Tuesday, December 05, 2023  |



Notebook: Where does Pacquiao rank among greatest ever?

Fighters Network

DALLAS – Bert Sugar has been assessing where boxers rank among the all-time greats for three decades or so. He’d rather not rank Manny Pacquiao, though, at least not yet.

Others have begun to place Pacquiao among the legends of the sport after his spectacular victories over Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto but the prolific author said it’s dangerous to rank active fighters.

“People ask me all the time, because I wrote two books on it, to assess a fighter within the context of other great fighters,” Sugar said. “The problem is during a career, it’s impossible. You don’t know if he is at his peak, approaching his peak or on the downside.

“And it could change overnight. Witness Mike Tyson vis-a-vis Buster Douglas. We thought that was an anomaly but it turned out to be the beginning of a decline. ÔǪ So, no, I can’t rank him.”

Well, Sugar softened up a bit after a little prodding and decided to give us an idea of where Pacquiao ranks at the moment.

“OK, right now, if I freeze his career where it is, he’s among the all-time greats and probably the greatest left-hander of all time,” he said.

After a little more prodding.

“I think he’d be in the Top 25,” he said.

“Really, the Top 25 of all time?” he was asked.

“Yes, the Top 25 regardless of what happens on Saturday, unless he has a tremendously devastating loss,” he said.

Think about how many wonderful fighters have stepped through the ropes the past 100 years or so. Top 25 is monumental praise, indeed.

Diaz would agree with Sugar: David Diaz, sitting with a few reporters after the news conference for the undercard of Pacquiao-Clottey, was asked to reflect on his ninth-round knockout loss to Pacquiao in June of 2008.

“I was robbed!” he said with a grin. And then he became serious.

“The guy is pretty amazing,” he said. “I didn’t know it at the time but now you see everything he’s done, beating De La Hoya, knocking out Hatton, really beating Cotto. Cotto did a tremendous job of running away after the fourth round. Manny is something to watch.

“I think his big advantage in this fight is his speed. ÔǪ I can take his punches. He just threw too many at one time. He was in ÔǪ boom, boom , boom ÔǪ and out. I was like, ‘I can’t deal with his speed.' If he brought it down a notch, maybe 20 punches per minute, I might’ve been alright.”

Friends, foes: Diaz and fellow lightweight Humberto Soto have run into each other many times over the years and have become friends. On Saturday, they’re going to beat the hell out of each other.

That might seem like a strange concept to some but, to Diaz, it’s normal. How do they turn the affection on and off?

“In this line of work, you have to,” he said. “I think we’re both pretty good at doing that. There’s nothing wrong with being friends and kicking each other’s ass. It’s actually fun. A lot of people don’t understand that but this is something I’ve been doing since I was 8 years old. I fought friends in the amateurs and we still talk today.

“You beat each other’s brains in and then you go have a coke or a beer. I think you need to be in this world to understand it.”

Diaz and Soto are fighting for a vacant lightweight title.

On the rise again?: Jose Luis Castillo, the former two-time lightweight titleholder, was all but written off after Hatton knocked him out in the fourth round in 2007.

Castillo lost again to journeyman Sebastian Andres Lujan two fights later and then beat four more journeyman on small shows in his native Mexico, which appeared to be how his fine career would wind down.

However, he insists that observers are making a mistake of they think he’s finished as a contender. He attributed the loss to Hatton in part to a series of devastating personal issues leading up to the fight.

Three months beforehand, his 28-year-old brother died. One month beforehand, he split with his wife. And about two weeks beforehand, the Mexican government informed him that he owed roughly $1 million in taxes.

“I had a lot of problems,” he said through an interpreter as his 3-year-old son climbed on his shoulder. “Now, I’ve taken care of everything. My head is where it needs to be. Physically, I’m all there. You’ll see on Saturday night.”

And he suggested you not read too much into his fights in Mexico. They were merely stepping stones for him to return to his past form, he said.

Castillo faces tough Alfonso Gomez, a former member of The Contender cast, in a 10-round welterweight fight.

More than a reality TV star? Gomez had been known primarily as a participant on The Contender series. Then the L.A.-area fighter retired Arturo Gatti by scoring a seventh-round knockout in 2007, which improved his credibility.

He has since lost to Miguel Cotto – retiring after the fifth round – but then won three consecutive fights, the last a sixth-round technical decision over Jesus Soto Karass in a foul-marred matchup.

“I think the Gatti fight shut up a lot of critics who said I was only a reality TV star. Now, little by little, I’m evolving from a Contender TV star into a title contender,” Gomez said.

If Gomez wins handily enough on Saturday, who knows, he could end Castillo’s career. That could give him the distinction of driving two Hall of Famers into retirement.

“I wouldn’t mind being called the retire-er of great boxers. It’s a good nickname,” he said.

Sanchez, Part II: A familiar name is on the list of undercard fighters for Saturday: Salvador Sanchez. This Salvador Sanchez is the nephew of the great Mexican Hall of Famer of the same name, who died at only 23 in a car crash.

The 24-year-old bears a striking resemblance to his uncle, even copying his curly mop top and 1980s-style clothing, which he acknowledged is a way of marketing himself.

“It’s only logical,” he said through an interpreter.

The younger Sanchez, who was born three years after his uncle’s death, grew up hearing stories about his famous relative in their hometown of Santiago Tianguistenco. And it was natural in a boxing family, which produced other fighters, for him to gravitate into the sport.

He is a competent fighter (18-3-2, eight knockouts) but, as is the case with virtually everyone who laces up gloves, it would be impossible to live up to the standards his uncle set.

And he’s OK with that.

“It’s an honor even to be mentioned with him,” he said. “If I could be half of what my uncle was, it would be great. I’m just trying to enjoy it. I’m not trying to prove anything, just do what I can. And if I reach a high level, great.”

Sanchez might have one advantage over his opponents: He brings the spirit of his uncle into the ring when he fights.

“In my mind,” he said with obvious pride, “and in my heart.”

Sanchez fights Jaime Villa in an eight-round junior featherweight fight.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]