HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 20: Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines poses during a media workout at the Wild Card Boxing Club on April 20, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
The downside to pound-for-pound greats in combat sports is that greatness leads to inflated expectations. Every time you step into the ring or cage, you're expected to perform like the best in the world. It's an unfair world to live in but one that we've all witnessed in the wake of UFC 129. Georges St. Pierre snapped the 15-fight win streak of Jake Shields while half blind, but he didn't finish and even lost a couple of rounds. GSP's win over a tough opponent was a disappointment. Fair or not, that's what a good chunk of the MMA fanbase believes.
Anderson Silva, the other sure-fire top pound-for-pound fighter in MMA, has been no stranger to the "disappointing" performance himself. His bouts with Thales Leites, Patrick Cote and Demian Maia were met with close to universal disgust. He was not going for the kill, he was toying with his opponents and "insulting the fans." Nevermind that he was embarrassing his foe for the vast majority of those fights, or that he has delivered thrilling finishes more times than not in his time in the UFC. When he feels like his time is being wasted, he likes to waste everyone else's. (Anyone curious why I'm not looking forward to the Yushin Okami fight?)
Floyd Mayweather? Meh, call me when he isn't only fighting once a year and gaming the system to come in even heavier than necessary against a small Juan Manuel Marquez.
But that's not Manny Pacquiao. He won his first ever world title with a knockout at 112 pounds, went up to 122 and won a title with a knockout. Same at 126, and again at 130, and again at 135, and yet again at 140, and again at 147. And while he wasn't able to knock out Antonio Margarito at 154 pounds, he was able to win nearly every single one of the twelve rounds in the fight. The left hand of Manny Pacquiao is where other fighter's title reigns go to die.
Regardless of if it's going to war against Juan Manuel Marquez and Erik Morales at their appropriate weight classes or jumping up to super welterweight to fight a very dangerous Antonio Margarito, Manny Pacquiao is combat sports' equivalent of "appointment television." I will have no problem dropping money on Saturday's pay-per-view to watch him take on heavy underdog Shane Mosley. The odds are not that much longer for the Mosley win than we've seen with several recent opponents of St. Pierre or Silva. It's just far more acceptable to play the "what a horrible mismatch" card when it comes to boxing.
The sport has an issue right now with their huge pay-per-view fights being bogged down with lackluster undercards, but that hasn't stopped me from purchasing a Manny Pacquiao event. He is everything I want in a great fighter. He is not, in any way, afraid of a violent battle of wills but he has unbelievable power and skill that make him a special fighter. And unlike the criticisms often fired at an Anderson Silva or Georges St. Pierre, Manny does not fight down to the level of his competition. When he has an opponent outgunned he doesn't mess around, he puts the kind of beating on them that you would demand from the best fighter on the planet.
Manny Pacquiao is quite simply the most dominant, and most satisfying to watch, elite combat athlete on the planet. Regardless of if you consider yourself a fan of boxing or not, appreciating that should not be difficult.