A look at six pivotal fights in Manny Pacquiao's career:
Pro Fight No. 28
Opponent: Medgoen Singsurat (18-0)
Date/Site: Sept. 17, 1999; Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand
Result: Singsurat by TKO in 3
Why it matters: Turning pro at 106 pounds at age 16, Pacquiao steamrolled opponents with blazing speed and left-handed power that hurt like a bigger man's.
Sometimes, though, he lacked focus or got careless. In his first five years, he lost twice. In his 12th fight, he was trailing fellow Filipino Rustico Torrecampo in Round 3 when Torrecampo knocked Pacquiao down and out -- in a collision that seemed to combine a low blow and a head butt. (The TV announcer said Pacquiao's eyes were crossed when he revived.) Neither the referee nor Pacquiao knew what hit him, and he swallowed his first defeat. In his second loss, he was listless versus undefeated Medgoen Singsurat. By Round 2, the undefeated Thai was pounding Pacquiao on the ropes, and Singsurat ripped a body shot in the third that put Pacquiao down for good. Pacquiao had been struggling to make weight, and that was his last fight at 112 pounds.
Pro Fight No. 32
Opponent: Nedal Hussein (18-0)
Date/Site: Oct. 14, 2000; Antipolo City, Philippines
Result: Pacquiao by TKO in 10
Why it matters: Unbeaten Australian junior featherweight Nedal Hussein tested Pacquiao in every way. He punched on the break and banged on Pacquiao with his forearms, shoulders and head. But it was a clean, straight left in Round 4 that sent Pacquiao to the canvas. After an eight count, Hussein clumsily tried to finish. He forearmed Pacquiao's head back so far that referee Carlos Padilla penalized Hussein one point. Pacquiao took the moment to recover, and by the next round he was landing hard combinations. He opened a bad gash on Hussein's left cheek, and in Round 10, with an exhausted Pacquiao leading on all scorecards, the ring doctor's advice ended the fight.
That wasn't the only time Pacquiao had to come back from a knockdown. In 2003, Serikzhan Yeshmagambetov of Kazakhstan nailed Pacquiao with a countering right in Round 4 of their bout. The next round, Pacquiao answered back with two knockdowns, and it was all over.
Pro Fight No. 35
Opponent: Lehlohonolo Ledwaba (33-1-1)
Date/Site: June 23, 2001; Las Vegas
Result: Pacquiao by TKO in 6
Why it matters: It was Pacquiao's first fight in the United States, and his debut on HBO. He had a new trainer, Freddie Roach, and had accepted this challenge for the IBF super bantamweight title on two weeks' notice.
No matter: He destroyed the skilled champ Lehlohonolo Ledwaba. They traded jabs to start, but Pacquiao's power shots were faster and harder. He bloodied Ledwaba's nose in Round 1 and closed the distance, flooring him with a tight left in Round 2. Thudding shots wobbled Ledwaba before the closing bells to punctuate Rounds 4 and 5. A straight left to the South African's chin put him down again near the start of the sixth.
When a Pacquiao barrage sent Ledwaba down one more time, referee Joe Cortez stopped the fight, and Ledwaba, bloody and battered, decided to stay on his back for a few minutes to recover as the celebration of a new champion surrounded him.
Pro Fight No. 41
Opponent: Marco Antonio Barrera (57-3)
Date/Site: Nov. 15, 2003; San Antonio
Result: Pacquiao by TKO in 11
Why it matters: Fighting the legendary Marco Antonio Barrera was a gargantuan step up. And when Pacquiao hit the floor in Round 1 -- he was off balance as both fighters swung, and referee Laurence Cole ruled it a knockdown -- some figured Barrera would end it early. But soon it seemed Barrera had been ambushed. In Round 2, Pacquiao landed 31 power shots and made mocking gestures as he flashed superior hand speed. He winged five-punch combinations that cleared out Barrera's defense to make way for his left. A left to Barrera's jaw put him down in Round 3. A head butt in Round 7 sent blood down Barrera's face to add a grim visual to the beatdown. Pacquiao floored Barrera in the 11th and as he closed in ferociously, Barrera's corner threw in the towel. The 2007 rematch was like a 45 rpm record of the first fight played back in 33 1/3. The slower tempo helped Barrera survive, but the tune was unchanged, and Pacquiao won by decision.
Pro Fight No. 42
Opponent: Juan Manuel Marquez (42-2)
Date/Site: May 8, 2004; Las Vegas
Why it matters: It looked like an old-school Manny Pacquiao blowout before anyone could even think. Pacquiao's furious straight left decked Marquez three times -- and broke Marquez's nose -- in a one-minute span in Round 1. But Marquez survived and got smart. By Round 3, he was ducking under the heat-seeking left and countering with head-banging overhand rights and left hooks, putting Pacquiao's fury in neutral gear for several rounds. Then they took turns surging. Marquez nearly wobbled Pacquiao with a lead right to the chin in the sixth. Pacquiao hammered Marquez with lefts in the ninth.
The judges' scoring diverged widely. One had it 115-110 for Marquez, another 115-110 for Pacquiao. Judge Burt Clements sealed the draw with a 113-113 score, but he admitted making a mistake. He should have had the first round 10-6 for Pacquiao instead of 10-7. Pacquiao would have won a decision.
Pro Fight No. 46
Opponent: Erik Morales (47-2)
Date/Site: March 19, 2005; Las Vegas
Result: Morales by decision in 12
Why it matters: Pacquiao's move up to 130 pounds was greeted by the bigger, more experienced Erik Morales, who had watched Pacquiao's fights versus Barrera and Marquez over and over. To Pacquiao's early-round muggings of those Mexican foes, Morales said, "No you don't."
When Pacquiao would unleash a blitz, Morales would smack him to the ropes with countering rights. The fighters surged back and forth -- the first and last frames of this slugfest were round of the year candidates -- but Pacquiao, slowed by a Round 5 cut, was getting it worse. By Round 6 it already seemed he needed a knockout. Morales was huge in the 11th; Pacquiao took the 12th. Though it was close, judges scored every round in lockstep; all had it 115-113 for Morales. The 2006 rematch was similar, but Pacquiao answered back one more time than a fading Morales. Pacquiao scored two knockdowns and a TKO in Round 10. In their third bout, in 2007, Pacquiao blew Morales out in three.
Pro Fight No. 53
Opponent: Oscar De La Hoya (39-5)
Date: Dec. 6, 2008, Las Vegas
Result: Pacquiao by TKO in 8
Why it matters: Although he had barely decisioned Marquez in their early-2008 rematch, Pacquiao's win established him as the world's top pound-for-pound sensation. (Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s "retirement" helped.) Further glory could come only by adding more pounds. In June, Pacquiao, who had started his pro career at 106 pounds, stepped up to 135 and took the WBC lightweight title from David Diaz in a nine-round slaughter. December's "Dream Match" against De La Hoya, at 147 pounds, seemed just crazy enough to work. Most pundits picked De La Hoya, 35, to win purely thanks to his size advantage (4 inches in height). But Pacquiao annihilated De La Hoya. His superior speed translated into devastating power as he danced in and out, pecked and pounded, and demonstrated that trainer Freddie Roach had helped him develop tools far beyond his signature left-hand hammer. Pacquiao pummeled De La Hoya for eight rounds until the Golden Boy, his face swollen, retired on his stool (and four months later retired from boxing). By the final count, Pacquiao landed 195 punches to De La Hoya's 51. More superfights would lie ahead.
Don Steinberg, a winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America's award for best column in 2005, covers boxing for The Philadelphia Inquirer.