The next Manny Pacquiao
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 12, 2018 - 12:00am

With Manny Pacquiao now in the twilight of a storybook boxing career, the search is underway for his successor or at least someone who can even come close to mesmerizing the world like the fighting Senator. There will never be anyone quite like Pacquiao to emerge not just from the Philippines but anywhere in the universe. No one will ever duplicate or surpass his feat of winning world titles in eight weight divisions.

Pancho Villa was the first Filipino world champion and he ruled the flyweight division from 1923 until his death in 1925 at the age of 23. Villa captivated the US audience with his devil-may-care style, punching power and charisma in and out of the ring. From when he knocked out Jimmy Wilde to win the flyweight crown in New York in 1923, Villa logged 26 fights up to his final outing, a non-title loss on points to Jimmy McLarnin in San Francisco. In 1924, Villa figured in 13 fights, averaging one a month. That’s unheard of in modern boxing. Villa died 10 days after bowing to McLarnin due to Ludwig’s Angina caused by a mouth infection that spread to the throat. His final record was 77-4-4, with 22 KOs.

The next great Filipino boxer was Flash Elorde who reigned as world junior lightweight king from 1960 to 1967. Elorde retired from the ring with an 89-27-2 record, including 33 KOs, in 1971 after a 20-year career. He died of lung cancer in 1985 at the age of 49. Villa and Elorde are the only Filipino fighters enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Another Filipino, Lope (Papa) Sarreal, was inducted as a matchmaker and promoter.

It took 35 years for Elorde to emerge from when Villa died. And it took 27 years from when Elorde retired for Pacquiao to claim his first world title in 1998. Today, Pacquiao is still active as a fighter and there is talk of a bout in China in April. The ideal scenario is for Pacquiao to fight twice more then hang up his gloves before the year ends to concentrate on his political mission. It would be a dream if Pacquiao could regain the world title in his next outing and end his career with a championship defense at the Philippine Arena.

Even as Pacquiao is still unretired, fans are wondering who will step up to follow in his footsteps. At the moment, there are five candidates – IBF superflyweight champion Jerwin Ancajas, IBO No. 1 superbantamweight Marlon Tapales, WBO No. 2 featherweight Mark Magsayo, WBO No. 2 superflyweight Aston Palicte and WBO No. 1 minimumweight Robert Paradero. 

Former two-time world champion Gerry Peñalosa’s choice as the next Pacquiao is Magsayo. The slugger known as Magnifico has an 18-0 record, with 13 KOs, seven in the first round. He’s exciting, colorful and daring. The 22-year-old ALA contender is the kind of fighter fans pay good money to watch. “Magsayo has to be tested against tougher opponents,” said Peñalosa. “He needs to work on his defense. What I like about him is his heart, he’s fearless and he doesn’t mind taking chances. He’s charismatic and that sets him apart from others who want to be like Manny.”

Ancajas, 21, has a 28-1-1 record, with 19 KOs.  Since outpointing Puerto Rico’s McJoe Arroyo to claim the IBF crown in 2016, he has repulsed three straight challengers, all inside the distance. His next defense is against Mexico’s Israel Gonzalez in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Feb. 3. Ancajas is now aligned with Top Rank and Bob Arum has called him the next Pacquiao. “I’d like to see Jerwin develop more power,” said Peñalosa. Ancajas will mark his US debut against Gonzalez and it’s an acid test. He still has to prove himself as a top superflyweight against the other champions like Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Khalid Yafai and Naoya Inoue and big names like Chocolatito Gonzalez, Carlos Cuadras and Juan Francisco Estrada. 

HBO is investing heavily in the superflyweight division where Ancajas could be a major player. He has a chance to become a marquee fighter with Top Rank’s backing and HBO’s coverage. Ancajas’ star could be on the rise.

Tapales, 25, is a former WBO bantamweight king who was stripped of the title for failing to make the 118-pound limit in a scheduled defense against Japan’s Shohei Omori in Osaka last April. The bout went on anyway and Tapales stopped Omori in the 11th round. Tapales is set to fight again in Australia on March 17. His record is 30-2, with 13 KOs. He has won his last four bouts by knockout. Palicte, 21, boasts a 24-2 record, with 20 KOs, and is coming off a fifth round stoppage of Mexico’s Jose Alfredo Rodriguez in Round Rock, Texas, last Dec. 8. Paradero, 21, has a 16-0 slate, with 11 KOs. He has never fought overseas or in Metro Manila. In 2016, Paradero won the WBO Asia Pacific Youth 105-pound title. “Paradero texted me once to ask if I could watch his fights on YouTube,” said Peñalosa. “He’s undefeated and ranked No. 1. I want to study his style more closely.”

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