Pacquiao Settles In… But Who Knows For How Long?
By Coyote Duran, (July 3, 2008) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor)  
It's still a bit early to be certain but it looks as if Manny Pacquiao has settled into the lightweight division just fine.

In what appeared to be one of his most dominant performances as a professional, Pacquiao, 47-3-2 (36), dismantled former WBC lightweight titlist David Diaz in nine rounds; taking his belt in the process and adding it to four other straps and two world championships. In entering the 135-pound ranks, 'Pac-Man' did it up right; challenging a fighter who was made for him; a competent titlist who wasn't short on skill but had his limits. Thankfully, Diaz, 34-2-1 (17), who left the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas with a rather sizable payday (850 large), is still looking toward the future; as is his promoter Bob Arum. However, that future probably won't see a rematch with the favorite son of the Philippines.

For whatever limits Diaz has or had in the eyes of those who makes the wheels spin in this business, they weren't glaring enough to make this fight a joke, 'step-up' or even a soft fight for Pacquiao. Diaz wasn't the WBC titlist for nothing. In putting away Jose Armando Santa Cruz (yes, the very same one who 'lost' to The Ring World Lightweight Champion Joel Casamayor in November of 2007) in 10, back in August 2006, to gain the 'interim' green belt, the affable Chicago native showed that he had what it took to emerge from deep waters and take the fight back from a fighter who had been leading on all three of the judges' scorecards that evening. It doesn't take a genius to recognize heart. Diaz has just that and that was a key ingredient that made his effort against Pacquiao so intriguing.

And yes, I said 'intriguing’. Honestly, before the fight, could you honestly call Pacquiao a leadpipe cinch to take such a rout so definitively? Hell, only Benny Henderson Jr., from here at the Doghouse, solidly called the end result so accurately. That's not to say that our other 'Doghouse Decides' participants don't know their stuff. That just says that sometimes things work out much more simply than we might plan. And if you think that's taking away from Diaz' skill-set, that's where you're wrong. Manny Pacquiao just went above and beyond, is all.

But one has to wonder, at this point in Pacquiao's career (age-wise, accomplishments, etc.), does the Filipino wonder somehow wish that Diaz' belt was the only title to be had at 135? If he thought Diaz was the 'weak-link' titlist at lightweight, was he studiously making his transition to 135 with the plan (of course, beating Diaz being the first step) to face WBA/IBF/WBO titlist Nate Campbell or Casamayor? Or was this a plan to engage the only available titlist when all other's were busy settling (or getting theirs settled) someone else's hash, opting to perhaps move up another division when waiting for the others' availability proved to take too long?

It can be argued that Pacquiao left the 130-pound division at the very top, World Championship in hand, with no one else to face; but those who steep themselves into monthly ratings and die-so-much-harder for Our Sport could argue that there was still some farmland left to plow in the forms of Joan Guzman, Edwin Valero or Humberto Soto (who deserves a whole lotta something after the jaw-dropping events of his 'loss' to Francisco Lorenzo. And who would've thought the WBC could do right by Soto and NOT give Lorenzo the 'interim' belt at stake?...). But going back to age, accomplishments, etc. in Pacquiao's view, it's safe to say that, at this stage in Manny's career, it's good to be selective. It's not like he didn't earn it or anything. Depending on when Pacquiao chooses to hang up the gloves, matchmaking is EVERYTHING at this juncture.

Is it enough to keep him at lightweight? Hey, that's a 50/50. With Campbell defending his straps (against former 122 and 130-pound titlist Guzman) and Casamayor defending The Ring Championship (against Juan Manuel Marquez) both on September 13 and Juan Diaz hardly picking a comeback tune-up in Michael Katsidis on September 6, it probably wouldn't be until at least January when any of the aforementioned players could tangle with Pacquiao. In fact, the scuttlebutt has it that Pacquiao might be defending against former IBF lightweight titleholder Julio Diaz or even Valero sometime in October or November. If that's truly the case, a true solid unification battle might not see the light of day until March or April.

Then again, by that time, the winners of Campbell-Guzman, Casamayor-Marquez and Diaz-Katsidis might just be ready.

Hell, from the tone of a recent open letter Campbell scripted to the winner of Pacquiao-Diaz (prior to last Saturday night's fight), he'd fight tomorrow. And the acumen of common sense was explicit in its delivery.

From the open letter, Campbell states: "So let’s truly make the effort, for the sake of history, to make a fight between us a reality, before mandatories, or other economic realities prevent the titles from staying together. We all know there is plenty of money to go around, and let's face it; all of us are financially ok already anyways, so for once, let's NOT make it about the money, and let’s do what’s right for boxing. We have a chance to make a complete unification happen. Let’s not let money, or our promoters, or anything else get in the way of that. As much as I love Don (King) and Terry (Trekas of One Punch Promotions), I have no problem telling both of them that after the Guzman fight, they don't need to bother sending me any bout agreements that don't have either David or Manny's name on it (whoever wins). And both of you could tell Bob (Arum) the same thing. Don't forget that these guys are supposed to work for US, not the other way around. And specifically to David, I know a fight with Manny would mean a lot more $$ than a fight with you would, but if you win on Saturday, everything I have said here still stands. This chance to make history and unify all four world titles is bigger than you and me. A lot bigger. And even though it might not be for a ton of money, we still would need to fight, and not let this opportunity get away. It's about history. It's about being the second man in the history of boxing to do this (Coyote's note: Earlier in the letter, Campbell mentions Bernard Hopkins as the only fighter to unify the main four alphabet titles in defeating Oscar De La Hoya for the WBO belt). And so to whichever of you guys wins on Saturday, don't forget what this sport has given you, and understand that sometimes something needs to be given back. Relax a while, enjoy your victory, spend time with your family, and then tell Bob that the only fight you are interested in is the Campbell-Guzman winner. We can always make money, but it's not too often that we get the chance to make history."

Big, meaningful fights over money? Damn, sounds like a dream come true. It takes a progressive thinker to cook that one up but that would mean that many of the Fistic Faithful are just as progressive in their thinking as multiple beltholder Campbell.

And Campbell knows there are other factors such as age knocking on his door. Only he really knows how much time he has left in the game and, as he had in a career-defining, division-shattering victory over Juan Diaz, he's trying to make the most of it. If that means relentlessly hunting down Pacquiao and casting the choosy Casamayor to the wayside, so be it. But there's always hope. Pressure can turn the tide of the status quo and if Campbell-Pacquiao eventually comes off, then the winner of Casamayor might just have to give in and sate the demands of all involved: Fighters, promoters, management, writers and fans.

If not (should Casamayor emerges victorious), we should all be done a favor and let the true best in the division fight it out for the One, True Championship. But it would take 'El Cepillo' retiring or vacating the title to make that possible. Floyd Mayweather Jr. did both (until further notice, as for the former) and finally allowed the welterweight division to breathe a little easier. The lightweights deserve the same courtesy, lest be mired in a 2008 remix of 'One of these things is not like the other'.

My premature pick at this for Casamayor-Marquez? Marquez. And if that works out, you know there’s gonna be clamoring for Marquez-Pacquiao III (and Marquez would come first in that listing due to possibly being The Ring's Champion, should he beat Casamayor). Marquez wants it more than Pacquiao (especially after their last meeting) but would Pac say no to a rubbermatch? Probably not. It just isn't his style. He's worked too damn hard to get this damn far. If Marquez can't get the Pacquiao fight, one could gather there would be plenty of others who wouldn't think twice about raising their hands at an opportunity to face the battle-tested Mexican.

Does anyone believe the flipside to Pacquiao's possible future? The alternate reality where Pacquiao keeps going up to face World Junior Welterweight Champion Ricky Hatton or even Oscar De La Hoya? Apparently so, because few are rolling their eyes at the notions. Much of the belief stems from Pacquiao's progression upwards in weight. As a fighter who began his career one pound north of strawweight and scored an alphabet title at 112 three years later, Pacquiao's travels have not been a daunting effort to carry his speed and power because his speed and power have evolved accordingly. There's a difference. Evolution occurs naturally.

This is evident in most participants and observers' estimations, from Diaz himself to trainer Freddie Roach to fans in general, who marveled at the ease the Filipino had in dispatching the Chicagoan. This was no 'Ricky Hatton Meets Luis Collazo' rehash. The widely accepted Pound-For-Pound king made his transition in a big way.

Of course, this also means, at this 'no looking back' juncture, Manny Pacquiao will very likely vacate The Ring Junior Lightweight Championship; reigniting the search for the 130-pound division's top man. With residents like Jorge Barrios, Humberto Soto and Rocky Juarez still making their moves there, hope flickers for a new champ…someday.

And if Pacquiao vacates his 130-pound championship, it’s no longer his worry to shoulder. After winning on Saturday night, the new WBC lightweight titlist has more than enough to worry about.

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