Boxing
Pacquiao: Don't believe the hype
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - This just in...I don't get it.

Though he's clearly a talented guy, surely adored in his homeland and certainly on anyone's modern-day list of fun guys to watch in the ring, I honestly don't see what all the fuss is concerning Manny Pacquiao.

I've seen his record. I've watched his bouts. I'm aware of the success he's attained while climbing 24 pounds in a pro career that's yielded 45 wins and a pair of draws in 50 professional outings over 13 years.

Maybe it's because my first real exposure to Pacquiao was a mistake.

I was toiling away in a past life as a newspaper sports writer, waiting for the conclusion of the Lewis-Tyson heavyweight title fight in Memphis and the subsequent arrival of the Associated Press story we'd use to fill the lead space in Sunday's paper.

However, because the card ran later than expected, our copy desk was expected to have a filler story ready to use in early versions of the paper that were to be loaded onto delivery trucks and shipped to the outlying parts of our circulation area.

Manny Pacquiao
Manny Pacquiao has 45 wins and a pair of draws in 50 professional outings.
In such a case, a desk editor would use a feature story on the main event and include a note somewhere indicating the actual bout had ended after our scheduled press time and would be recapped in the following day's sports section.

So, assuming that end was handled, I focused my attention solely on the main event, watched Lewis win in predictably dominant fashion and followed through with reading and formatting the eventual story that arrived in time to make our final editions.

It wasn't until I woke up Sunday that I realized, rather than using filler for the early editions -- which I received at my home because I lived a fair distance from our office -- the desk instead ran a story on the Memphis undercard.

And there, in 50-point type across Page 1 of the sports section, was my introduction:

"Pacquiao wins, retains IBF title"

Ouch.

While a layman's logical substitute for a main event story, the idea of leading a Sunday sports section with a 122-pound title bout involving a guy that few people outside of Manila in 2002 had ever heard of, was nonetheless a colossal newsroom blunder.

The equivalent of running a flag football result in the spot saved for Super Bowl copy.

And no matter what he's done since, I've never forgotten that night.

Still, awkward introductions aside, that's not why I don't get it.

Rather, I simply don't see what prompts the zeal with which the Pacquiao crowd -- even here in the U.S. -- will defend their blind faith view of him as the world's No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter -- while rejecting all alternative views.

Sure, he's successful. But more successful than a Floyd Mayweather Jr.?

Sure, he's punishing. But more punishing than a Miguel Cotto?

And sure, he's entertaining. But more entertaining than a Kelly Pavlik?

For my money, when stacked alongside those unbeatens -- it's no, no and no.

And let's not forget, he's had his share of missteps, too.

In the four-plus years since he reached elite status -- beginning with a surprise rout of Marco Antonio Barrera in November 2003 -- Pacquiao has had just a handful of bouts against foes considered high-enders on the world-class scale.

His first tussle with this weekend's Las Vegas opponent -- Juan Manuel Marquez -- ended in a hotly disputed draw after Marquez got off the deck three times in the first round to salvage a 113-113 count on one scorecard and actually win, 115-110, on another.

Incidentally, I had it 113-112 for Marquez.

Ten months later, the Pacman Express machine hit another pothole when he dropped a surprising unanimous decision to shopworn Erik Morales -- the first encounter of what eventually evolved into a highly one-sided trilogy series.

And even his most recent win -- a unanimous nod over Barrera in October -- is dubious in that it came against a 69-fight veteran who'd already announced his retirement and had been beaten, every bit as decisively, by Marquez some seven months earlier.

Put it all together and, in spite of breathless claims of rededication from his training camp, it seems the reputation of an in-ring buzzsaw just might exceed the reality of a frenetic, albeit fun, flash in the pan that's outlived its spark.

FitzHitz says: Marquez by decision.

Only one title fight joins Saturday's pay-per-view main event on the schedule.

Lanky California native Steven Luevano makes the third defense of his share of the 126-pound pie on the Marquez-Pacquiao undercard at Mandalay Bay, meeting Thai challenger Terdsak Jandaeng for the WBO featherweight belt.

Luevano, who turned 27 earlier this month, won the vacant crown with an 11th- round KO of previously unbeaten Nicky Cook at the O2 Arena in London last July. He made defense No. 1 with a unanimous 12-round verdict over veteran Antonio Davis in October.

A 5-foot-7 southpaw, Luevano won his first 29 professional bouts before dropping a 10-round decision to recent IBF title challenger Martin Honorio in November 2005.

Five subsequent wins have improved his overall record to 34-1.

Jandaeng, a 5-foot-5 left-hander, gets the second world title shot of a four- plus year career that's already featured three distinct reigns as the WBO's Asia-Pacific featherweight championship.

He was stopped in seven rounds by Marquez in a match for the WBO's interim featherweight title in August 2006, and had dropped a 12-round decision to current WBO 130-pound claimant Joan Guzman in a 126-pound title eliminator one year earlier.

Saturday's bout will be just the fourth away from Thailand for the 26-year-old Jandaeng, who suffered his two losses and earned an eight-round split decision over Carlos Contreras in three previous fights in the United States.

He's 5-0 since the Marquez loss, improving to 29-2 overall with a second-round KO of Moses Seran on Oct. 3.

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com), provides 'In The Ring' boxing commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com) and can be contacted via e-mail at fitzbitz@msn.com.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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