//Olympics 2024

How Would Manny Pacquiao Have Fared In The Paris Olympics?

Let’s imagine what would have happened if Manny Pacquiao had been allowed to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Manny Pacquiao was in the news recently after the International Olympic Committee knocked out his bid to box for the Philippines at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The age limit for Olympic boxing, which is 40, was the main reason for the IOC’s rejection of the 45-year-old Pacquiao’s request.

“Too bad our beloved boxing icon is disqualified because of his age and that everyone needs to go through qualifiers, in all sports, to be able to participate in Paris,” Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino said last week.

“The only valid boxing qualification system for Paris 2024 is the one approved by the IOC Executive Board in September 2022 published and distributed to NOCs and boxing national federations on 6 December 2022,” James McLeod, IOC Director for National Olympic Committee Relations, said in a letter to the POC. “This includes the age limit of 40.”

Pacquiao is also not eligible to qualify under the Universality rule, which grants slots to countries that are historically underrepresented in individual sports. Unfortunately for Pacquiao, this can’t be applied to the Philippines for boxing.

“The Universality places for the Olympic Games will not be allocated to NOCs with an average of more than eight athletes in individual sports/disciplines at the last two editions of the Olympic Games,” McLeod said.

But what if, in an alternate universe, the IOC granted Pacquiao’s request? What would have happened? Let’s discuss.

Weight class

The first question we need to ask is at what weight class Manny Pacquiao would compete in if he was headed for the Olympics.

There will be seven men’s boxing weight divisions in Paris: 51kg, 57kg, 63.5kg, 71kg, 80kg, 92kg and +92kg. If Pacquiao had been approved, he likely will have fought in the 71kg (around 156 pounds) division. Pacquiao last campaigned in the professional ranks at the 147-pound welterweight division, and in his 2022 exhibition bout against Korean YouTuber DK Yoo, he tipped the scales at 73.1kg (around 160 pounds).

Dropping to 63.5kg (just below 140 pounds) would be very difficult for him since he last fought at that weight way back in 2009 when he spectacularly knocked out Ricky Hatton in the second round.

Pacquiao’s “walking around weight” is reportedly between 165 to 170 pounds, so he’d have had to lose anywhere between nine and 14 pounds. But unlike the pros where there’s only one weigh-in taken 24 hours before the fight, Olympic boxing, with its elimination round system that makes boxers fight as many as three to four times in less than two weeks, requires a weigh-in for every bout. This means that Manny will have had to maintain his fighting weight during his entire stay in Paris.

Also, if Pacquiao had been granted permission by the IOC, that means he will have bumped off another fighter on the Philippine delegation. Ronald Chavez, Jr., son of former Olympian Ronald Chavez, Sr., is currently the Philippine bet to qualify in the men’s 71kg division and will be attempting to qualify through one of the two World Qualification Tournaments scheduled by the IOC in March and May.

The competition

What type of competition would Manny Pacquiao have encountered in the Paris Olympics? So far, 10 boxers have qualified in the men’s 71kg division, and none of the welterweight medalists from Tokyo, where the limit was 69kg, have booked their tickets yet.

The Asian qualifiers so far are Kan Chia-wei of Chinese Taipei and Sewon Okazawa of Japan, who both booked their tickets by finishing first and second in the 2022 Asian Games.

From the Americas, Marco Verde of Mexico, who qualified by winning the gold at the 2023 Pan-American Games with a clean 5-0 sweep of all his bouts, looms as a dark horse medal contender.

The stark reality, though, is that many boxers at this weight limit would have a sizeable height advantage over the 5-foot-5 Pacquiao. They would also be over 20 years younger, and most have considerable amateur boxing experience.

Just look at the qualifiers from Europe.

There’s 23-year-old Makan Traore of France, who at a listed height of six feet would have towered over Pacquiao.

Then there’s Tuğrulhan Erdemir, 25, of Turkey. Standing 5 feet and 11 inches, he also would have had a tremendous height advantage. And with 57 amateur fights under his belt, he’s got a clear advantage in amateur boxing experience.

There’s also the reigning European champion Vahid Abasov of Serbia, who’s slightly shorter than Traore and Erdemir at 5-foot-8 and a half, but would still be taller than Pacquiao. Abasov is undefeated in seven amateur bouts dating back to 2018.

One may point out that Pacquiao also has a wealth of boxing experience, and that may be true…on the professional level. Olympic boxing is very different from the pros. A knockdown isn’t an automatic 10-8 round, and in some instances doesn’t even guarantee a won round on the judges’ scorecards. Speaking of judges, those in the amateur ranks look at different things in a fight when scoring rounds compared to their professional counterparts, so what worked for Pacquiao in the pros might not work in the Olympics.

Why he could have won a medal

Of course, this is Manny Pacquiao we’re talking about, one of the greatest fighters in history who never let the odds get in his way.

There actually would have been a realistic path to the medal rounds. First off, stamina wouldn’t have been much of an issue for him since there are only three rounds in Olympic boxing. Additionally, it’s not too farfetched to think that he would have encountered a starstruck opponent who would have given him too much respect and paid the price.  

Also, there was a chance of a favorable draw for Manny that would have seeded him directly into the last 16 (there will be only 20 competitors in the 71kg division, so only four of them will fight in the Round of 32). From there, it would have taken just two wins to ensure a podium finish. A solid performance here, a crushing left hook there, and Pacquiao presumably would have made it to the semifinals and an assured bronze.

Then anything could happen from that point on. Another win, he’s taking home at least a silver. Then, in the final of the men’s 71kg division, he puts on a performance for the ages and wins the Philippines’ first-ever Olympic boxing gold medal.

Yes, this is all a bit of a stretch, but it’s always fun to imagine. It’s just too bad we won’t get to see any of this play out.

Banner image courtesy of Wendell Alinea/MP Promotions.

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