Manny Pacquiao’s rise from poverty in the Philippines to become a world-champion boxer, a congressman in his country and a co-starring role in the boxing match of this generation – May 2 against Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- has been a remarkable journey.
The Los Angeles Times has documented most of Pacquiao’s bouts in the U.S. since he first made a cold call to trainer Freddie Roach at Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood in the late spring of 2001.
Since the union, Pacquiao is 25-3-2 with 14 knockouts, winning belts in seven of the record eight divisions in which he’s stood as champion.
Starting today, The Times, with Pacquiao’s input, ranks his top five fights as he officially opens training camp. Back in Hollywood. Under Roach.
Number Five: Tie: The Breakout Bouts.
Making a name in the U.S. is tough work. After Pacquiao knocked on Roach’s door at Wild Card, he set up home in the Travelodge motel next door.
Their first fight together started what would be a routine trip for Pacquiao -- across the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas.
On two weeks’ notice, he took a title fight against Lehlo Ledwaba, who was then a once-beaten South African wearing the International Boxing federation super-bantamweight belt.
On the undercard of Oscar De La Hoya’s HBO-televised unanimous-decision win over Javier Castillejo at MGM Grand, Pacquiao delivered a blow that left Ledwaba’s nose bloody in the first round, then knocked him down in the second.
The punishment continued until Pacquiao decked Ledwaba again early in the sixth, then finished him with an onslaught of punches that forced referee Joe Cortez to stop the fight.
That helped propel Pacquiao to a November 2003 HBO main event, against Mexican warrior Marco Antonio Barrera in San Antonio.
Pacquiao trounced the big favorite, dominating the second round with patented heavy punches that would pepper the coming decade. Barrera went down in the third, was bloodied by a head butt later and succumbed to the onslaught in the 11th, his corner throwing in the towel.
The power puncher’s conversion from hard-core favorite to mainstream fame was sealed in Pacquiao’s trilogy of fights against Mexico’s Erik Morales between March 2005, and November 2006.
Morales won the first bout by 115-113 on all three scorecards, answering Pacquiao’s pressure with counter punches and cutting him in the fifth in a compelling battle that begged for more.
Pacquiao out-lasted Morales, building up his unwanted nickname “Mexi-cutioner,” by winning the second fight by 10th-round technical knockout and the third in dominant fashion, by third-round knockout.