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Boxing’s Two Biggest Little Men in Willie Pep and Manny Pacquiao!

Image: Boxing’s Two Biggest Little Men in Willie Pep and Manny Pacquiao!

By Ken Hissner: It seems there is a lot of emphasis on boxing the way the heavyweight division goes, even though they provide less excitement in the ring than the smaller weight divisions.

Two boxers that carried boxing during their heydays were Featherweight champion Willie “Will o’ the Wisp” Pep and six division world champion Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao!

When it came to the “untouchable” Pep, he was in a world of his own. He once told middleweight champion Rocky Graziano “you couldn’t hit me with a fist full of stones!”

Pep fought out of Connecticut and was born Gugliermo Papaleo in 1922 and passed away in 2006 at the age of 84. After a modest 18-2-2 amateur record which included a loss to “Sugar” Ray Robinson Pep would go onto record a 229-11-1 with 65 stoppage career from 1940 to 1966.

Pep held the world featherweight title twice. First from November 1942 to October 1948 and a second time from February 1949 to September 1950. He was managed by Lou Viscusi and trained by Bill Gore.

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Pep won the first world title called the NYSAC title, defeating Chalky Wright, 143-32-17. He won his first 62 fights before losing to Sammy Angott, 69-17-5, who would be inducted into the IBHOF in 1990. He defeated NBA World featherweight champion Sal Bartolo by a twelfth round stoppage to become the undisputed world champion on June 7th, 1946.

Pep was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in their first year in 1990. He was inducted into the Ring Magazine Hall of Fame in 1963. After retiring, he became a prominent referee and a deputy boxing commissioner in Connecticut. He was married six times. “All my wives were great housekeepers,” he would say. “After every divorce, they kept the house.”

Pep retired in 1959 but returned to the ring in 1965. This writer witnessed his fight with Jackie Lennon in 1964 in Philadelphia, where he took a 6 round decision at 43.

Pep had five defenses before losing to Sandy Saddler, 86-6-2, in 1948 in the first of their four bouts, with Pep winning once. Pep was 134-1-1 when he lost to Saddler. They were four of the dirtiest fights in boxing history, with Saddler doing the dirty work. In a rematch from their first meeting, Pep would re-win the title four months later. He would lose to Saddler in 1949 and 1950.

One of Pep’s title defenses was over Eddie Compo, 57-1-3, in 7 rounds in 1949. Another over Ray Famechon, 59-5, Paddy DeMarco, 32-2, NBA Feather champ Jackie Wilson, 90-24-8, Lulu Costantino, 88-11-6, world Bantamweight champ Manuel Ortiz, 59-11-2, who was inducted into the IBHOF.

Six division world champion from the Philippines Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao, 62-7-2 with 39 stoppages, held the WBC Flyweight title in 1998. Next, he held the IBF Super Bantamweight title in 2001, the WBC Super Featherweight title in 2008, and the WBC Lightweight title the same year.

He won the WBO Welterweight title in 2009 and the WBC Light Middleweight title in 2010. In 2018 he won the WBA Regular champion World Welterweight title and the Super World title in 2019.

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In winning his first world title Pacquiao defeated Chatchai Sasakul, 32-1-1 in 1998, the IBF Super Bantam title over Lehlo Ledwaba, 33-1-1, in 2001, in March of 2008, he won the WBA Super Feather title over Juan Manuel Marquez, 48-3-1, IBO World Super Lightweight title over Ricky Hatton, 45-1, in May of 2009, WBO World Welter title over Miguel Cotto, 34-1, WBC World Welter title over Ricardo Margarito, 38-6, “Sugar” Shane Mosley, 46-6-1, Brandon Rios, 31-1-1, WBO World Welter title reversing a loss to Timothy Bradley, Jr., 31-0 and Chris Algeri, 20-0.

In 2015 Pacquiao lost to Floyd Mayweather, Jr., 47-0, for the WBC, WBO, and WBA titles. In 2016 he defeated Jesse Vargas, 27-1, after defeating Bradley for a second time. In 2017 he lost a disputed decision to Jeff Horn, 16-0-1. He has won his last three fights since over Lucas Martin Matthysse, 39-4, in 2018 for the WBA World Welter title, Adrian “The Problem” Broner, 33-3-1, in 2019, and Keith “One Time” Thurman, 29-0, in his last bout in July 2019.

The 42-year-old Pacquiao is scheduled on August 21st to fight WBC and IBF world welter champion Errol “The Truth” Spence, Jr., 27-0, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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