Two dynamic featherweight stars who never crossed paths in the ring. Who would’ve won?
Today, we take a look at another fantasy boxing matchup, this time at 126 pounds, the featherweight division. This one was suggested by one of our readers. Two fighters whose careers but times did not overlap, two dynamic stars. Manny Pacquiao vs Prince Naseem Hamed.
Both in top shape, both good to go. Who wins?
Manny Pacquiao, of course, has become a true legend, a global icon who helped carry boxing through the late 2000s and 2010s as one of its biggest stars and drawing cards. But that’s been Pacquiao mostly at 147 pounds, too.
As a featherweight, he wasn’t the all-around, clever fighter he had to become as he moved up in weight, because as a featherweight (and below) he could mostly rely on his speed, unusual angles, and blistering southpaw power.
Pacquiao (career record of 62-7-2, 39 KO and counting) had a brief stint at featherweight, as it was part of a history-making journey toward world titles in eight divisions. His true debut at the weight came in Nov. 2003, when he faced and dominated LINEAL!!!!! champ Marco Antonio Barrera, scoring an 11th round TKO upset win in San Antonio.
He followed that up with his first meeting against his legendary rival Juan Manuel Marquez in May 2004, dropping Marquez three times in the first round but ultimately going to a controversial draw. He thrashed Fahsan 3K Battery in an IBF eliminator seven months later, then moved up in weight to chase bigger fights at 130. Pacquiao probably could have made 126 a while longer, but there was money in moving up, something he’d keep running into over the years, and keep pulling off successfully.
Hamed (career record of 36-1, 31 KO) turned pro in 1992 as a junior bantamweight, but was at bantamweight and junior featherweight soon enough. He won his first world title as a featherweight in 1995, thrashing Steve Robinson in Cardiff to take the WBO title, which was then still a lightly-regarded organization. He made four successful defenses, then unified by taking the IBF belt from Tom Johnson in 1997.
Later that same year, he’d give up the IBF belt, and also have maybe his greatest fight, an absolute war with Kevin Kelley at Madison Square Garden, with Hamed winning by fourth round knockout. He made further defenses of the WBO belt against Wilfredo Vazquez, Wayne McCullough, and Paul Ingle, before again unifying, claiming the WBC belt from Cesar Soto in Oct. 1999. He also gave up the WBC belt.
In 2001, having relinquished the WBO title, as well, he faced Marco Antonio Barrera in Las Vegas. Hamed was the favorite for most, but Barrera was too gritty and well-rounded, and took a 12-round unanimous decision. Hamed would fight just once more, beating Manuel Calvo in 2002, before never fighting again.
Style-wise, you have a couple of flashy, quick southpaws with pretty unique approaches to their craft. Pacquiao would get better and better for a while, adding more seasoning to his game and having to adapt against naturally bigger foes, but again, at featherweight he was still largely relying on his natural gifts. That’s not to say he wasn’t already a really good fighter, but he certainly had some notable flaws.
Hamed, of course, had them, too. He could be a little arrogant for his own good, although most of the time that arrogance was backed up by the results. While they do share a common opponent in Barrera, and around the same time period (2001 vs Hamed, 2003 vs Pacquiao), styles make fights, and their drastically different results against the same man probably don’t mean much head-to-head. It’s not like Pacquiao’s gonna go fight like Barrera did against Hamed.
So what say you? How does it go and who wins?