June 27, 2008
By Gary Todd
When Emmanuel D. Pacquiao came into his world of harsh poverty, and later as a little boy, the grim prospect of an even harsher future ahead, do you think he could ever imagine the life he would be leading now, as a man, a boxing superstar, actor, and Filipino legend? When I asked him a few years back, the answer I got was a big “Oo, Oo” [yes, yes.] It was never easy for the wiry flyweight, fighting his first 23 fights for very little rewards as a professional prize fighter.
He won the WBC. Flyweight title in 1998, by stopping Chathai Sasakul, defended it, moved up in weight to fight at late notice, for the South African, Lehlohonolo Ledwaba’s IBF super bantamweight world title knocking him out in 6 rounds in Vegas, in 2001.
Next up was a unification fight with the tough and experienced southpaw, Agapito Sanchez. The fight was brutal, with low blows, headbutts all the way, until Pacquiao got badly cut by Sanchez’s teak tough head in the 6th round. The fight was ruled a draw.
The Filipino dynamo continued with more knockout wins, most notably, Marco Antonio Barrera, before jumping up again to face the tremendously gifted Mexican boxer, Juan Manuel Marquez. I was watching at ringside that night, as Pacquiao hammered Marquez to the canvas 3 times in the first round, with the last knockdown being the most devastating. I thought Marquez was never getting up, but he did. Not only did he get up, but he came back strongly to totally outbox “The Pacman” I actually thought Marquez did enough to win the fight.
From that day on, he has never looked back. Big fights, a winning trilogy with Eric Morales, hard fought points wins against Oscar Larios, Barrera, and Marquez, and enough loot to keep “The bank of Philippines” bank manager’s kids, kids happy.
David Diaz started boxing, winning the coveted “Golden Gloves” amateur titles, three years in a row, excelling into the 1996 American Olympic team, but lost to the hard German, Oktay Urkal on points. He finished his amateur career beating Zab Judah twice at light welter, going out with a tremendous 175 - 16 record, before turning pro in November, 1996.
He made the transition into the paid ranks with a steady flow of victories, just staying under the radar, fighting all across America, learning his craft as he went.
In 2004, he broke down Ener Julio over 10 rounds, before being taken out by the big rangy banger, Kendall Holt in 8 rounds.
In 2006, Diaz fought Jose Armando Santa Cruz for the interim WBC lightweight title , and won by stopping Cruz in the 10th round, despite being outboxed the whole night. In 2007, after all the years of struggling to make a living for himself and his family, Diaz fought with heart and desire, battling with a bull like attacking style, to wear down the ageing and weary, legendary champion, Eric Morales, banging relentlessly to the body, to take his WBC lightweight crown. Many would say later that Pacquiao softened the Mexican warrior up with a 3rd round devasting beating, some months previous in 2006.
Say what you will, but give the man respect. Diaz has been down the hard road of boxing, and has turned the corner to win the championship.
The big question for me is who hits harder out of the two southpaws? I would say Pacquiao, and this will be the difference in the fight. When Diaz and Pacquiao both come in swinging wildly in the centre of the ring, the superior power of the Filipino will eventually prevail, stopping Diaz in the 6th round, to make history, and move up in weight to face Ricky Hatton in March next year. If you ask him, can he be beat? He will tell you “hindi” [which means no] and you have to believe him.
When I asked Pacquiao what more could he ever want out of boxing, he said to me “I take all” When I got back to Australia, I spoke to my friend at work about my time with Pacquiao at the Wild Card Gym in L.A, as I knew he and his Filipino wife and family were big fans. I told him what he said, and it turns out that Pacquiao translated into English means “Take all.” As the saying goes, “by name and by nature” You never know he just might.
June 28 At Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas (PPV), David Diaz, Chicago, vs. Manny Pacquiao, Philippines, 12 rounds, for Diaz’s WBC lightweight title.
Gary Todd is an international author, with his best selling book on world champions workouts, “Workouts From Boxings Greatest Champs” and he has been involved in all aspects in the sport of boxing for over 25 years. Look out for his follow up book, “Workouts, Volume II” COMING SOON.