LAS VEGAS — With less than a week to go, Manny Pacquiao is still the underdog when he meets Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 2 in a fight the world is eagerly awaiting.
The betting odds have hardly improved for the Filipino although it has narrowed down from the time the fight was announced three months ago.
Fight Shark, a betting organization, listed Pacquiao as a plus – 170 underdog.
But the Filipino champion, who arrived here with his usual big entourage just hours ago from Los Angeles, is not worried at all about the odds.
Though he has not been an underdog in most of his fights, he is the last person to be concerned about the matter.
In fact, he has embraced his role as the underdog against Mayweather, a fight conceded as the most eagerly anticipated in modern times.
The encounter has been dubbed “The Fight of the Century” and the revenues may reach a staggering $400 million, an unheard of amount in the history of boxing.
If history is an indication, being underdog has resulted in stunning victories in the past for Pacquiao and this has been his motivation when he takes on Mayweather who has yet to lose in 47 straight fights.
In a statement in his training blog that HBO released to members of the boxing press last week, Pacquiao said: “I have been the underdog in the wagering on this fight. I am the underdog to win the fight by the media who are covering it…And I love it. I love it all. I love being the underdog because every time I have been the underdog in a fight I have won. De La Hoya, Barrera and Ledwaba were all favored to destroy me. Being the underdog inspired me in training. Winning those fights gave hope and inspiration to those who needed it. It gave proof that someone like me, born in poverty, who came from the dirt, can achieve success against all odds with hard work and prayer. Being an underdog has always spurred me on to greater heights.”
Indeed, the fights with Oscar De La Hoya, Marco Antonio Barrera and Lehlo Ledwaba showed Pacquiao at his best.
According to Briggs Seekins, a boxing expert, the three fights “have been the most important signposts on the road to his legend.”
The writer said: “In June 2001, Ledwaba was an experienced champion, defending the IBF super bantamweight belt. Pacquiao was a former world champion at flyweight, but the 10-pound jump from 112 to 122 pounds is normally a huge one.
“Pacquiao also took the fight on just two weeks notice. But fighting in the United States for the first time in his career, he was sensational, winning by TKO in Round 6. It was an exciting win that put him immediately on the radar with U.S. fans.
“When Pacquiao stepped up to featherweight to challenge Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003, he was facing one of the sport’s biggest stars. In the two years before facing Pacquiao, Barrera had avenged his previous loss to fellow Mexican legend Erik Morales and had exposed Naseem Hamed, who was at the time one of boxing’s most hyped fighters.
“Pacquiao won that fight by technical knockout in Round 11, marking the first time in Barrera’s career that someone had stopped him in a fight. It also made Pacquiao the first three-division world champion ever from Asia.
“When Pacquiao fought De La Hoya in December 2008, it marked Pacquiao’s debut fighting at above 135 pounds. De La Hoya was not only the biggest boxing star of his generation, but he was also a former belt holder at middleweight.
“As a former flyweight, Pacquiao simply struck many as far too small to face De La Hoya. Former world champion and boxing commentator Barry McGuigan spoke for many when he wrote in The Mirror that “this little and large freak show makes me feel queasy.”
“Remembering that fight now, seven years later, it nearly seems impossible to believe that Pacquiao was the underdog. He battered De La Hoya that night, stopping him in his corner after Round 8. There were no titles on the line, but with Mayweather temporarily retired, the win over De La Hoya made Pacquiao the biggest star in the sport.
“The underdog role has been a critical part of Pacquiao’s entire saga. His sense of himself as the underdog, someone ‘who came from dirt’ but was able to transcend, drives him to view his career as about something bigger than boxing.”