“To be the man, you got to beat the man”
You may be wondering why am I mentioning Professional Wrestling legend Ric Flair in an article about why Pacquiao versus Lomachenko would be a big deal. Well there’s one line he’s famous for that transcends professional wrestling and applies to virtually every combat sport and sports in general. In order to be the man you got to beat the man. Essentially to be next big draw you have to beat the current draw.
It’s a formula that has worked in professional wrestling with Flair ultimately passing that torch to Sting in WCW, or Hulk Hogan passing the torch (kind of) to Bret Hart who then passed it to Stone Cold Steve Austin and so on… There came a time when the top guy would face the young lion and gave him the opportunity to be the man.
Remember “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather? That fighter that was rampaging boxing’s lower weight divisions defeating fighters like Jose Luis Castillo, Genaro Hernandez, and demolishing Diego Coralles? Mayweather was definitely on the radar of boxing fans, but he could not cross over to the mainstream… he needed to fight someone on a grand stage that would give him the exposure to cross over. He would also have to beat him. The man during that era was Oscar De La Hoya.
With the victory over De La Hoya, Mayweather became a star…he beat the man. De La Hoya was recognizable outside of boxing circles and the PPV fight itself gave Mayweather the much needed publicity outside of boxing, and the victory cemented him as a must see attraction, or the A-side if you will…
The same happened with a familiar fighter who terrorized boxing’s lower weight divisions, Manny Pacquiao. He defeated Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barerra, and Juan Manuel Marquez…and did so in spectacular fashion with his aggressive fan-friendly style. Despite all of the top level performances and memorable fights, Pacquiao did not achieve mainstream recognition…he needed that push or better yet an opportunity to shine on a big stage. That’s where De La Hoya comes in…
The fight with De La Hoya gave Pacquiao the opportunity to gain mainstream recognition as more eyeballs would be watching that fight due to De La Hoya’s celebrity status. Whether De La Hoya was “the man” in 2008 was questionable, however his drawing power was still formidable. The fight with De La Hoya saw your casual fans take notice of the Filipino Phenomenon…you know the fans who will host a fight and have a Carne Asada or BBQ if you will. These are the fans that you want to take notice of you, after the fight with De La Hoya, Pacquiao was the reason to have a BBQ.
Pacquiao along with Mayweather, and some would add Canelo into the mix although to a smaller degree, are the last big draws in boxing. They are the only “active” fighters that are recognizable outside of boxing circles. I must add that Mayweather has retired, however he is still the most recognizable in outside circles. You can literally go to a random person on the street and ask them what they know about boxing, and they will probably mention names like Ali, Tyson, Mayweather, and Pacquiao. Mayweather seems to have ridden off into the sunset while Pacquiao still seems to still have an itch to get back into the ring. That reality makes a potential fight with Lomachenko a very exciting prospect.
Lomachenko’s career draws a very similar parallel to what Pacquaio and Mayweather experienced. They demolished and dominated their respective weight classes but needed a marquee fight to become “the man.” He has put on sensational performances against Gary Russell Jr., Nicholas Walters, and Guillermo Rigondeaux. Not only did he beat all these top level fighters, he destroyed them and looked amazing doing it.
Despite his otherworldly skills he needs a fight on the big stage in order to solidify himself as a star. When Mayweather fought Canelo, it gave the rub to Canelo that made him a star. He was thoroughly outclassed, however Canelo has grown exponentially since then and has become a top draw in boxing despite losing to Mayweather. A fight with Pacquiao would give Lomachenko the opportunity to not only fight one of the best, but put on a great fight and get casual fans to witness how great he is…and most fans think he can win.
Some would argue that Pacquiao is past his prime and that the fight is not worth making. When De La Hoya fought Pacquiao was definitely past his prime, however it was the stage itself and the show Pacquiao put on that catapulted him into the stratosphere of mainstream exposure. Lomachenko fighting Pacquiao would be a similar situation.
Boxing is not where it once was in terms of popularity. It needs top draws that can take Boxing into the next era, it needs new household names that the average person on the street can recognize and tell their friends about. A fight with old guard, in Pacquiao, would give Lomachenko the opportunity to shine on a big stage. Pacquiao is also aging and the clock is ticking on his drawing power, why not use it as an opportunity to give the young lion an opportunity to carry the sport into the next era. To be the man you got to beat the man…