Still immune to Pac-Man fever
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
OK. First things first.
Yes, I saw Saturday night's fight. Yes, I'm crystal clear on the result.
Yes, Manny Pacquiao whipped Oscar De La Hoya like he'd never been whipped.
In a way I didn't think he could be whipped.
Simply put, I was wrong. And the myriad of people who've dropped e-mails in the interim since the final bell... kudos and congratulations to you all. You were right.
Of course, I didn't see any of your predictions beforehand, but I'll take for granted that each and every one of you "knew" it was going to go down exactly as it did -- in spite of heavy betting odds and general pre-fight consensus to the contrary.
That's just the kind of guy I am.
Manny Pacquiao whipped Oscar De La Hoya like he'd never been whipped.
And there... now that we've firmly established those points, here's another:
I'm still not convinced.
So while cable TV analysts and clever e-mailers have been breathlessly invoking the multi-division ghosts of Armstrong and Robinson, I'm a little less willing to cede Mr. Pacquiao his place alongside those immortals quite yet.
To me anyway, there's a little more work to be done.
Though the one-sided nature of his victory was beyond any argument, a few hard facts nonetheless remain about exactly what the Filipino sensation accomplished in Las Vegas.
He beat a 35-year-old former welterweight... not a reigning champion.
He beat a man who'd been .500 in his last six fights... not a streaking contender.
He still holds zero legitimate titles in any weight class... not three, as Armstrong did.
And while none of this diminishes the virtuosity he displayed Saturday -- and none of it changes the fact that I thought Oscar would win decisively -- it ought to inject at least a smidgen of reality into the "Pacquiao is God" chatter that's been growing louder by the second.
Make no mistake, folks, I believe Manny is a terrific fighter. I became a fan of his when he started making headlines as a flyweight several years ago and I've enjoyed watching him acquire belts and topple names as he's climbed the weight class ladder ever since.
He's uniquely talented. He's surely entertaining.
And by all accounts, he seems like a decent guy.
I certainly believe he deserves a mention in any conversation that includes the phrase "best pound-for-pound fighter in the world" and I can understand the logic used when anyone crunches their own numbers and determines he belongs atop their own personal list.
But I simply disagree.
To me, in order to supplant interim list-toppers like Calzaghe and Hopkins -- or approach the feats of vacationing "No. 1 in recess" Mayweather Jr. -- Pacquiao's got some loose ends to tie up in whatever weight class he decides to call home for the foreseeable future.
At 135, the loose end is Nate Campbell, who defeated a widely recognized and three-belted champion in Juan Diaz last March and has done nothing in nine subsequent months to have his claim erased by an interloper with just one inconsequential match in the division.
Return to lightweight and beat Campbell decisively... and I'm a believer.
At 140, the loose end is Ricky Hatton, who failed miserably in a brief dalliance at welterweight but has clearly proven his superiority seven pounds south -- most recently with a decisive TKO defeat of the next best available junior welter, Paul Malignaggi.
Take the cash and dominate the "Hitman" like Mayweather did... and I'm a believer.
At 147, the loose ends are Antonio Margarito, Paul Williams and Mayweather, two of whom De La Hoya prudently avoided, and one who -- if the money's right -- just might be persuaded to return to his welterweight throne and vanquish the Golden Boy's most violent conqueror.
Finalize a fight with any of those three and win it... and I'm a believer.
Until then, though, I'm in the minority.
In spite of the hyperbole, all I've seen Pac-Man do in 2008 is go 12 more even rounds with Marquez, beat a made-to-order heavy bag in David Diaz and retire a promotional wizard whose tough talk and rippled abs made a lot of people -- including me -- mistakenly believe he was still a fighter.
And though it may be the choice for some over Joe's outworking of Lacy, Kessler and Jones, Bernard's undressing of Tarver, Wright and Pavlik and Floyd's sublime dominance of Corrales, Gatti and De La Hoya, I'm a bit more inclined to reward long-term substance over short-term propaganda.
Incidentally, a second chance to view the carnage comes this Saturday, when HBO will replay it alongside the live (4:45 p.m.) and tape-delayed (10 p.m.) showings of the IBF/IBO/WBO heavyweight title match between Wladimir Klitschko and Hasim Rahman from Mannheim, Germany.
And who knows... maybe saving 55 bucks this time around will change my opinion a bit.
But I wouldn't bet on it.
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Speaking of this weekend, there's been a slight change at Showtime.
The planned rubber match for the WBO 140-pound championship between Kendall Holt and Ricardo Torres in Atlantic City was officially scuttled Monday when Torres pulled out due to illness.
Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler said "Torres was ill, missed time in training and is therefore unable to fight."
Replacing him in the scheduled 12-rounder will be unbeaten Philadelphia veteran Demetrius Hopkins, who'd been slated to meet Germaine Sanders on the undercard but will instead get the first world title opportunity of an eight- year professional career.
Hopkins last fought 13 months ago, when he outpointed Enrique Colin over 10 rounds on the Joan Guzman-Humberto Soto undercard.
Holt, who lives in Paterson, New Jersey, climbed off the canvas to stop Torres for the WBO belt in a memorable 61-second encounter in July in Las Vegas. The two had met for the same title 10 months earlier in Colombia, where Torres recorded a controversial 11th-round TKO.
Saturday's 11 p.m. broadcast, part of the network's "ShoBox: The New Generation" series, will also include a 10-round co-feature between New York- based junior welterweights Yuri Foreman (Brooklyn) and James Moore (Queens).
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This week's big-fight capsules:
IBF/IBO/WBO heavyweight titles -- Mannheim, Germany
Wladimir Klitschko (champion) vs. Hasim Rahman (No. 5 IBF/No. 12 IBO/No. 8 WBO contender)
Klitschko (51-3, 45 KO): Fifteenth title fight -- 12-2 with 10 knockouts Rahman (45-6-2, 36 KO): Former IBF, IBO and WBC champion -- 1-2-1 in four title fights
FitzHitz says: Klitschko in 3
WBO junior welterweight title -- Atlantic City, New Jersey
Kendall Holt (champion) vs. Demetrius Hopkins (No. 10 contender)
Holt (24-2, 13 KO): Eighth career fight in New Jersey -- 7-0 with one knockout Hopkins (28-0-1, 11 KO): Late injury replacement, first world title opportunity
FitzHitz says: Hopkins by decision
IBF mini-flyweight title -- Loreto, Mexico
Raul Garcia (champion) vs. Jose Luis Varela (No. 12 contender)
Garcia (24-0-1, 15 KO): Second title defense, defeated Varela (UD 12) in September Varela (15-5, 7 KO): Fourth world title fight -- 0-3 with one knockout loss
FitzHitz says: Garcia by decision
Last week's record: 2-1
Overall picks record: 48-19
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a 20-year veteran of sports journalism, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and "Cold Hard Sports" on the MVN network (coldhardsports.com). Reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.