Why Manny Pacquiao Is the Greatest Pound-for-Pound Fighter of All Time
Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao’s life has been like something out of a movie. From the slums of the Philippines living in poverty to fighting on the street to feed his family to hearing his name chanted in packed stadiums across the world, a hero arose.
And as a fighter, he has been almost unparalleled in his accomplishments. He has so few peers in boxing that he is in the conversation for greatest fighter, pound for pound, who ever lived.
Only a few names are in the same class. Muhammad Ali. Pernell Whitaker. Sugar Ray Robinson. Floyd Mayweather Jr. Henry Armstrong. Harry Greb.
Here are 20 reasons why Manny Pacquiao — all 5-foot-5, 145 pounds of him — is the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time.
1. Poverty Created a Champion
Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao was born on Dec. 17, 1978, in Kibawe, Philippines, a small, impoverished province in the municipality of Bukidnon.
He was the fourth of six children born to Rosalio and Dionisia Pacquiao, and the level of poverty he was born into can’t be overstated.
When he was 11 years old, things got worse. Rosalio left the family to live with another woman, making Dionisia a single mother and planting the seeds in Manny Pacquiao’s head that he would be willing to do whatever it took to rise above the dire circumstances into which he was born.
Words to remember: “He hasn't forgotten that gnawing pain in his gut; the many, many times his single mother could only offer her six children warm water in lieu of food before bedtime.” — ESPN’s Greg Garber, 2015
2. 'When You Win You Receive 100 Pesos'
Pacquiao began fighting for money in the hardscrabble streets of the Philippines when he was just 12 years old, one year after his father left his mother and his five siblings to fend for themselves.
Why did he do it? According to Pacquiao, it was just a case of supply and demand. The street fights needed fighters at different weight levels. Pacquiao needed money, and knew that you got paid, win or lose — 100 pesos ($2) to the winner, 50 pesos ($1) to the loser.
That money would feed himself and his family for a few days. He had no formal training, just a request to tape his hands up and point him at a target.
Words to remember: "I heard that when you fight, even when you lose, you have money. And when you win, you receive 100 pesos, which is the equivalent of two dollars. If you lose, one dollar, which is 50 pesos. For 4 pesos, you can get a big bag of rice." — Manny Pacquiao, 2015
3. Count 'Em: Eight Division Titles
Manny Pacquiao has won titles at a dizzying clip. His first came in 1997 with a knockout of Chokcai Chockvivat to claim the OPBF flyweight title when Pacquiao was just 18 years old.
Then, he went on to become the first man to win eight division titles — welterweight, junior welterweight, featherweight, junior featherweight, junior middleweight, lightweight, junior lightweight, flyweight.
At one point, he held a record 12 titles from different boxing federations spread out over the eight divisions.
Perhaps the most impressive was his 11-round TKO of Marco Antonio Barrera to win the featherweight title in 2003 — the fight when Pacquaio entered the discussion of greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time.
Words to remember: "I was never more prepared or in better condition for a fight than I was for my fight against Marco Antonio Barrera. It was the biggest fight of my career to that point. Barrera was considered one of the top or perhaps the top pound-for-pound fighter and destroyed Naseem Hamed. I remember walking to the ring in San Antonio and getting booed by everyone. I think I had one fan — [trainer] Freddie [Roach]. I had no idea what I had done to these people." — Manny Pacquiao, 2011
4. Money Equals Power
One thing no one can say about Pacquiao is that he’s not heavily invested in his home country. The people of the Philippines have benefited from Pacquiao’s success as much as anyone throughout his 20-plus years atop the boxing world.
He’s given plenty back, but he’s also leveraged his fame and money to put himself in a position of power. In a country known for fixed elections and a corrupt political system, Pacquiao served two terms in the House of Representatives and is currently serving a six-year term as a senator that ends in 2022.
That’s the same year the Philippines holds its next presidential election, and he’s already being looked at as a heavy favorite.
Words to remember: "[Pacquiao] turned 40 Dec. 17. You have to be 40 to be president of the Philippines. The next presidential election is in 2022. Some polls project Pacquiao as the winner." — Los Angeles Times, 2019
5. All the Money in the World
Pacquiao’s rise through the boxing ranks coincided with his bank account doing the same thing. In no small way, he’s been one of two or three boxers who have kept the sport alive, financially, through the last decade-plus drought of having a marketable heavyweight champion.
How’d he do it? Pacquiao’s 25 pay-per-view fights have generated a reported $1.2 billion in revenue, with his 2015 bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr., dubbed "The Fight of the Century" generating an estimated $400 million on 4.6 million buys.
The bottom line for Pacquaio is a net worth hovering around $220 million, according to website Celebrity Net Worth.
Words to remember: "Pacquiao bought the house for $9m in 2011 and hopes to make a profit on it after completing a number of renovations. The mansion is just one of five that Pacquiao reportedly owns, along with a number of expensive cars and a hometown residence in the southern Philippines with a boxing-glove-shaped pool." — The Guardian, 2014
6. The Greatest Southpaw
There used to be a debate about who the greatest left-handed boxer of all time was. Was it Marvin Hagler? Was it Pernell Whitaker? Was it Joe Calzaghe? Thank goodness for Pacquiao, we don’t have to keep that debate going. Because he’s the one.
With titles in four of the eight "glamour" divisions in boxing, Pacquiao was able to do things southpaws of years past could only dream of doing, including having a fabled relationship with trainer Freddie Roach.
Roach guided Pacquiao to wins over Oscar De La Hoya, Antonio Margarito, Ricky Hatton, Joshua Clottey, Miguel Cotto, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, among others.
Words to remember: "People ask me all the time, because I wrote two books on it, to assess a fighter with the context of other great fighters. The problem is during a career, it’s impossible. You don’t know if [the boxer] is at his peak, approaching his peak or on the downside … but (Pacquiao) is among the all-time greats and probably the greatest left-hander of all-time." — Bert Sugar, 2014
7. The Renaissance Man
OK, so some of this might be tongue in cheek, but we have to give Pacquiao props for taking his boxing prowess and thinking it meant he could do anything — and we mean anything.
This guy doesn’t want to just limit himself to throwing hands.
He’s a multi-term politician as a member of the Filipino House of Representatives and now a senator.
He’s a professional basketball player (at 5-foot-5) who took the court for several teams in the Phillipine Basketball Association that he owned shares of.
He’s a singer who put out three albums.
He’s an actor, with a Filipino comedy sitcom called "Show Me Da Manny" that lasted for 98 episodes.
Words to remember: "Manny Santos is the proud owner of Gym Santos, but he has a competitor in the character of Ella Paredes, the owner of Gym Paredes. Ella and Manny always get in a fight. Ella is so forceful especially when it comes to boys. She is not afraid of anything, not even Manny, but she doesn't know that Manny has feelings for her. Can Manny's feelings for her change her personality, or it will just ruin everything?" — Synopsis for "Show Me Da Manny"
8. Transcending the Sport
Pacquiao has never made a point of flaunting his celebrity connections. On the flip side, celebrities have never shied away from fanboying over Pacquiao or celebrating the champion boxer.
The most notable of those has been actor Mark Wahlberg, star of one of the greatest boxing films of all time, "The Fighter," in which he portrayed "Irish" Micky Ward.
Once the film came out and was an Oscar-nominated hit, Wahlberg made a point of talking about how much he modeled his fighting after Pacquiao and how often he went and visited Pacquiao when he was training at a gym in Los Angeles.
Words to remember: "Every time he was training at Wild Card Gym, I watched him because my whole approach was I wanted to look like a Manny Pacquiao-caliber fighter. I didn’t want to look like another actor who’s doing an OK job." — Mark Wahlberg, 2014
9. Boxing GOAT? Check. Nickname GOAT? Check.
No one has more nicknames than Pacquiao, which is one of the most endearing tips of the hat any athlete can get from fans, media and opponents.
Here’s a look at all of them, with one-word reactions to each nickname in parentheses.
Pac-Man (perfect). The People’s Champ (generic). The Mexicutioner (earned). Pambasang Kamao "The National Fist" (cool). The Fighting Pride of the Philippines (corny). The Fighting Congressman (accurate). The Destroyer (so-so). Kid Kulafu (confusing). Ninong Manny "Godfather Manny" (yawn). The Fighting Senator (accurate). The Mexican Killer (nope). MP (succinct). The Living Legend (yawn). The Legendary (repetitive). Eight-Division Champ (true). The Ageless Warrior (epic).
Words to remember: "I do not like the nickname 'Mexicutioner.' I love the Mexican boxing fans, and that name does not reflect my true feelings about Mexico and its people." — Manny Pacquiao, 2016
10. The Fight of the Century
It didn’t end up being one of the greatest fights of all time — mainly because they fought it about six years too late — but the 2015 fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao didn’t lack for hype. And it ended up being one the most profitable fight in history.
Mayweather controversially was administered intravenous fluids before the fight and defeated Pacquiao in a 12-round unanimous decision (a plotting, boring 12 rounds). "I thought I won the fight," Pacquiao said. "He didn't do nothing."
But the real winner was the bottom line. The fight was projected to gross $270 million on pay-per-view and raked in a stunning $410 million, with the boxers splitting the first $160 million right down the middle.
Words to remember: "You know me. I’m running my mouth and I’m looking for a guy to shut me up. If you don’t shut me up, I’m going to keep running my mouth. Nobody can beat me. There is no way to beat me." — Floyd Mayweather Jr., 2015
11. 'Is It at Their Best? Over Their Career?'
ESPN’s Max Kellerman is respected as one of the best in the world when it comes to boxing analysts.
He poses the question about what qualifies a boxer to be in the best pound-for-pound discussion that he admits he stole from baseball sabermetrics guru Bill James.
How do you judge the boxer? Is it by how they were at their best or over the course of their careers?
With Pacquiao, the argument goes that he is in the conversation because he made a point of fighting outside of his natural weight class so he could fight against better competition, which makes him one of the best to ever do it.
Words to remember: "Let’s not forget that Pacquiao went pro when he was 16 years old, when he wasn’t even five feet tall and weighed less than 100 pounds. And after he won his first title, as a flyweight, he started to skip up divisions to fight. And he dominated. And he got to the point where he was fighting bigger fighters and winning, which is something to behold." — Max Kellerman, 2019
12. Down Goes De La Hoya
The trajectory of Pacquiao’s career can be traced to winning three fights over the course of one year. Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto from December 2008 through November 2009.
These three fights made Pacquiao an international superstar in boxing and also put him on the path to "The Fight of the Century" against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2015.
Pundits thought that the leap to welterweight to fight De La Hoya at the 147-pound welterweight limit in 2008 would be too much for Pacquiao, who won the fight after eight rounds when De La Hoya’s corner threw in the towel in what is considered the worst beating of the Golden Boy’s career.
Pacquiao made between $15 million-$20 million on the fight, which had the second-biggest gate in history.
Words to remember: "Manny Pacquiao is a great fighter, and he put on a great fight. He was the better man tonight. I just couldn’t figure out his style. I’m not shocked because this stage, when you face someone like Pacquiao, it’s going to be a hard fight. My style is to go forward and boxing on my toes. He was waiting for me. My body seemed not to be able to respond. I didn’t have the strength to stop him when he was coming forward." — Oscar De La Hoya, 2008
13. Down Goes Hatton
After going up two divisions to fight Oscar De La Hoya with no titles on the line (but a lot of cash), Pacquiao went back down one division to light welterweight to fight Ricky Hatton with quite a bit on the line.
Fighting for Hatton’s IBO, The Ring and lineal light welterweight titles, Pacquiao was efficient and brutal. He knocked Hatton down twice in the first round, but Hatton seemed to recover in the second round, battling back and stalking Pacquiao around the ring.
It was a mirage. Pacquiao snapped back and hit Hatton with a vicious left hook with just seconds left in the round, knocking him out cold and stopping the fight.
It was Ring Magazine’s 2009 knockout of the year.
Words to remember: "Yet, as the round ended, Pacquiao ended all thoughts of Hatton coming back with a punch of clinical brutality, a crunching left hook, which at first, drained the arena of energy and stunned Hatton's travelling army, before Pacquiao’s fans burst into shouts of celebration. There was one second left in the round. It was as definitive a finish as could have been imagined. Pity Hatton. For he will see this knockout time and again as it gets replayed on KO reels. It was one of those that takes the breath away." — The Daily Telegraph, 2009
14. Down Goes Cotto
This fight is when the call for Pacquiao to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. went from a slight buzz to a roar.
Fighting for Miguel Cotto’s WBO welterweight title, the WBO super championship and a specially made WBC diamond championship belt, Pacquiao and Cotto agreed to fight at a catchweight of 145 pounds in November 2009, even though the welterweight division technically goes up to 147 pounds.
Pacquiao picked up steam as the fight went along, destroying Cotto’s face until a 12th round TKO made him the first man to hold seven division titles and four titles in the "glamour" divisions.
Words to remember: "Manny Pacquiao is the greatest boxer I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen them all. I’ve seen Ali, Hagler and Leonard, and Pacquiao is the best of all time." — Bob Arum (2009)
15. He’s Not Without Controversy
The greatest fighters each have something in common when it comes to controversy — it seems to follow them around. Manny Pacquiao has been no different.
The two most serious incidents have been a tax evasion case in 2013 brought against him by the Philippines Bureau of Internal Revenue, which accused Pacquiao of not paying $41.2 million in taxes in 2008 and 2009 from fights in the U.S., a case which was dropped in 2018.
The second incident came after Pacquiao made anti-gay and anti-same-sex marriage comments in 2016 to a Filipino television station. That cost him his sponsorship deal with Nike. Pacquiao has never backed off those comments.
Words to remember: "We find Manny Pacquiao’s comments abhorrent. Nike strongly opposes discrimination of any kind and has a long history of standing up for the rights of the LGBT community. We no longer have a relationship with Manny Pacquiao." — Statement from Nike, 2016
16. He’s Defeated 22 World Champions
The reason Pacquiao has had such longevity and was atop most pound-for-pound best boxer lists for a good portion of his career has been his willingness to go out and fight the best fighters who were willing to fight him.
That list includes an unbelievable 22 world champions: Chatchai Sasakul, Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, Jorge Eliecer Julio, Marco Antonio Barrera (twice), Erik Morales (twice), Oscar Larios, Jorge Solis, Juan Manuel Marquez (twice), David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton,Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley, Brandon Rios, Timothy Bradley (twice), Chris Algieri, Jessie Vargas, Lucas Matthysse, Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman.
That’s a lot of fighters who, at one point in their careers, could say they were the best.
Words to remember: "If Pacquiao decides to hang up the gloves while he's still on top, then very few fighters in the sport's history can claim a better legacy. BoxRec ranked Pacquiao second all-time in the pound-for-pound division behind only Floyd Mayweather Jr., who retired with a perfect 50-0-0 record. ESPN.com also ranked Pacquiao second among pound-for-pound fighters in the past 25 years, behind only Mayweather. Among many accolades, the Boxing Writers Association of America named Pacquiao the Fighter of the Decade in 2010. The Ring and the BWAA also named him the Boxer of the Year three times. The southpaw has defeated some of boxing's best fighters during his time, including Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ricky Hatton, Erik Morales and Thurman. Pac-Man's in-ring legacy can only be matched by perhaps Mayweather or Muhammad Ali." — Bleacher Report, 2019
17. He’s a Worldwide Brand
While most champion fighters can claim to be popular in the country where they’re from, only Pacquiao can claim the kind of worldwide recognition usually given to just the top soccer players in the world.
To be clear, no fighter has more worldwide recognition than Manny Pacquiao, and only two other fighters in the history of boxing can claim as much — Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali, who were both heavyweights.
With Pacquiao being a native Filipino, it’s no surprise he’s taken over as one of the most recognizable athletes in the Asian world, but the true test has been conquering hearts and minds in the United States and Europe, where his skill in the ring seemed to transcend everything.
Words to remember: "Pacquiao is the clear undisputed champion when it comes to worldwide recognition, adoration and fanbase. It's not even a debate or conversation that Mayweather, Errol Spence Jr., Shawn Porter or Terence Crawford could even begin to make an argument backed up by data to suppose otherwise." — Forbes, 2019
18. 'It Was Like He Had … Eight Hands'
Pacquiao may have had to endure the taunts and barbs from his opponents before fights almost the entirety of his career. After the fight has been much different.
Fighter after fighter who has gotten into the ring against Pacquiao has come out saying things that all fall in line. The first and most obvious is that they were too cocky. Which is understandable. There is nothing intimidating about 5-foot-5 and 145 pounds.
The next things are much more tangible. They talk about the speed with which Pacquiao moves, to the point where they feel like they are having to guess where he’s at sometimes.
Then there’s the velocity. This was a man who was ready to go toe-to-toe and brawl with anyone if he had to. But speed and power? That’s too much.
Words to remember: "I was fighting the [expletive] eight hands of Pacquiao. … The confidence just got over me, and I was just way too cocky. Even at 40 years old he may have slowed down, but he’s still quick. He can still move and when he hits you … you’re still gonna feel it." — Brandon Rios, 2019
19. He Doesn’t Have to Trash-Talk
While this approach might be the antithesis of what a big-time boxer is to some, it’s just never been Manny Pacquiao. When he’s had the chance to trash-talk, he hasn’t.
An interesting aside about Pacquiao is that several times, including with Floyd Mayweather Jr., there has been a lot of trash talk coming from the opposing side leading up to a fight (or in anticipation of a fight), but Pacquiao has always tried to clear the air by talking one-on-one with his opponent, even making a point to exchange cell-phone numbers so they can hash out their differences.
He’s just not the typical fighter when it comes to trash-talking, and seems to genuinely respect his opponents. Or when/if he doesn’t, just lets his fists do the talking.
Words to remember: "Pacquiao has never shown a malicious side publicly. He likes to sing. He enjoys being around people. He likes to please the crowd. He really just comes off like a happy, nice guy who happens to be an amazing fighter." — Bleacher Report, 2011
20. This Is 40
Manny Pacquiao has fought twice since turning 40 years old on Dec. 17, 2018, and three years after his first "retirement," defeating Adrien Broner in January 2019 and defeating Keith Thurman in July 2019 to claim Thurman’s WBA super welterweight title.
The win over Thurman made Pacquiao the first four-time division champion in welterweight history and the oldest boxer to ever win a version of the world welterweight title.
And it was the win over Thurman that had tongues wagging, as Pacquiao showed flashes of being the boxer he was in his prime, bloodying Thurman’s nose early in the fight and delivering a body shot that people watching the fight felt in their living rooms.
With the win over Thurman, Pacquiao improved to 62-7-2 in 71 career fights, with 39 wins by knockout. The poor kid from the Philippines has come a long way. And he's not finished yet.
Words to remember: "The body shot was a terrific body shot. I even took my mouthpiece out of my mouth just so I could breathe a little deeper. We stayed on our feet, we kept fighting. It was very unexpected once again. That’s why my name is 'One Time'’ It’s always those one punches in a round that really can change the pace of a round. One time isn’t just something I do. One time is something that could happen to me. I got a few more times than one time, maybe about two good shots in this fight. I tried to retaliate, but Manny held his composure. I know that I got his respect in the ring, but he held his composure well, he held his hands up well, and he’s just a more relaxed fighter with all the experience he’s had nowadays." — Keith Thurman, 2019