Is There a Precedent For Manny Pacquiao’s Weight? Absolutely Not!

By Jason Peck: Welterweight champ Manny Pacquiao won his first title as a 112-pound flyweight – but SO WHAT? say many sportswriters and fans. Others have gained as much weight or more. Examples are drawn, lists compared: Roy Jones Jr. gained 33 pounds from middleweight to heavyweight titles. De La Hoya gained 30 pounds from super-featherweight to middleweight titles; Manny Pacquiao’s title-to-title weight gain stands at a mere 33.

The comparisons don’t work. Thirty-two pounds obviously means different things to different builds, and no list compares Pacquiao against more appropriate peers – the other 126 flyweight champions of boxing history. If you abide by the number of pounds and nothing else, then consider heavyweight champ Nicolai Valuev, who can easily fluctuate within 20 pounds.

To date, Pacquiao remains the ONLY former flyweight champion in history to have gained a truly significant amount of weight. No other 112-pound champion has ever come remotely close to winning a title as heavy as junior middleweight, like Pacquiao has done – in fact, weight gain among fighters that light has been historically unthinkable..

So who’s in second place behind Pacquiao? Now things get downright shocking.

After Pacquiao, tying for second are former flyweight champs Jorge Arce, Nonito Donaire and Duke McKenzie, all of whom won titles at super-bantamweight – 122 pounds. That means second place only gained 10 pounds from their days as flyweight champs. After that, third place comprises the mere eight flyweight champions who have ever gone on to win the bantamweight title. That’s just six pounds.[i]

Manny Pacquiao has gained 33 POUNDS from winning the flyweight title to defending his welterweight title at a career-high 145 pounds against Joshua Clottey. In other words, he has won a title at a weight three times heavier than his next nearest flyweight champion competitor.

Looked at from this perspective, Manny Pacquiao didn’t make history recently. He has repeatedly made history for nearly a decade now.

In fact, when Pacquiao defeated Marco Antonio Barrera for the 126-pound featherweight title in 2003, he had ALREADY set a record for championship weight gain. No other former flyweight champion in the history of boxing had even won a title at a weight as heavy as featherweight – let alone with such a vicious, one-sided victory.[ii] And then Pacquiao successfully gained another 18 pounds, winning titles in five more divisions all the way to junior-middleweight. Among flyweight champs, he’s made history five times.

But why isn’t this a larger issue to the boxing base? I suspect it’s because relatively few people watch the lighter weight classes, and fewer have an understanding of them. More often they regard these tiny titans with ridicule.

“Ridiculous!” the Average Joe scoffs. “How can a mere three pound separate a 112-pound flyweight from the 115-pound super-flyweight? What the hell difference does three pounds make?” To someone with an average build, losing three pounds is diet and minimal exercise. Three pounds sounds more like a pathetic New Year’s resolution – and a completely unnecessary weight division.

But fighters that barely weight more than 100 pounds hardly qualify as “average.” Boxing enthusiasts recognize that even three pounds can dramatically affect ring performance in fighters this light. That’s why the “unnecessary” super-flyweight division exists. In years past many flyweights endangered their health making weight, but lacked the size to compete at the heavier 118-pound bantamweight division. That’s the difference just those six pounds can make.

Approximately 126 men have held a piece of the flyweight title, the overwhelming majority of them fighting at that weight only. That includes the legendary Jimmy Wilde, regarded a one of the greatest fighters of all time, long-time champ Miguel Canto and the commanding Pone Kingpetch. Other flyweight standouts like Fidel LaBarba, Shoji Oguma and Mauricio Pastrana failed repeatedly at a heavier weight.

Hell, even that 3 pounds still makes a huge difference. It’s worth mentioning that relatively few flyweight champions have even won a title at super-flyweight, despite this seemingly-negligible difference between the 2 divisions.

And then there’s Pacquiao.

Notice I stress the CHAMPION in flyweight champion. It’s an important distinction – other fighters may start at the flyweight level, but they were far from title-ready.

The great light-heavyweight champion Archie Moore started boxing around welterweight – but he sure wasn’t in title contention until his body aged at much heavier weights. In our own time, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. started at 140 pounds, but couldn’t really compete at a championship level until his body matured at 160. They’re just gaining experience, and since many start young it bears mentioning their bodies are still maturing. We especially find this in years past when fighters could turn pro much earlier.[iii]

That’s hardly the same as Pacquiao, who won some title in virtually every weight class he has competed in. His fans contend that Pacquiao gained so much weight from his flyweight days because he was so starved back then.

Poppycock. Even if he was weight-drained and uncomfortable at flyweight like he obviously was, he was only so starved. He still well-suited enough to make weight in the first place and fight the world’s top champions. Other flyweight have found themselves weight drained, so they moved up a weight class or two.

Not eight of them!

Where is the precedent for this? Pacquiao’s weight gain ranks among the most unbreakable – and yet unrecognized –records in sports.

Why act like we’re not seeing something ground-breaking? From this perspective, it ranks among the most unprecedented, unbreakable feats in sports. It must stand alongside the 47 consecutive touchdown games of Johnny Unitas; Cal Ripken Jr.’s endurance record is within reach. Michael Phelps should double his gold medal count to keep pace. Joe Louis holds boxing’s truly unbreakable record of 25 consecutive title defenses. Even that seems achievable by comparison.

Keep that in mind next time you watch Pacquiao fight. Win lose or draw – you’re watching history, brother!


Jason Peck can be reached at

[i] Those eight are Nonito Donaire (2011), Fernando Montiel (2010), Jorge Arce (2011), Koki Kameda (2010), Fighting Harada (1965), Robbie Regan (1996) and Little Dado (1941). Technically, Eric Morel became the eighth when he won an interim world title at bantamweight in 2010; purists may whine that it’s not a “real title,” but I’ve included him for completeness’ sake. Interestingly enough, Little Dado won the bantamweight title first, then moved DOWN in weight to win the flyweight title – the only man in history to have won those titles in that order.

[ii] Source: Ring Magazine Almanac, Boxrec

[iii] Doug Fischer of Ring Magazine pointed out British heavyweight champ Len Harvey, who went pro at 12 in 1920.Today his parents would be thrown in jail.

Article posted on 08.02.2012

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