Manny Pacquiao? Calm Down, Dear!

By Mike Casey on November 10, 2011
Manny Pacquiao? Calm Down, Dear!
Would Pacquiao would have been a champion 30 or 40 years ago? (Chris Farina/Top Rank)

Lord, how we need him. Take away Manny and our battered old sport would be depressingly lacking in vintage talent…

The one curiously eternal strength of professional boxing is its ability to produce an exciting torchbearer in desperate times of need. That one special fighter can be of such charisma that he is able to singlehandedly pluck us from the doldrums and restore our faith in the old game that we frequently love and hate in equal measure.

Thank goodness we have such a tour de force in our midst right now in the electric Manny Pacquiao. Such is my admiration for Manny’s swashbuckling style and commitment that I wish I could stop writing at this point and not venture into the guts of where he rates in an all-time perspective. Alas, to do that would be to ignore my editor’s brief. No, I am not about to shoot Pac down and tell you that he would have drowned without trace in an earlier era. I think he is a wonderful little fighter who has compiled a stellar set of achievements. I simply believe that there is a need to curb our enthusiasm and assess his current and future standing with a cool and objective brain.

I don’t know if it’s because of the urgent 24/7 society in which we now live, but there is an almost frantic compulsion to rush to judgement on every new sensation. Everything has to be super. Everything has to go straight to number one. We need a shot of “Calm down, dear.”

Some years back here in the UK, an insurance TV ad featured film director Michael Winner popping out of nowhere and placating a flustered female with the reassuring command of, “Calm down, dear.” It was very retro and very non-PC, yet even the trendy and the ultra-PC loved it to bits. “Calm down, dear” has since slipped into our language as a non-sexist term for anyone to fire off at those who get a little too excitable.

A short time ago, there was a truly ringing result (described by some as a “sea change”) in the English Premiership football league. Manchester City, Ricky Hatton’s favorite team and the long-time poor neighbors of the mighty Manchester United, traveled to United’s famous old ground at Old Trafford and arrogantly thumped the reigning champions, 6-1. Bear in mind that Manchester United are a far bigger franchise on a worldwide basis than the New York Yankees.

Nobody could believe what happened that day. The result itself wasn’t such a great surprise, but the margin of victory was stunning. City, the fortunate beneficiaries of massive Arab investment, have gone from zeroes to heroes in less than two seasons. Now they will win the English championship and then they will become the kings of Europe. So say many experienced observers, who seem to have slightly overlooked the fact that we are only 10 games into a 38-game season. Let’s just play those remaining 28 games before we go handing out any trophies.

The “latest is the greatest” obsession threatens to swamp us and erase any sense of history. Shortly after that slaughter at Old Trafford, I chanced upon one of those irresistible websites that compiles top ten lists on just about every subject under the sun. I really shouldn’t have taken the bait by hitting the ‘boxing’ button. Up came the top ten pound-for-pound masters of all time and they went like this:

1. Manny Pacquiao
2. Muhammad Ali
3. Mike Tyson
4. Rocky Marciano
5. Julio Cesar Chavez
6. Sugar Ray Robinson
7. Roy Jones Jr.
8. Joe Louis
9. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
10. Felix Trinidad

The authors invited the opinions of their readers. I suddenly felt too ill to join in.

Fire and Ice

I have often likened Manny Pacquiao to the lightweight version of Roberto Duran in that the untrained eye can so often be romanced by all the fire on the surface and miss the ice and guile that lies beneath. Duran, as we came to disover in his salad days when he lost much of his speed, was a gorgeously cunning and skilful operator who learned how to pace himself and fire those wonderful bursts of punches with great timing and control. His late knockdown of Iran Barkley was a masterpiece.

But even as a younger man, Roberto was artful and educated. How could he be anything less? He had Ray Arcel and Freddie Brown in his corner. He had his weaknesses and his share of unimpressive performances, but we can say likewise of any great champion. There is a tendency to forget that athletic “superstars” are still human beings who can get out of the wrong side of bed like the rest of us.

Pacquiao is similarly canny and with a lot of funky body movement, but I don’t believe him to be as deeply skilled as Duran. Pac’s speed allows him to get away with a lot of dangerous moves that would have seen him undone by the more experienced and knowledgeable fighters of the golden era. His punch repertoire is a wonderfully eclectic mix to watch, but his hooks over the jab and his upward jabs-come-uppercuts would often be invitations to disaster if they were not masked by the sheer ferocity of his movement. When that speed deserts him, will he have Duran’s ability to readjust his style and still contend at the highest level?

These might seem pedantic, technical points in all the welcome excitement that quite rightly accompanies a firebrand of a fighter who clearly loves what he does and always provides cracking entertainment. Lord, how we need him. Take away Manny and our battered old sport would be depressingly lacking in vintage talent. It is always tough to be critical of fighters we love. But it is a necessity in order to be fair to all.

So let us get to the nitty-gritty. Do I believe that Manny Pacquiao would have been a world champion 30 or 40 years ago? Yes, I do. The competition was tougher then, but not so tough that Manny wouldn’t have landed himself a world crown at some point. That era produced weak champions as well as excellent champions, and Manny wouldn’t necessarily have had to pick off the weakest. The silky skills of Australian featherweight ace Johnny Famechon would have faced more turbulence in Pacquiao than he did in Fighting Harada, who was past his best when he stepped up from bantamweight and nearly dethroned Johnny. And as much as I loved the truly great Vicente Saldivar, my gut instinct tells me that Vicente’s habit of starting slowly might have left him stranded at the starting gate against Pac.But Manny wouldn’t have towered over the sport at that time. He wouldn’t have stormed through the weight divisions because there weren’t nearly so many divisions or “world” champions.

In today’s watered-down era, Pac has been the lineal world champion at flyweight, featherweight and junior welterweight. He has defeated the best men of his era, which is all any fighter can ever do. However, as we travel back further through the decades, Pacquiao begins to suffer by comparison and only because of the stunning quality of the golden age fighters and the mighty pool of talent in which they had to prove themselves.

Some time ago, Teddy Atlas got himself into hot water on ESPN by daring to suggest that Pac couldn’t be rated in the all-time pound-for-pound Top 20. The faux experts and the self-appointed boxing analysts whose lack of boxing knowledge and history never ceases to astound, were aghast. You’d have thought that Teddy had just questioned the veracity of the global warming argument.

Atlas believed that Pacquiao hasn’t fight enough top known opponents in their prime to qualify for that list. He also felt that Pacquiao shouldn’t be compared to Henry Armstrong. Teddy rightly pointed out that Armstrong succeeded in three weight divisions during a time where there were no multiple boxing bodies and only eight divisions. Atlas argued that the ridiculous abundance of controlling bodies and weight divisions in today’s era makes it easier for fighters to win titles now than during Armstrong’s time.

Anything wrong or hugely controversial about any of that?

Atlas added: “Manny’s beaten some guys like De La Hoya who are a little past their prime, and guys that are dead at the weight. He beat Cotto, who was already damaged goods, who got beat up psychologically and physically by Margarito. I’m not taking anything away from him, but who did he really beat? He beat Marquez, but he also fought a draw with, and he was life and death with Marquez. Is that the best on his resume? He has to beat a top fighter and I don’t see that he’s done that.”

A certain “boxing writer” on a certain boxing website took great umbrage at all this, but rather gave the game away at the outset by vaguely describing Henry Armstrong as ‘a boxing star of the forties’—adding for good measure that there were fewer credible competitors in Henry’s era. Your writer had to lie down on his bed for ten minutes and think calm thoughts.

Well, you can’t have a sensible argument with people who want to start the argument in the year 2000 and sweep away all that tedious, sepia-tinted stuff that went before. But for what it’s worth, I don’t believe that Manny Pacquiao is Top 20 material in the all-time stakes, which in no way demeans him or his excellent achievements.

Most of us have had a stab at compiling our all-time top tens in the classic weight divisions. We know how tough it is and we know the frustration of leaving out names that we instinctively feel should be there. Now try making a Top 20 list of the greatest middleweights if you haven’t already done so. You imagine that those extra ten places you have at your disposal will solve a lot of problems. They don’t. You just keep going and you are past the fifty mark before you know it.

But even the talent-rich middleweights are a piece of cake compared to the business of compiling a pound-for-pound ranking. Think of all those deserving cases and then see how many you can actually fit in before reaching for a calming slug of malt.

Truth be told, I don’t know where I would place Manny Pacquiao on such a list, because I believe that a boxer’s career has to be complete before we can pass such a serious judgement. But if he ended up in 25th or 35th place, it would be no insult to his career or his legacy.

Then there is the important matter of the parameters we use to judge greatness.The dream ticket is the one-on-one matchup because of its purity and simplicity. But this method eliminates what I believe to be the essential factors of overall achievement, longevity and of course the ever indefinable “it” factor. Emile Griffith very definitely had “it” but many observers of Emile’s day could never finger exactly what it was that he had. That’s why a lot of people imagine Tommy Hearns blowing Griff away. Yet only Hurricane Carter ever managed that feat.

Five or six years ago, the International Boxing Research Organization, of which I am very proud to be a member, polled its many members for their all-time rankings in each divison. Our esteemed leader, Dan Cuoco, has a curiously likeable habit of dropping these requests into your inbox as if he is asking for a brief and casual thought on an old journeyman like Special Delivery Hirsch.

It was great fun and we all pitched in with our two cents worth. The combined results, as ever, were all over the place and looked as if they had been drawn at random from a hat. But they were a reminder of how many viable and semi-viable contenders there are. Making the Top 20 were Ray Robinson, Harry Greb, Henry Armstrong, Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Sam Langford, Roberto Duran, Benny Leonard, Willie Pep, Bob Fitzsimmons, Joe Gans, Ezzard Charles, Ray Leonard, Jimmy Wilde, Eder Jofre, Mickey Walker, Archie Moore, Jack Dempsey, Jack Johnson and Gene Tunney.

Just missing the cut were Stanley Ketchel, Barbados Joe Walcott, Rocky Marciano, Tony Canzoneri, Barney Ross, Ike Williams, George Dixon, Sandy Saddler, Roy Jones Jr. and Larry Holmes.

Now that’s 30 names right there, some of which your writer and many others would question. But the list does give us a frightening indication of the sheer depth of talent on tap.


In the era of Armstrong, Tony Canzoneri or Benny Leonard, Manny Pacquiao would have been fighting eight, ten or twelve times a year against a myriad of boxers and fighters with different sets of talents. He would have encountered wily and dangerous journeymen, classic boxers, murderous hitters and umpteen spoilers like Sammy (The Clutch) Angott who even managed to mystify the great Willie Pep. Pac, at all times, would have been extremely competitive and hard to beat even in this thunderous company. But he would have lost more fights too. His funkiness and his technical shortcomings wouldn’t have been such a mystery to far more knowledgeable ring mechanics. He might have needed to fight 50 or 60 battles to get his first title shot.

Would Manny have beaten the peak Armstrong? I don’t believe so. Hank had more than Manny does and was a far harder hitter. So too was Sandy Saddler, who augmented his great power and skills with a bottomless box of tricks. Would Pac have been able to cut the ring down on Willie Pep? Again, I cannot see it. Not the prime, sublime Pep before his much storied plane crash.

If Pacquiao and Mayweather had fought a pound-for-pound duel at their very best (and that day is gone), I would see Manny prevailing by decision or late stoppage in a thrilling but lower grade version of the Montreal classic between Duran and Leonard. Why lower grade? Because I believe that Duran at his best was better than Manny, and I’m sure that Ray was better than Floyd. Similarly, if the very best versions of Leonard and Pacquiao had clashed in Montreal, I believe that Ray would have survived some stormy moments to win a decision.

What I do not believe is that Leonard would have achieved similar success against Henry Armstrong or Ray Robinson.

Sad? In a sense, yes. Because boxing should have charged onwards instead of sliding backwards. Manny Pacquiao’s fault? Of course it isn’t. I would love nothing more than to set Manny against his legendary Filipino brother, Pancho Villa, in the neutral time zone of the forties or fifties. Don’t believe for a moment that Pac wouldn’t have held his end up.

Mike Casey (C)

Mike Casey is a freelance journalist, artist and boxing historian and a member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO).

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  1. TEX HASSLER 06:17pm, 06/14/2012

    Another fine well thought out article by Mr. Casey. Better competition makes better fighters. We simply do not have enough fighters in a division for a man to get the learning and skills of the 1920’s - 50’s.

  2. Darrell 02:34am, 06/14/2012

    There’s an interesting observation in this article roughly relating experience (or the number of fights if you like) in the ring to ring smarts which is very pertinent.

    An obvious fairly recent example of this Carlos Baldomir’s win over Zab Judah.  Now, Baldomir is, and was at the time, just a crafty well worked journeyman who should have been easy meat for a physical talent (though mental midget) like Judah.  He had, if I’m not mistaken, somewhere in the vicinity of 50 bouts before beating Judah by cannily getting & staying on top of him.  Obviously sensing something in the makeup of Judah that wasn’t quite right, underlined by his increasing reluctance to punch when out worked.

    He, Baldomir, like many of the fighters of days gone by knew a thing or two in the ring.  Those “sepia-toned” days would’ve been a time, before the short resumes of many of today’s champions, where even a well-travelled journeyman was someone to be wary of for even the best of boxers.

    Nice observations.

  3. Audi 03:35am, 06/05/2012

    > I don’t believe that Manny Pacquiao is Top 20 material in the all-time stakes, which in no way demeans him or his excellent achievements.

    LOL :-) Shows your true biased color.

  4. john 08:09pm, 11/14/2011

    Foot Trick or Foot Cheating by Marquez, watch video link below:

  5. mikecasey 01:12pm, 11/11/2011

    Lovely stuff, Ted - very balanced and very fair - I greatly enjoyed these comments. And I do miss Hank Kaplan, bless his heart. He told me that Eddie Booker was one of the best he ever saw - the tenth best middleweight that he ever saw in fact.He rated Greb the best he saw but had all the time in the world for Hagler and Monzon. Hank was a fair man, much like Arcel. The special few fighters can survive and prosper in any era - as I hope I made clear in the story. Take care.

  6. the thresher 12:59pm, 11/11/2011

    Don, If I have not rid myself of this nasty pnumonia by next month, you may never see me again. I am better, however, and will try to play 3 or 4 holes of golf this weekend. My energy level is waaaay better. We will have a superb meal and I may just describe it in a post because I love to write about food.

  7. the thresher 12:56pm, 11/11/2011


  8. the thresher 12:53pm, 11/11/2011

    This book belongs on the shelf of any serious fan of boxing if for no other reason than this is the first time I have seen (or at least have read) a book about the “Old School” vs. “New School” debate. While it may be overly subjective at times, boxing by definition is a pretty subjective business.
    I highly recommend it even at the hefty price tag. Using Mike‘s own technique, here are some excerpts from other reviewers:
    Clay Moyle: I loved everything about this book. In my opinion it should be required reading for anyone who is inclined to post on any of the various on-line boxing forums to debate the merits of boxers from different eras.
    Paul Salgado, Ring Magazine: It would be easy to dismiss Silver as losing himself in nostalgia, but to his credit the author comes up with some compelling arguments. And he doesn’t stop there. Utilizing short first-person narratives, he enlists a number of old school voices including Teddy Atlas, Bill Goodman, Mike Capriano Jr., and former lightweight champion Carlos Ortiz, all of whom dissect the sport and its participants, and critique the many changes that have led, they believe, to boxing’s to boxing’s currently diminished state. The book may be a lament, but the author clearly loves boxing. True aficionados, whether they ultimately agree with Silver or not, are sure to enjoy his book for its unmistakable knowledge and passion.
    Stan Hochman: Silver explored the magic, studied the history, and wrote articles about it. And now the book, which Bernard Hopkins will hate.“Take every great middleweight from 1900 to the ‘60s,” Silver argued. “Mickey Walker, Stanley Ketchel, Marcel Cerdan, Jake La Motta, all great fighters, some of them with the speed of lightweights and the punch to knock out a heavyweight.” And there’s no way they could have dominated a division and defended a title 20 times. Hopkins did, but that does not make him better than Walker, Ketchel, Cerdan, La Motta and Harry Greb. Don’t forget Harry Greb. The guys Hopkins fought are on a primitive level.
    Harry Schaffer: Mike Silver has assembled the views of true Men of the Ring and interwoven their vision of the events and event makers of the sport with his own astute observations to produce arguably the most thoughtful, fact based comparative analysis of the state of boxing and boxers ever written.
    Philip Sharkey for The British Boxing Board of Control Yearbook, 2010: Although the book talks almost exclusively about fighters from the United States one can’t help thinking of modern day British champions facing ‘Golden Era’ fighters: Jack Kid Berg vs. Ricky Hatton, Randolph Turpin vs. Joe Calzaghe or Naseem Hamed vs. Ned Tarleton, would I’m sure, provide British boxing fans with the same level of debate. It is a thought provoking book. Other sports can be measured in heights jumped or distances ran or swam, but boxing is a far subtler science, the sweet science in fact!
    Robert Mladinich: Silver is not a curmudgeon or a knee-jerk believer in the myth that what’s old is always better than what’s new. He, as well as his panel of experts, persuasively states his cases while speaking with great authority and insight. After reading this entertaining treasure trove of boxing “insider” knowledge I felt like I had taken a graduate course in the finer points of the “sweet science.” The book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand what happened to boxing.
    Note: Mike Silver is a former boxing promoter and inspector with the New York State Athletic Commission whose many articles on boxing have appeared in the New York Times, Ring magazine, Boxing Monthly and ESPN and Seconds Out websites

  9. the thresher 12:52pm, 11/11/2011

    The author deftly put into words a lot of the things we boxing fans have been thinking or debating about for a long time; namely, that boxing isn’t like what it was in its golden years. For mike, the Golden Age of Boxing is 1920’s through the 1950’s, and while I would take issue with this (and argue that the 1960’s warrant inclusion), his reasons are sound in that there were far more boxing gyms, fight clubs, and registered pro boxers than today and significantly more than the decades that followed the 1950’s. He backs this thesis with considerable evidence including interviews with Teddy Atlas, Freddie Roach, Emmanuel Steward, even the celebrated ballet dancer and former amateur boxing champion Edwin Vallela, and a host of back-up statistics. The late Hank Kaplan, Chuck Hasson, Sal Rappa, Kevin Smith and Dan Cuoco also made fine contributions. Carlos Ortiz and my great friend Wilbert “Skeeter” McClure are often quoted as well.

  10. the thresher 12:51pm, 11/11/2011

    I once reviewed Mike Silver’s Arc of Boxing: The Rise and Decline of the Sweet Science.

    Silver uses world-renowned historians and scholars, some of the sport’s premier trainers, and former amateur and professional world champions to argue that socioeconomic and demographic changes have impacted the quality, prominence and even popularity of the sport over the past century to the point where many Old School aficionados can no longer relate. Unlike other sports, Mike contends that boxing has regressed. Indeed, he (and some of his contributors) are pretty merciless with their criticism. Also pointed out is the fact that the technical skills on display today are at an all time low and that should be manifest to any serious fan who has the slightest concept of what proper technique is all about.
    Silver does not mince his words when he pays homage to the Golden Age and lambasts that which followed. In short, he sets forth his argument, backs it up, and then pretty much dares the reader to refute it. I’d love to engage him in a debate, but I’ don’t think I’d win.

  11. mikecasey 12:43pm, 11/11/2011

    Ace of a comment, Don - hope your peepers get better soon!

  12. Don From Prov 12:39pm, 11/11/2011

    Forgive me one more comment.  While I was looking at that great SRR clip above, complete with great music (Who is that singing, Mr. Casey?), I though of one more thing.  Nonito Donaire is one of my favorite of the current crop of boxers; in his last bout, he faced a fighter who refused to open up and the HBO team kept asking what was one to do with such a fighter.  Finally, the great Harold Lederman spoke up and said that what you do is step to the side and break the man’s body in half like the old-timers would do.  Not that it was the same situation, but for a primer on breaking the body to expose the chin, one need go no further than a viewing of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.  Brutal!

    P.S.  Sorry for typos.  I just had an eye test and my pupils are huge—can’t see the lighted screen too well.  Anyway, great article.  Have a good day.

  13. Don From Prov 12:29pm, 11/11/2011

    Haven’t I seen this “modern heavyweight” battle elsewhere?  Hmmm….
    Probably not, but if so, I’ll save my spewing and ranting response for when you are buying me a great dinner next month.  Hopefully, I’ll not spew any of my delicious repast during said rant.

  14. "Old Yank" Schneider 11:09am, 11/11/2011

    Much is lost in posting.  A twinkle of mischief in one’s eye with the hint of a grin that cannot be disguised can be picked up face to face; it can do a lot to disarm the seriousness of the words that follow.  Again, much can be lost in posting.  And who among us does not prefer a face to face conversation over typing at a keyboard?

  15. dollar bond 09:57am, 11/11/2011

    Great post, Ted. I love that theory of relativity approach

  16. the thresher 09:49am, 11/11/2011

    I take things very serious. Always have. It’s my nature.

    That said, I can separate Pryor from Lewis in the absence of any evidence to the contrary. My issue is that once it is brought up, unless someone (like me) calls it, it might linger and possibly fester like a foul fart on a very hot and humid day in an overcrowded school classroom in Georgia.

  17. "Old Yank" Schneider 09:40am, 11/11/2011

    The truth can indeed hurt; but it should never be a cause of permanent damage.

  18. "Old Yank" Schneider 09:38am, 11/11/2011

    Ted—Of course I intended to put it out there.  Let’s not all go mad and lose a sense of humor.  Our sport ties us all to a love/hate relationship that can easily bring much into question – a little humor keeps us all sane in an insane sport.  Aaron Pryor was amazing; Panama Lewis was a skunk.  As one who caught a skunk barehanded as a Boy Scout, I can tell you that when you hang around a skunk, as sure as the sun rises someone’s going to smell it on you.

  19. the thresher 09:29am, 11/11/2011

    Yank, you say you were kidding, but the damage is done. It’s like calling some one a dirty bleep (ass in ethnic insult) and then say you were only kidding. The damage is done.


  20. mikecasey 09:21am, 11/11/2011

    Very true, Ted. And I agree with your pick in that one. Aaron was another glorious one-off. The man was a tornado, but he was clever with it.

  21. "Old Yank" Schneider 09:20am, 11/11/2011

    Is that the version of Aaron Pryor drinking from “the other bottle” Panama Lewis mixed for the championship rounds or a different version?  Just kidding—I could not help myself!  Please disregard.

  22. the thresher 09:17am, 11/11/2011

    Good post Don.

    Keep in mind that a good college football teanm could blow out the great Cleveland Browns football teams of the 1950’s, but variables change more in footbal than they do in boxing except in the heavyweight division.

  23. the thresher 09:14am, 11/11/2011

    The best comparison for Manny would be Aaron Pryor. I once did a prime Pryor vs. a Prime Manny.  I think it was on ESB. Those two had similar styles.

    The overwhelming response was that Pryor would win. That was mine as well. But that could change as time moves on.

  24. mikecasey 09:00am, 11/11/2011

    You bloody rascal, Yank!

  25. "Old Yank" Schneider 08:55am, 11/11/2011

    Mike—When you keep knocking them out of the park yourself, you attract other batters to the game. He, he, he!!!

  26. mikecasey 08:51am, 11/11/2011

    Thank you kindly, Don, And yes, sir, I’m well accustomed to getting pounded by a few hundred baseball bats!! I just didn’t have it in me to be a chartered accountant. God bless!

  27. "Old Yank" Schneider 08:28am, 11/11/2011

    I will also add that the former Soviet Union sprinkled a number of amazing trainers around Eastern Europe from days when law prohibited amateurs from turning pro; trainers of the old school variety that we often praise here.  It may very well be true that this old school art is getting lost and diluted in the USA, but a number of very hungry old school trainers are still plying their old school craft in Europe and it has greatly contributed to some of the changing landscape of where champions are bred.

  28. "Old Yank" Schneider 08:18am, 11/11/2011

    Mike—I admit I lack the hisotical depth that you have.  And I DO get the “calm down dear” instruction—it makes sense.  However, Manny’s ability to establish a position (by inviting an opponent in or by stepping into an opponents space), and set, sit-down and throw, ranks among the best at it that I’ve ever seen.  It is accomplished with lightening speed.  His ability to do it coming in and out of those established positions at angles is also among the best I ever get to see.  His instincts to linger in order to execute a combination or exit quickly instead, are also among the best I’ve ever seen.  His transitions are beautiful to watch and one never knows if enough time is available to sit down and throw or to simply just transition from one position to another.  When we add precision punching ability on top of all of this, we find ourselves blinking for a round or two and then looking at an opponents face in amazement over all the damage that has so quickly accumulated.  Without question I cannot hold a candle to the historical knowledge of you and others on this site—I fully admit this.  But I have seen miles of old footage and for my eyes Pacquiao would have done more than hold his own in any era—especially when we place the fighters of those other eras under the pressure of crashing a career with the threat of a single loss—the mental game is different today then in many eras of the past.  Again, I must insist that if we are to ask what a fighter of today would have done to stand up to what existed yesteryear, we are obliged to wonder how fighters of yesteryear would have stood up to the mental pressures of today.

  29. Don from Prov 08:16am, 11/11/2011

    Well, Mr. Casey I’m sure you know to prepare yourself to either be ignored or buried under a sweep of “nostalgia” allegations.  I often find it surprising that a “superior modern athlete” label is accepted at face value across the board without regard for a number of truths (superior training method = hitting a tire with a sledge hammer, which of course just might be a modern attempt to recreate cutting down trees) including individual differences and the fact that boxing has long fallen from its place of primacy in sports: fewer great trainers, fewer (as you mentioned) tough and well-schooled fighters with a variety of skills—and, there, at the center: The fact that while some other sports have ascended and moved toward their golden primes, that time has passed in our sport and many modern boxers never learn the myriad of skills that were a necessity to survive on a top level at one time.  To say that the loss of experience is offset by the glare of a big fight “event” just doesn’t ring true—to me at least.  Anyway, thank you for another well written, honest, and informed piece.

  30. mikecasey 08:13am, 11/11/2011

    Yank, with all due respect, you surely miss the point. Put Armstrong, Pep, Jofre in the present day and you must surely see that they would run riot in the shallow waters of now. Robbie, in his glorious welterweight pomp, would only have to fight once every couple of years and he would still be knocking everyone dead. Look at the records of these guys and the men they beat. It’s just the way it is and today’s fighters can’ be blamed for that. You can only beat what’s there at the time. Let’s agree to disagree because I can’t get into endless debate abouyt it with all my other professional writing commitments. Best to all and check out Ted’s writings on Pep and Jofre if you haven’t already donre so.

  31. the thresher 08:10am, 11/11/2011

    Muhammad Ali is also in my top 5 along with Joe Louis and SRR.

  32. the thresher 07:50am, 11/11/2011

    BTW, Jofre is in my top 5 since 1950. So is Pep.

  33. the thresher 07:47am, 11/11/2011

    “Do I believe that Manny Pacquiao would have been a world champion 30 or 40 years ago? Yes, I do.”  So do I.

    But any comparison is excruciatingly difficult to make. Still, someone with a trained eye who has followed boxing for decades should be able to make some keen observations taking into account generational bias. Look, everything looks better through the prism of nostalgia and yet others say the latest is the greatest. My own solution to this dilemma is to apply the theory of relativity and then make adjustments accordingly. It’s the best I can do.

  34. AKT 06:11am, 11/11/2011

    Well said Old Yank.

    @Mike that list is hilarious - Sugar Ray Robinson 6th!! Latest truly is the greatest lol

  35. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:30am, 11/11/2011

    Mike—Great piece.  But why do we always demand of today’s fighters that they be compared under the rigors of yesteryear’s fighting schedules?  Why is it not the other way around?  How would Pep and Armstrong and Benny Leonard have held up in a day and age where EVERY bout carried the pressure of ending a career overnight?  How would they have responded to the 24/7 eyes of a probing press.  How would they have managed to mentally deal with the pressures of endorsements that can disappear with one loss?  I submit that their is a mental aspect of today’s fight game that is quite different from yesteryear.  Where does Pacquiao rank in achievements (collection of trinkets)?  Certainly a ranking based on championship belts collected at different weight classes finds Pacquiao ranked well above 25 or 35 on the all-time great list.  How they fight and how they entertain are two different things.  Boy bands from the 80’s could fill 50,000 seat stadiums night after night—a feat Ella Fitzgerald never accomplished.  Exactly what are we measuring in all-time greatness anyway?  Entertainment value or skill in the ring that is IMPOSSIBLE to test in fantasy bouts?  We can count cans in seats, PPV numbers, gross receipts, titles held and more (these are the tangibles); the judging eye is so different from fan to fan that the intangibles create a great problem in measuring all-time greatness.

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