Is Pacquiao still the best?

Juan Manuel Marquez at press conference for his fight with Manny Pacquiao on Dec. 8 in Las Vegas (Getty Images).

By Bert Eljera

LAS VEGAS – It was inevitable, and the talk has begun: Who is the better pound-for-pound boxer – Pacquiao or Donaire?

And now, a third name must be added to the mix – Viloria.

For Filipinos, it’s a great discussion to have. It makes them swell with pride. But for fight fans all over the world, the talk is relevant – even necessary.

Manny Pacquiao, of course, is the more famous Filipino. Brian Viloria and Nonito Donaire Jr. are fighting out of the United States and often are considered more American than Filipinos. Their biggest supporters are Filipino-Americans, particularly from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Is it time now for Pacquiao to leave the stage and let his younger former compatriots take the limelight?

The discussion comes as Pacquiao prepares for a Dec. 8 fight against Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

It is billed as a make-or-break fight for Pacquiao, an eight-time world champion, but now without a title after losing his World Boxing Organization welterweight crown to Tim Bradley in a controversial fight decision in June.

The talk also comes in the wake of impressive wins by both Donaire and Viloria in their last fights.

Donaire took out former champion Toshiaki Nishioka in nine one-sided rounds in Carson, Calif. to retain his junior featherweight title.

In Manila, Viloria  stopped Hernan “Tyson” Marquez in the 10th round of a flyweight fight that allowed him to keep his WBO and WBA belts.

Ring Magazine, considered the Bible of the fight game, ranks Pacquiao higher than either Donaire or Viloria in the best pound-for pound category.

In fact, no one is rated higher than Pacquiao, as he shares the No. 2 spot (No.1 is vacant) with undefeated Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

Pacquiao has been on the Ring Magazine’s list for 468 consecutive weeks now. Donaire, the magazine’s junior featherweight champion, as well as by WBO and IBF, is listed No. 5.

Viloria is not on Ring’s top pound-for-pound boxers list.m

Chris Robinson, boxing writer for Examiner.com, sought the opinion of several boxing experts whom they consider the better pound-for-pound boxer between Pacquiao and Donaire.

His reporting indicated that Donaire was favored more.

Pound for pound, Nonito’s one of the best, if not the best,” trainer Robert Garcia told Robinson. “I honestly believe, Nonito’s talent is over so many fighters out there. It’s just that he hasn’t [gotten] those big names, he’s not a welterweight fighting in seven different weight divisions. We’ve got to be real.”

Garcia, the 2011 Trainer of the Year, was at ringside when Donaire beat Nishioka.

Robinson also spoke with one-time boxing great, Marco Antonio Barrera, who had lost to Pacquiao before, and was calling the Donaire-Nishioka bout for a Mexican television station.

“Nonito Donaire looked very good,” Barrera said. “He moved very fast. Nishioka [didn’t] want to throw punches. It was a very good [win] for Nonito Donaire,” Barrera told Robinson.

Others may have different views, and may consider Pacquiao vastly superior to any Philippine boxer – and has the body of work to show for.

But at 33, Pacquiao, a member of Congress back in his native Philippines, has to show more desire and better fighting form than in his last fight with Marquez.

Word from his training camp is that he’s doing great.

Trainer Freddie Roach said Pacquiao has looked “great” in training camp at his Wild Card Boxing gym in Hollywood, Calif., USA Today has reported.

The strategy, Roach said, is to fight Marquez at a faster pace and with more aggression than in their previous encounters.

“His sparring is a lot better than it has been in a long time,” Roach said.

Donaire and Viloria are on the sidelines watching.

 

Follow Bert Eljera on Twitter @vegaspinoy and on Facebook at facebook.com/BertEljera

 

 

 

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