MANNY PACQUIAO and Freddie Roach’s relationship takes off. The American coach begins to shape one of the greatest fighters from modern times from the furious and unkempt brilliance the Filipino brings. Growing rapidly, Pacquiao leapfrogs two divisions and lands in the super-bantamweight division. In June 2001 – on the undercard of Oscar De La Hoya’s win over Javier Castillejo – Manny wows the fans at the MGM Grand when he batters IBF champion, Lehlo Ledwabu in six rounds.
It’s his second world title but his real breakthrough occurs two years later when he thrashes the great Mexican, Marco Antonio Barrera, in 11 savage rounds [above] in a featherweight title fight. The beating makes the boxing world sit bolt upright and take notice. The Filipino’s ludicrously fast limbs are too much for Barrera but Pacquiao is far from perfect.
Although his hands move rapidly, there is an obvious reliance on his left. The right mitt lacks education and serves as little more than a rangefinder for his favoured weapon. And his feet, though quick, often clumsily leave him square on and vulnerable to counters.
For now, though, it doesn’t matter. Pacquiao is the most exciting young fighter on the planet.