Pacquiao establishes his legacy |

Pacquiao establishes his legacy

Mike Houser
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

For most of the world, Manny Pacquiao’s official ascendancy into all-time greatness officially took place on Dec. 6, 2008, when with surgical precision he chopped up Oscar De La Hoya in eight one-sided rounds.

But the seeds of the “Pac-Man’s” rise to the pinnacle of the mythical pound-for-pound mountain began not exclusively in his native Philippines, but rather in the 1930s in the gyms of Detroit, where Eddie Futch sparred with the “Brown Bomber” himself, Joe Louis.

The story of Louis, who many argue is the greatest heavyweight in history, is well documented, but that of Futch, who went on to become boxing’s greatest trainer, is less celebrated.

Unable to turn a promising amateur career into a professional one because of a heart murmur, Futch guided Don Jordan to the world welterweight championship in 1958.

Jordan was the first of several fighters that Futch piloted to world titles.

Known as a master strategist, Futch was in the corner when Joe Frazier became the first man to defeat Muhammad Ali. In fact, four of Futch’s fighters ” Frazier, Ken Norton, Larry Holmes and Trevor Berbick ” are responsible for “The Greatest’s” five losses.

Futch ” who also directed Riddick Bowe to two victories over Evander Holyfield and was in the corner of Montell Griffin when he handed Roy Jones Jr. his first lost (via disqualification) ” had an unparalleled talent for mapping out a game plan for his fighters to follow.

The old master would identify another boxer’s weaknesses and, using his own fighter’s strengths, would prepare the best possible script for a command performance.

Futch was not greedy with his knowledge and one of the beneficiaries was a straight-ahead slugger by the name of Freddie Roach. Unable to get out of the way of his opponent’s bombs as a fighter, Roach, a former lightweight, has now risen to the top of the food chain as a trainer.

If Pacquiao is the willing clay, Roach, his trainer, is the enthusiastic potter. Carrying on Futch’s legacy, Roach ” who trained De La Hoya for one fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. ” simultaneously deconstructed “The Golden Boy” and constructed a foolproof plan for Pacquiao, who subsequently destroyed his flummoxed opponent on Saturday.

Along the way to banging his way to titles at 112, 122, 130 and 135 pounds (if you disregard the clueless sanctioning bodies, Pacquiao could’ve been considered a champion at 126 pounds as well), “Pac-Man” was considered by many to be another straight-ahead banger.

But beginning with WBC lightweight titlist David Diaz, Pacquiao showed the ability to make use of his powerful, middleweight-looking legs to begin moving in and out.

Most sluggers can never make such an adjustment ” imagine if you will the bull-in-a-China-shop approach of Rocky Marciano morphing into a fleet-footed dancer.

Roach identified De La Hoya’s flaws ” he’s mainly flat-footed, he negates his height by hunching over, he pushes his punches and he’s not able to pull the trigger anymore ” and he went to work on his clay.

Showing incredible versatility, Pacquiao was able to command the gap, darting in and out to land his quick, sharp, powerful blows and move his upper body to avoid De La Hoya’s counters.

Pacquiao was too fast and, even though he had moved up two weight divisions to face the ever-shrewd De La Hoya, he was the stronger fighter. And while De La Hoya commanded 67 percent of the purse, he also ended up taking 90 percent of the punishment and quit on his stool after eight rounds rather than take a further beating.

In sharp contrast to De La Hoya ” whose only future in boxing now is as a promoter ” the fistic future for the 29-year-old Pacquiao, now 48-3-2 with 36 knockouts ” is rife with opportunities.

Next up could be a battle with 140-pound champion Ricky Hatton, whose only loss came at the hands of Mayweather. There is also the possibility of a third bout with lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez, with whom Pacquiao owns a draw and a close victory.

There will be no shortage of exciting fighters ” Juan Diaz, Kendall Holt, Ricardo Torres ” who would be willing to face Pacquiao at 140 pounds.

And don’t be surprised if the undefeated “Money” Mayweather comes out of retirement to face the “Pac-Man.” For that matter, it’s not beyond De La Hoya to try and induce his former opponent and current pal and business-partner “Sugar” Shane Mosley to step in the ring with Pacquiao.

There was no recognized belt at stake on Saturday, but Pacquiao did take home a title after all. He has captured De La Hoya’s place as boxing’s cash cow and will command top dollar no matter whom he fights.

He is a Filipino Bruce Lee, equal parts myth and substance. When he fights, crime goes down in the Philippines and soldiers and rebels alike lay down their arms.

In a sports world too quick to bestow greatness, he has earned his. With a straight face one can now compare him to hall-of-famer Henry Armstrong, who in just less than 10 months in 1937-38 won titles at 126, 135 and 147 pounds.

From Detroit to General Santos City, Pacquiao is old school; and boxing’s royal bloodlines, through Futch and Roach, course through his veins as he makes the new myths and entertains the world.