A few days from now, Manny Pacquiao will be marking his 25th year as a professional boxer and among the world’s premier fighters with the longest boxing careers.
Pacquiao made his professional debut on January 22, 1995 with a unanimous decision win over Enting Ignacio. Three years later, he would capture his first world boxing championship in Thailand with an 8th round knockout victory over Chatchai Sasakul on December 4, 1998.
After losing the WBC flyweight title virtual on the weight scales before his fight against Medgoen Sungsurat in 1999, he would win another world title this time at super bantamweight or junior featherweight in 2001 by another spectacular knockout over Lehlo Lebwaba in his US debut.
Pacquiao would be fighting at world and elite class level continuously from then on, winning six more world championships from the featherweight through the junior middleweight divisions in the process before settling down at welterweight where he reigns currently for the fourth time as WBA welterweight super champion. His present record stands at 62 wins, 39 by knockout as against 7 losses and 2 draws.
Pacquiao’s current 25 years run as a professional fighter has equaled him to the great Sugar Ray Robinson whose career spanned from 1940 to 1965.
Among the other all time greats, Willie Pep and Archie Moore had longer fighting careers at 26 and 28 years respectively with Pep’s from 1940 to 1966 and Moore’s from 1935 to 1963.
Among modern boxers, Roberto Duran had nearly 33 years from 1968 to 2001, Roy Jones, Jr. logged 28 years from 1989 to 2018, Bernard Hopkins also had 28 years from 1988 to 2016 and Tommy Hearns nearly had 29 years from 1977 to 2006 but that includes five years of inactivity or semi retirement.
What differentiates Pacquiao from these old time and recent time greats is his longer years fighting at world championship and elite levels.
Counting his first WBC flyweight title romp in 1998, Pacquiao has been fighting at world championship or at least world class levels for most of the past 22 years now.
Robinson won his world championship at welterweight in 1946 but fought his last at top level at the middleweight by 1962, covering just 16 years although he would continue to fight and test upcoming fighters including future world champion Joey Giardello until 1965. He was the first and only fighter to win the world middleweight championship five times. He also had an unsuccessful try at the world light heavyweight crown losing by retirement due to heat exhaustion against Joey Maxim In a fight he was unfortunately winning up to that point. He retired with a record of 174-19-6 with 101 knockout wins and only one loss by retirement.
Armstrong fling with glory lasted merely five years from 1936 to 1941 but that covered forty bouts that included a phenomenal run that earned him three world championships in as many weight divisions which he held simultaneously between 1937 and 1938. He remains the only boxer to have achieved the feat which was made more astounding by the fact that he won the welterweight title from Barney Ross straight from the featherweight. He also had an unsuccessful try at the world middleweight crown as he was held to a draw by Filipino defending titlist Ceferino Garcia whom he had beaten previously at welterweight. His log read 152-22-9, with 101 knockout victories and only two knockout defeats.
Pep fought from 1940 to 1966. He won and held the world featherweight championship between 1942 and 1950 before losing it for good to arch rival Sandy Saddler. He however retired with an incredible 229-11-1 record with 65 knockout wins and only 6 knockout losses.
Though he was fighting at top level since the mid 1940s, Moore only won the world light heavyweight championship in 1955 from Joey Maxim which he successfully defended many times. He fought twice unsuccessfully for the heavyweight title during his tenure, first against Rocky Marciano and later versus Floyd Patterson for the title vacated by Marciano in 1957. His last elite level bout was in 1962 where he lost by fourth round knockout to future world heavyweight king Cassius Clay later to be known as Muhammad Ali who correctly predicted that Archie Moore will fall in four. Moore record was 186-23-10 at his retirement and he holds the record for most career knockout wins at 132.
Duran won his first world title in 1972 beating Ken Buchanan for the lightweight championship which he held until 1979 when he won the welterweight crown from Sugar Ray Leonard. After losing in the rematch to Leonard, Duran would win the WBA junior middleweight title from Davey Moore in 1984. After a failed bid against Marvin Hagler in 1985, he would eventually win the WBC middleweight title in an upset points win from Iran Barkley in 1989. That would be his final fling with championship glory though in 1998 he was given a chance to challenge then WBA titlist William Joppy who would proceed to score a third round stoppage victory. Duran would fight on for three more years and end his career with a record of 103 wins,16 losses and no draw with 70 knockout victories against only 4 knockout defeats.
Jones won his first world title at middleweight beating Bernard Hopkins in 1993 He would go on to win world championships at super middleweight vs James Toney, light heavyweight versus Mike McCallum in 1996 which he would unify and even the heavyweight beating John Ruiz in 2011 before returning to the light heavyweight. He would lose his world light heavyweight titles to Antonio Tarver in 2012. That was the only time he was truly beaten inside the ring as his previous only loss was by disqualification when he hit an already fallen Montell Griffin in their first fight way back in 1997. He would continue to fight on until 2018 where he suffered many of his career defeats. His log read 66-9 with 47 knockout wins and 5 knockout losses.
Hopkins would eventually win the IBF world middleweight title in 1995 and would unify all belts in the division by 2004 before losing the titles to Jermain Taylor in 2005. He would win the WBC light heavyweight title from Jean Pascal in 2011 and lose it against Chad Dawson in 2012. He would win the IBF version of the light heavyweight title from Tavoris Cloud in 2014 defending it successfully and unifying against WBA titlist Beibut Shumenov before losing the titles in another unification versus Sergei Kovalev in 2016. He retired on the same year after losing by TKO to Joe Smith, his only defeat via the short route in a career which saw him post 55 wins, 37 by knockout as against 8 losses and 2 draws.
Hearns was the first fighter to win world championships in five weight classes. He won the WBA welterweight title from Pipino Cuevas in 1980 and lost it in unification versus Sugar Ray Leonard in 1981. He would win the WBC super welterweight crown from Wilfred Benitez in 1982 and defend it many times. After his failed bid at the middleweight title against Marvin Hagler in 1985, Hearns would campaign and win a world championship in the light heavyweight in 1987 He would return to the middleweights and finally win the WBC title vacated by Leonard scoring a knockout win over Juan Domingo Roldan also in 1987. He would lose the title by upset knockout to Iran Barkley in 1988. He would win his fifth world division title at super middleweight against James Kinchen also in 1988 but would lose it again to Barkley on points in 1994 after figuring in a controversial draw versus Leonard in their unification in 1989. He would continue fighting as cruiserweight until 2000 and after a hiatus of five years, come back in 2005 and fight his last in 2006. From his debut in 1977, Hearns overall record stands at 61-5-1 with 47 KO wins and 4 KO defeats.
Manny Pacquiao is in a fine company.