Campbell, not Pacquiao, remains the man at 135
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
First, let's dispense with the formalities.
Manny Pacquiao looked spectacular against David Diaz on Saturday night. Manny Pacquiao beat a legitimate lifetime 135-pounder in clear-cut and dominant fashion. And Manny Pacquiao is undeniably among the best fighters in the world and surely an emergent force in the lightweight division.
Anyone who'd seriously contest those points is a fool.
That said, there are some things the HBO folks failed to mention during Pacman's PPV love-fest.
Similar to many divisions in today's muddled championship picture, the lightweight class is home to four recognized "world" titles -- the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO. And in moving up from 130 pounds and targeting David Diaz, the Pacquiao war machine convincingly got its hands on one of them.
No arguments there.
But oddly absent from the Saturday broadcast was even a passing mention of the other three title belts and the one man who currently holds all of them -- Nate Campbell -- after an upset of previously unbeaten "Network of Champions" darling Juan Diaz three months ago in Mexico.
Manny Pacquiao is undeniably among the best fighters in the world.
For those who don't recall, Diaz -- Juan, that is -- had been universally regarded as the kingpin at 135 pounds heading into that fight, after his own previous belt-copping demolitions of Lakva Sim (WBA), Acelino Frietas (WBO) and Julio Diaz (IBF) between 2004 and 2007.
So in keeping with the Ric Flair Theory of Championship Lineage -- most simply stated as "To be the man, you've got to beat the man" -- the decision victory over Diaz on March 8 in Cancun makes Campbell "the man" in the lightweight ranks until someone, as Flair said, beats him.
And, unless I've missed something in the intervening 112 days, no one has.
In fact, no one will until at least September 13, when Campbell is scheduled to defend the WBA and WBO straps against another insurgent from 130 pounds, Joan Guzman, to be broadcast live on -- hmmm, might this have anything to do with the oversight? -- Showtime.
On Saturday, the commentary from HBO's broadcast team was a disappointing departure from previous scenarios on the network involving fighters and/or belts either not considered the most legitimate in a given division, or not recognized by the omnipotent soothsayers at Ring Magazine.
Just a week ago -- when Andre Berto won the WBC welterweight title against Miki Rodriquez -- Jim Lampley and sidekick Max Kellerman constantly and correctly railed that the "real" title at 147 pounds wouldn't be earned until late July when Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito meet -- on HBO PPV.
Shameless self-promotion aside, it was a fair point.
And because what holds true for one division surely holds true for another, it was a point that wouldn't be lost on Lampley and Emanuel Steward this time, in spite of the reality that Pacquiao is clearly a larger piece in the HBO puzzle than Campbell's ever been, right?
Well... maybe not.
Though the situation was similar to last week, Campbell's three-belt supremacy was nonetheless left off script to provide extra room for breathless mentions of Pacquiao's big-money future, which presumably includes a third match with Juan Manuel Marquez and a possible clash with Ricky Hatton.
But while those fights advance his status as the biggest cash cow in the game south of Oscar De La Hoya and the biggest thing to hit the Philippines since Douglas MacArthur, neither get him substantively closer to securing the linear legitimacy HBO normally specifies as a prerequisite to greatness.
That legitimacy unquestionably belongs to Campbell.
And until Guzman, Pacquiao, or anyone else actually climbs into a ring and wrests it from him, that's what the cable colossus ought to make time to remember -- regardless of whose logos are on the microphones.
Unless, of course, it favors a new tagline -- Network of Paper Champions.
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He provides 'In The Ring' commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com), is a periodic contributor to 'The Drive with Dave Smith' on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.