SCHMIDT: Pacquiao one of the all-time best

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Punching people in the face is a career that takes great tact and perseverance. That makes Manny Pacquiao the Odysseus of pugilism.

Last Saturday, the 147-pound Filipino blew through the 164-pound Antonio Margarito like a grumpy tornado, delivering a devastating blur of punches to his much larger opponent. Subsequently, Margarito’s bone structure resembled Silly Putty after the 12-round massacre.

With the lopsided victory, Pac-Man claimed the title in his eighth weight class, a feat that no other boxer in history has accomplished. His feats are beginning to border on ridiculous and redundant: He hasn’t lost a fight in over five years, he pummeled some of the all-time greats like Oscar De Le Hoya and Ricky Hatton, and unless somebody wants to throw gloves on Godzilla and direct him towards the Philippines, there’s no one left for him to fight.

Well, there is one guy who comes to mind. But unfortunately for Floyd Mayweather Jr., the Nevada State Athletic Commission probably won’t sanction a fight in an eight by 12 prison cell.

Which means the only thing Pacquiao has to face now are questions about his legacy.

But that’s tricky. Trying to gauge historical standing in boxing is like ice-skating uphill. Fighters have such bloated, cream-filled records that it makes it impossible to realistically judge whose gladiatorial career has been more barbaric. For instance, Pacquiao’s 52-3-2 records, despite the losses, carries significantly more weight than Mayweather’s pristine 41-0 sheet because Pac-Man has presumably fought tougher opponents.

For what it’s worth, I agree that Pacquiao’s opposition has been more destructive than Pretty Boy Floyd’s. But it’s all guess-work. In their last seven fights, three of their adversaries have been the same.

The difference then, is not only who a boxer fights, but how he fights them. Over the span of his career, Pacquiao has been the equivalent of a natural disaster, delivering critical damage in over eight divisions to much bigger, stronger fighters. In comparison, Mayweather is only the champ in five classes. Legends like Roberto Duran, Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard never held titles in more than five divisions.

Not even King Midas as has held more gold than Pacquiao. By acclamation, that makes Pacquiao either the most selfish fighter of all-time or the best.

And that’s the point: Pacquiao, regardless if you want to make the quantum leap and place him ahead of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson on the boxing totem pole, is a wonder to watch. If you’ve been too glued to the NFL or college basketball to witness his glory, just know you’ve been missing one of the titans of the sports Pantheon.

As a sports fan who enjoys some of the more obscure competitions — I’m more likely to watch the UFC or the Masters than “Monday Night Football” – it drives me to padded rooms that some people ignore greatness even when it’s smacking them right in the kisser.

So after deliberation, here’s Pac-Man’s legacy barometer: One part Derek Jeter, two parts LeBron James, throw in samurai scruff and a wicked right hook, sprinkle on awe and adrenaline and a seat in congress for good measure. That’s the Filipino Destroyer.

If you live 100 years you may only see 10 people who will alter the course of sports history. We’ve seen Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Albert Pujols. They are the champions of our time and they belong with the giants of history. Mozart. Julius Caesar. Alexander the Great. Einstein.

Now there’s Pacquiao. And although Mozart could play a mean piano, the Pac-Man would probably crumple him within a round. If that’s not the measure of greatness, I don’t know what is.

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