Will Manny Pacquiao Fight a Top African-American Fighter?
At least, that's what one of boxing's elder statesmen, Bernard Hopkins, believes.
"Maybe I'm biased because I'm black, but I think that this is what is said at people's homes and around the dinner table among black boxing fans and fighters. Most of them won't say it [in public] because they're not being real and they don't have the balls to say it," said Hopkins, a 45-year-old future Hall of Famer and a multi-division champion.
"But I do think that a fighter like the Ray Leonards or anyone like that would beat a guy [like Pacquiao] if they come with their game," said Hopkins (51-5-1, 32 knockouts), who will challenge WBC light heavyweight king Jean Pascal (26-1, 16 KOs) on Dec. 18 on Showtime.
"Listen, this ain't a racial thing, but then again, maybe it is," said Hopkins. "But the style that is embedded in most of us black fighters, that style could be a problem to any other style of fighting."
Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KOs) earned the WBC's vacant junior middleweight (154 pounds) belt, his eighth crown over as many weight classes, with Saturday night's unanimous decision over the Mexican-born Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs) at Cowboys Stadium.
Already the WBO welterweight (147 pounds) champion, Pacquiao won for the 13th straight time, including eight knockouts during that run. Nicknamed "The Mexicutioner," Pacquiao's triumph over Margarito continued his dominance over Mexican fighters, against whom he is 11-0-1, with seven knockouts during his winning streak.
Speaking for Pacquaio, the fighter's adviser, Michael Koncz, said that "Manny has nothing left to prove to anybody."
"I would say to hell with all of those guys who are talking," said Koncz. "Manny has done more than anybody in boxing than anybody has ever imagined. He has the right to select his opponents. These black fighters, you know, we're not prejudiced. We don't care if they're black, green or blue.
"All that we care about is what fighter has a following. When these fighters that are crying about fighting Manny develop a following, and can prove to us, statistically, that it's economically feasible, then we will have no problem fighting them. But until then, they can cry all that they want."
But Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports wrote recently, that "Pacquiao still has [yet] to face the ultimate test -- the fast, speedy, in-his-prime opponent that a [Floyd] Mayweather would be."
A fighter such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Iole contends, "represents the kind of fighter Pacquiao has yet to face: A big guy with tremendous speed and quickness as well as punching power, defensive skill and a quality chin."
"That's why Floyd Mayweather would beat Manny Pacquiao because the styles that African American fighters -- and I mean, black fighters from the streets or the inner cities -- would be successful," said Hopkins. "I think Floyd Mayweather would pot-shot Pacquiao and bust him up in between the four-to-five punches that Pacquiao throws and then set him up later on down the line."
But negotiations to make a bout between Mayweather (40-0, 25 knockouts) and Pacquiao have twice fallen apart, even as Koncz said that Pacquiao still very much wants that fight.
"As far as Floyd Mayweather, he has [Top Rank Promotions CEO] Bob Arum's phone number and [Mayweather's adviser] Al Haymon has Bob Arum's phone number. He has my phone number," said Koncz.
"But we're not going to chase him. We gave him two opportunities and they insulted us and attempted to make us look foolish. So, we're not chasing him. If he wants to call us, then he's welcome to call us."
Pacquiao has faced and beaten the counter-punching Joshua Clottey, a native of Ghana, but Hopkins discounts that win.
"Clottey is 'black,' but not a 'black boxer' from the states with a slick style. So you can't really say that Clottey is an African-American fighter in that sense," said Hopkins. "No, I'm talking about an inner city, American-born fighter who has the style of maybe a Floyd Mayweather or a Zab Judah or a Shane Mosley."
Hopkins and Mosley have worked as partners in Golden Boy Promotions, whose president is Oscar De La Hoya.
Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum, has gotten wind of such rumblings, but, as Hopkins said, rarely aloud.
"I have heard that, yes. A lot of people don't articulate it. But a lot of people, in effect, hint at it. But you're absolutely correct, and there is no argument there," said Arum. "Like I said, there's no argument there that he has not fought a top African American fighter. But the notion that he would not fight an African American fighter is ridiculous."
If a mega bout with the unbeaten Mayweather cannot be made, Arum said that he is considering putting Pacquiao in against other African-American boxers.
Arum said that former world titlist Shane Mosley is perhaps the first consideration for Pacquiao, whose trainer, Freddie Roach, told FanHouse that he no longer wants Pacquiao to fight below the welterweight division.
Arum also mentioned the winner of a scheduled Jan. 29, HBO-televised bout featuring southpaw WBC junior welterweight (140 pounds) king Devon Alexander (21-0, 13 KOs) and WBO counterpart Tim Bradley (26-0, 11 KOs), or a match-up against talented WBC welterweight champ Andre Berto (26-0, 20 KOs).
"A fight with Shane Mosley would answer that situation," said Arum. "And maybe the winner of Devon Alexander and Tim Bradley would answer that. Andre Berto might be a consideration, also, yes.
"There's no reason why he wouldn't fight an Andre Berto, because he's at 147 pounds. Berto's Manny's size, so, you know, that's good. We're looking for African-Americans to fight. I would think that it is likely that Manny will fight an African-American in his next fight, whether it's Floyd Mayweather, Shane Mosley or somebody else."
Koncz concurred that Mosley (47-6-1, 39 KOs) is the leading candidate to face Pacquiao.
"As for Shane Mosley, I had discussions with him in Texas, and that's a possibility. I told him that we would talk after the [Margarito] fight," said Koncz.
"I guess that he's with [adviser] James Prince and not with Golden Boy [Promotions], so that makes things easier for us also," said Koncz. "Out of all of the African-American fighters, the one with the biggest following and that makes the most economic sense to us would be Shane Mosley."
Arum said, however, that he would not be likely to match the nearly 5-foot-7 Pacquiao, who weighed in at 144.6 pounds against Margarito's 150, with the nearly 6-2 Paul Williams (39-1, 27 KOs).
A southpaw former three-time world champion, Williams has weighed in at as much as 157 pounds for non-title, middleweight (160 pounds) wins over former world champion Winky Wright and Sergio Martinez -- the latter in a December clash of southpaws during which both fighters were floored in the first round.
Williams weighed 145.5 pounds when he out-pointed Margarito in July 2007 for the WBO welterweight crown, and nearly 146 pounds in June 2008 when his first-round knockout dethroned southpaw Carlos Quintana in a rematch of Quintana's February 2008 win over Williams.
Williams, however, has not fought at 147 since the second Quintana bout.
Pacquiao, meanwhile, weighed in at a career-high 145 3/4 pounds for his unanimous decision win over Clottey in March, and entered the ring at a weight disadvantage of 148-to-165 against Margarito.
Pacquiao, nevertheless, won virtually every round against Margarito, even as the eventual winner was doubled over by a vicious left-handed body shot by Margarito in the sixth round.
Arum said that Pacquiao absorbed a lot of punishment against both Clottey and Margarito, suffering sore wrists and ribs against Margarito, the latter of which required an MRI examination before he was cleared.
Arum won't risk similar injuries that could result from a Pacquiao-Williams clash.
"Paul Williams is just too big. I mean, Manny Pacquiao is a little guy who has to eat to get up to a weight to fight Antonio Margarito. I want to put him in at least with a couple of fighters," said Arum.
"Every fight he's fighting these giants. I mean, you know, if I keep doing that, I'll just wear him down," said Arum. "If Mayweather is not available, then I want to put him in with guys his own size."
Williams, however, simply wants a shot at Pacquiao.
"It ain't got nothing to do with whether you're African-American, white, Chinese, Puerto Rican or whatever. None of that really matters to me. If you've got the skills, then you've got the skills," Williams said on Tuesday from Atlantic City, N.J., where he is preparing for Saturday's HBO-televised rematch with Martinez (45-2-2, 24 KOs).
"Manny is the man out there now. He's got all of the hype and he's got eight titles that he's won, so he's the man and you've got to respect that and give him his props," said Williams. "But my thing is that they say that he's beaten up a lot of big guys, and they say that I'm beating up a lot of little guys, so I'd love to get in there and fight Manny Pacquiao."
But Williams may just have to wait in line, said Koncz.
"The selection of opponents for Manny has nothing to do with race, creed or color," said Koncz. "It's all about business. And they can cry all that they want. It's all about economics, now, with Manny's career.
"We have the luxury of doing that because Manny has proven to the world that he's got nothing left to prove. If there are any boxing people out there who doubt him, then, to hell with them."