With all the talk recently of a possible Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather, JR., fight I started thinking of another possible great matchup: One between Pacquiao and another defensive wizard, Pernell Whitaker.
From the mid 80's to the early 90's Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker was one of the best fighters in the game. There was even a time when most described him as the pound for pound king. He is considered by many as one of the all time greats and his defensive skills are praised by all.
He is the best defensive fighter I ever had the pleasure of watching. His upper body movement was brilliant, only surpassed perhaps by his great footwork. Many have tried to compare Floyd Mayweather JR.'s defensive skills to Whitaker's but Whitaker's was better. Not to say Mayweather, JR., isn't a brilliant defensive fighter himself, because he certainly is, but it just shows how great Whitaker was in his prime.
Whether it was at 135 pounds, 140 pounds, or even at the welterweight limit of 147 pounds, Whitaker routinely made fighters look silly as the swung at something that wasn't there. Some of my earliest memories of boxing are of watching Whitaker put on these displays of defensive wizardry.
Whitaker started his pro career at 135 pounds after already winning an Olympic Gold Medal to cap off a stellar amateur career. He quickly rose up the ranks picking up titles along the way. His first loss came at the hands of Jose Luis Ramirez in a split decision that was highly debatable.
Unfazed he went on to beat his next 17 opponents which included wins over Azumah Nelson, Buddy McGirt and a rematch win over Ramirez. Also along the way he collected WBC, WBA, and IBF Lightweight Titles, IBF Light Welterweight Title, WBC Welterweight Title and later added the WBA Light Middleweight Title.
Whitaker took on many big name opponents as well but in two of his biggest fights he ended walking away without a win. Against Julio Cesar Chavez, Whitaker walked away with a draw. Many people believe he was robbed in that fight as he out-boxed Chavez most of the fight. Then a few years later against Oscar De La Hoya, he had Oscar throwing punches at air for most of the night but in a close fight it seemed the judges went with the aggression of Oscar over the defense of Whitaker as he dropped a unanimous decision.
Still many, including myself, believe he won both of those fights and there is no denying that in his prime there were few who could beat Sweet Pea.
So what would a possible matchup between Pacquiao and Whitaker look like? Well first of all what weight would they fight at? Well neither were really big guys as their height was about equal. Pernell was a bit lengthier and his frame was a little bigger as well.
Whitaker split his career fighting mainly at 135 pounds and 147 pounds with a few fights at 154 pounds and 140 pounds. Manny on the other hand started his career at 106 pounds but has moved all the way up to fighting at welterweight in his last fight. His next fight will be at 140 pounds against Ricky Hatton and I think this weight would be where both fighters were at their optimal condition so let’s say the fight takes place at 140 pounds.
Of course we want to see who would win if they were to meet in their primes. So let’s take Whitaker from the early 90's as I think that is when he was at his peak. As for Manny, I think we would have to take the Manny of the present as he seems to be much more polished this point of his career and has clearly been better after each fight he's had.
So with all the factors set who would win this fight? It is a battle of two of my favorite fighters of all time and it would be a “can't miss” type of event.
Each fighter brings so much to the table. First of all let’s look at a couple of key elements to the fight:
Each fighter has speed to spare. Manny's speed is the key his offense, often darting in landing multiple punches then darting back out before his opponent has time to react. Right off the bat I was ready to give the advantage to Manny here but after reviewing some tapes of Whitaker it makes it much harder of a decision. Whitaker had great hand speed as well. He didn't throw punches as much as Manny but when he did those punches were quick. Still I think Manny has a slight advantage here.
Again at first I was going to clearly give the advantage to Manny here but then I started to think that well this is at 140 pounds not 130 or 126 where Manny was dropping guys at will. In his last couple of fights Manny has won by KO but they weren't the one punch devastation type punches he had at lighter weights. They were KO's based on the cumulative damage of all his punches. Still Whitaker was never a one punch type guy himself and his KO percentage shows that he won his fights by simply out boxing his opponents. This is another category that I will give a slight edge to Manny.
Do we even need to go over this one? OK, Manny has improved tremendously under the tutelage of Freddie Roach. He went from a guy whose motto was, “The best defense is a good offense” to a fighter who is now a well rounded fighter. But as I said earlier, Whitaker was one of the best defensive fighters of all time. His footwork was so great there he often had his opposition stumbling over themeselves to get to him. This one's easy, Pernell by far.
This never seemed to be a problem with either fighter. Whitaker simply based on the way he fights was always ready to go 12 rounds. And of course Manny's stamina is legendary as he seems as fresh in the later rounds as he does in the first. One thing that could be a factor here though is that if Manny is able to make Whitaker fight every minute of every round could Whitaker handle the constant pressure or would he start to dwindle in the later rounds? This is another one I might give a very slight advantage to Manny.
While those are just a few categories I think it gives us a basis of how the fight might play out.
In the early rounds I could see the two feeling each other out with the jab of Pernell giving him the early advantage. Manny would have his moments where he would get in and possible land some punches while at the same time finding himself swinging at air.
As the fight went on and Manny got more comfortable it would start to turn into the fight we all expected, Manny chasing down Whitaker as he moved around the ring stopping here and there to fire a few quick shots. These middle rounds is where Freddie Roach would be telling Manny to let the body punches fly to try and slow down Whitaker in the later rounds.
Going into those later rounds it would be a very close fight with both men having their moments. Down the stretch, those body punches would have slowed down Whitaker some but he would have also have figured out Manny's strategy as well.
In the end it goes to a decision. It would be one of those fights that you know could go either way and just like his fights with Ramirez, De La Hoya and Chavez, Whitaker ends up with a very debatable decision however this time it would be in his favor. Split decision win for Whitaker in an instant classic.
Manny's speed, power and endurance would be better but the overall skill of Whitaker and his defense would prove to be just too much for Pacquiao. And really would that be so bad? Losing to an all time great like Whitaker? I'm sure Manny would come out the other side an even better fighter for it.
Well, I guess we will never really know what might have actually happened in that fight. But if fate is kind to us we still might get a chance to see Manny versus another great defensive fighter, Floyd Mayweather, JR., later this year.
Miyerkules, Pebrero 18, 2009
Posted by yellOw-PhOenix at 1:43 AM