Here’s my prediction on Saturday’s fight between Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley.
Pacquiao will murder him. I’m not saying Manny will knock him out. Mosley is bigger and may survive. But Pacquiao will dominate totally and the fight, I believe, will seem anticlimactic. Manny is too good and Mosley, who never was that great, is a shot fighter.
I have more boxing to write so please come along with me as I tell a rambling tale. This morning I went into Berkeley to get my wife’s Prius serviced at the Toyota Place. That gave me two hours to wander around Berkeley, one of the great pleasures of my life. I walked over to Half Price Books and bought A Tramp Abroad by Mark Twain and a memoir of Twain by his daughter and two books of criticism by John Updike.
Then I made my way to Peets and got coffee and muffins and sat at a table reading the Chronicle Sports Section with interest because the lead article was about Pacquiao’s place in the history of boxing. Vittorio Tafur wrote it. We call him Vic and he’s a great guy and he covers the Raiders for the Green. I disagree with some of Vic’s conclusions and, Vic, please don’t be sore at me. I appreciate that you brought up these topics and I’m merely trying to advance the discussion. Are we still pals?
OK, first off it’s fascinating the Chronicle would run an article rating fighters. Please remember the Chronicle was where the great boxing writer Jack Fiske (Jacob Finkelstein from the Bronx) worked for a very long time, worked with me. Jack was the most knowledgeable boxing writer in America. No one could argue that. And when I would ask Jack who would beat whom in such and such a fight — often in Vegas where we were covering a fight — a look of disgust would take hold of his face, disgust because to him the question was naive. To Jack, you never could compare fighters from different eras — say, Jack Dempsey and George Foreman — it’s almost like they competed in different sports.
If I would persist, he would say, still disgusted, “You can’t rate fighters you never saw.”
Vic’s article ranks fighters he could not have seen — like Henry Armstrong (No. 4). Jack would have objected. In a sense, Jack is speaking through me to the Chronicle. God, I miss you, Jack, and I hope the Chronicle does too.
I don’t blame Vic for writing about fighters he never saw. I do it also. I just wanted to get Jack’s opinion in here — Jack, the ultimate expert and a purist.
Now to the rankings — Vic puts Muhammad Ali first of all-time. Oh, God no. Bill Walsh and I argued about Ali all the time. Well, we didn’t argue, we vigorously discussed. I said Ali could beat Joe Louis and Bill would say if Louis didn’t force the action “there would be no fight.” He said Ali would run from Louis and when Louis caught him — if he caught him — Louis would knock him out. If it’s not clear Ali could beat Louis (No, 5), how does that make him the best ever?
Anyway, Sugar Ray Robinson was the best fighter pound for pound who ever lived. This is a known fact, as certain as gravity makes things fall down and the sun rises in the east.
Ray was the greatest welter and middle who ever lived. He was better than Ali because he had all of Ali’s brains and boxing ability, but he hit harder for his weight. Ali did not hit hard for a heavy and because of that he struggled against Ken Norton, a “B” heavyweight, and had so much trouble with Joe Frazier. While Ali was going the distance or deep into fights, Ray was knocking guys out early.
End of that lecture.
Now to Lecture No. 2: Vic ranks Roberto Duran (No. 3) over Ray Leonard (No. 6), although Leonard beat Duran in their rematch in New Orleans (I was there) making Roberto quit in the ring. “No mas.” No way anyone rates Duran over Leonard, who defined his era of boxing, and no way Duran is the third best fighter who ever lived.
Lecture No. 3: Vic generously ranks Pacquiao No. 10. I respectfully disagree. Vic mentions how many titles Manny has won, but titles mean nothing these days, not with all those sanctioning bodies and those sanctioning bodies shoe-horning weight classes between other weight classes. The concept of a title has become wholesaled.
Pacquiao is a terrific fighter. But he never beat a great fighter and he never had a defining fight — a defining fight was Ray Leonard knocking out Thomas Hearns or Louis knocking out the German Max Schmeling just before World War II after Schmeling had knocked him out. Great fighters fight great fights, and Manny never did that.
In a way it’s not his fault. Floyd Mayweather won’t fight him. I believe Mayweather would beat Manny, but apparently Floyd doesn’t. The other night on Comcast Barry Tompkins and Monte Poole said Floyd is more concerned with remaining undefeated than with beating Manny. And I agree. Life isn’t always fair.
Manny fights these days as a welter. He’s very short for a welter. These are the welters who would have had their way with him.
No way is he the tenth-best fighter who ever lived.