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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Manny Pacquiao v Henry Armstrong?

No matter what happens from this point forward, Manny Pacquiao will be a first ballot inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF). The IBHOF member to whom Manny is most often compared to is Henry Armstrong (Class of 1990).
My personal view is that Pacquiao has no interest in the comparison. In fact, there is no real comparison that can or should be made other than who would have won if the two fought.

Manny Pacquiao cannot and will never compare with respect to the number of fights won. According to the IBHOF, Armstrong stepped into the professional ring 181times and stepped out of the ring a winner 151 times. The fight with Miguel Cotto will be number 55 for Manny, and we'll be lucky if we get to see Manny hit the 60 professional fights mark.

Another way the two fighters will always fail to compare is that when Armstrong earned a title he held onto it. At the high water mark of his career, Armstrong owned the welterweight, lightweight, and featherweight titles simultaneously. Pacquiao has been a champion at lightweight and featherweight and has fought at close to the welterweight limit; however, Manny also captured titles at flyweight, super bantamweight, super featherweight, and Ricky Hatton's unrecognized IBO belt at junior welterweight. As such, Pacquiao is not the modern day Henry Armstrong and he never will be.

Conversely, Henry Armstrong was not Manny Pacquiao. Armstrong began his boxing quest as a 120-pounder and ended it as a welterweight. Pacquiao started his journey as a 106-pounder and will fight Miguel Cotto at catch weight of 145 pounds. In other words, Armstrong and Pacquiao wrecked havoc on the some of the same weight divisions, but Manny has had to cover a greater distance on the scales. Manny is not Henry, Henry is not Manny, and both men will eventually arrive at the same place--Canastota, New York.

Boxing fans and commentators have this weird fascination with past meets present scenarios. We simply cannot help ourselves. To compare Manny Pacquiao to Henry Armstrong is fair game because there are some similarities, but to say one must be like the other is unnecessary. Boxing is a different animal today than it was when Armstrong owned the sport. Some will say better, others worse. Regardless, the sport has evolved and will continue to do so.

By way of example, the Rocky Marciano 49-0 record is still a recognizable milestone, but realistically not something that will be achieved again during our lifetime. The simple reason being that boxers do not fight as much today as they did in Marciano's era. Marciano fought seven times within a 13 month span (1951-1952), which included wins over Joe Louis and Jersey Joe Walcott. He fought 6 times in 1950, 13 times in 1949, and 11 times in 1948. Most people don’t realize this, but Marciano fought 49 times from March 1947 to September 1955. By my rudimentary math skills, this is about 5.7647 times per year. I digress.

The bottom line is that what was accomplished in boxing yesterday can be compared to today in realistic terms. The era sets the rules for each fighter. It is more interesting to me to examine what fighters might have been able to do against each other. If we get to the point where we start to speculate Pacquiao v. Armstrong, red corner-blue corner, like we do with Ali v. Marciano, then this means that both men are bigger than the eras that define them, which my friends is the text book definition as to what it takes to be considered among the greatest of all time.

Source: http://www.examiner.com/x-8370-Boxing-Examiner~y2009m7d27-Manny-Pacquiao-v-Henry-Armstrong

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