Manny Pacquiao has already given Floyd Mayweather Jr. the greatest fight he’s never had. A national icon in his native Phillippines, Pacquiao shot to global stardom during Mayweather’s short “retirement” from boxing in 2008, when the smaller Pacquiao pounded “Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya into a very real retirement.
But the Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather fight never came to pass, even though Mayweather came out of “retirement” and has fought six times in the 4 1/2 years since.
Now, one of boxing’s all-time greatest — and toughest — fighters tells Mayweather that he must fight Manny Pacquiao, or risk his legacy as one of the sport’s legends.
Accusations that he hand-picks his opponents, avoiding any fighter who poses a serious threat, have dogged Mayweather for the past decade. In his recent fights he’s taken some steps to putting that charge to rest, battling heavy hitters like Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley and burgeoning Mexican star Saul Alvarez.
But “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler is a man who knows something about taking tough fights. For much of his career an unheralded brawler from Brockton, Massachusetts, Hagler battered his way to the top of boxing’s middleweight division, and went on to reign as the undisputed middleweight champ for almost seven years, successfully defending his belt 12 times.
His challengers included some of the most lethal middleweight punchers off all time, including Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran, Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns and John “The Beast” Mugabe. So when Hagler says that Manny Pacquiao is a “must” opponent for Mayweather, he speaks with some credibility.
And Hagler said exactly that about Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather in an interview Wednesday from Malaysia where he was attending an awards banquet.
“If he retires and he does not give Pacquiao his shot, there will always be a conversation that maybe he was afraid of him,” said the 59-year-old, who dominated as champ from 1980 until 1987. “I believe that the best way is to fight the top. The way my career led me, [I had to] fight the best. This way you feel good about yourself.”
He said that fighters in the current era such as Mayweather are “not dictated to fight the best challengers because they can make good money fighting other guys.”
In Hagler’s era, to hold his undisputed title, he was forced to fight the top contender from what were then boxing’s three championship-sanctioning organizations, the World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation.
“Today they can fight the number 6 or the number 8 guy,” said Hagler, who after his boxing career ended relocated to Italy where he embarked on a second career as a successful star of low-budget action movies.
But Marvelous Marvin does not have high hopes for the prospect of a Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather bout. In the past two years, Pacquiao has suffered a couple of conspicuous defeats which have lowered his stock, including to American Timothy Bradley.
“Mayweather-Pacquiao won’t have the interest it had before,” said Hagler. “Maybe they would have pulled in a hundred million dollars, but that’s gone now.”
Manny Pacquiao fights Bradley again on April 12 in Las Vegas in attempt to recapture some of his lost bankability.