Manny Pacquiao vs. Naseem Hamed. Ring magazine cover. “The road to Naz vs Pac”
By Benjamin RD Smith: Just yesterday morning, as I was scrolling through my boxing-heavy twitter feed, I came across The Ring magazine’s tweet announcing the new issue. On the cover, there was a splendid painting portraying Manny Pacquiao in a war against Prince Naseem Hamed with the accompanying caption “Pacman vs. Prince. A power punching dream fight,” and it got me thinking at first, and only for a minute, how would this have gone down? Next, my mind was wandering into an alternate reality where this did happen and down the road that had taken us there.
The 7th of April 2001. The day of the Hamed vs. Barrera. Going into this fight Hamed was in his late twenties and could have, or should have, been entering his prime. Already established as a unified featherweight champion and undoubtedly the money man in the division, so much so that even the money man himself Floyd Mayweather Junior had called Hamed out 4 months previously after knocking out Diego Corrales when prompted by Larry Merchant to who he wanted next. In fact, it could be argued that outside the heavyweight division, only Oscar De La Hoya could match the “Prince’s” pulling power.
Of course, Hamed went on to lose a tough fight against Marco Antonio Barrera; and it was a tough fight. He would go on to fight just once more as his career fizzled out into the realms of what could have been. But, if Hamed had kept the stuff he had had in the years before he could have won this fight, and won it handsomely. Then, it would have been mega-fights only for the rest of the “little Prince’s” career. Morales, Marquez, Mayweather and indeed Pacquiao could have followed.
The natural move after the Barrera win would have been either an immediate rematch or to go on and fight the man who had also beaten Barrera previously. Erik Morales. A super-bout for featherweight supremacy and no doubt an obscene amount of bread. Had Naseem came out on top here and from a highlight-reel knockout, Hamed’s star would have risen to the stratosphere and beyond. Before the Barrera fight, he had been mentioned alongside the featherweight greats of the past. Now he would be in a conversation to be the best of them all.
At the time of Hamed vs Barrera, Manny Pacquiao was a super bantamweight Titlist and already established as must-watch TV on HBO. On the 15th of November 2003, Pacquiao moved up to featherweight and fought Barrera. This is the time that the “Pac Vs Prince” fight would have taken place.
Hamed would have been 29 and an already established Hall of Famer. Pacquiao would be 24, the same hungry explosive fighter we all saw steaming his way through the lighter weight classes with such violence and determination. The fight itself could have played out a number of ways. Would Pacquiao’s sometimes reckless abandon have been his downfall? As George Foreman always used to say “you never follow a puncher” and Hamed was indeed that. Would Pacquiao have outworked Hamed and the pressure be too great for the “Prince” to take and finally succumb to the Typhoon that was “Pacman” at this point in his career?
Alas, we’ll never know,
Does the “Prince” whilst at home at his mansion, accompanied by his wealth belly, often think to what might have been? I am sure he does. But for whatever reason, be it hand injuries, loss of dedication or love for the sport of boxing, this legacy was never a reality, not in this universe anyway.