested how valuable every ounce of body fluid was to him—one maybe tempted to believe him. In that case he could have avoided the Morales loss, which now brought his record down to 39-3-2, instead of 43-1, barring the Singsurat loss and Sanchez and Marquez draws.
Pacquiao stormed to 13-0 since that Morales loss, past formidable opposition. Overall, his compiling a 56-1 career output was not far fetched. But he needed more breaks than what he actually got.
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Hermilando “Ingming” Duque Aberia is a sports fan and a literary enthusiast. He has written a book titled “Manny Pacquiao: Story Bigger Than Boxing.” He has a master’s degree in Development Management from the Asian Institute of Management and is a practitioner in social development work.