MANNY PACQUIAO embarked on one of most impressive runs of form in modern boxing history in 2008. With world titles in three weight classes bagged, and supremacy secured in four, the southpaw sets his sights on lightweight and WBC boss, David Diaz. Pacquiao was ferocious, dominating before icing his rival in the ninth.
“I’m more experienced, especially my strategy and techniques, and more improved in my right hand, and also movement side to side, and timing,” Pacquiao noted at the time. “I’ve learned how to be a counter-puncher as well as an aggressive fighter.”
Armed with his new box of tricks, Pacquiao aims even higher. In a matchup masterminded by trainer Freddie Roach, Manny agrees to go into battle against the most popular fighter in boxing, Oscar De La Hoya at welterweight (a weight class almost 40lbs higher than when he turned professional). Many scoff at the former flyweight’s chances against the bigger man but it’s no contest at all [above]. Pacquiao sets about the ageing and weight-drained warrior from the off, and after eight one-sided sessions, De La Hoya – swollen, bruised and ashamed – quits on his stool.
What follows is stunning. In 2009 he drops down to light-welterweight and sparks Britain’s Ricky Hatton in two rounds before jumping back to 147lbs and handing great Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto the kind of shellacking that might have ruined a lesser fighter.
He closed 2010 by scything through the much bigger Antonio Margarito to bag a world light-middleweight title. At this point, Pacquiao is considered almost invincible.