Yes, you read that headline correctly. And, yes, we’re fully aware that Barney Ross died in 1967. Even if he were still alive, he’d be well over 100 and probably not in the best shape to face Manny Pacquiao.
Permit me to explain: The powers-that-be at MyBoxing.com have inquiring minds and would like to know what the fans think about a host of boxing-related issues above and beyond who’ll emerge the victor at this coming Saturday’s Sergio Martinez-Julio Cesar Chavez bout (though we’d very much like to know your opinion on that as well). Our intention, on a more or less weekly basis, is to present our readers with what we think are intriguing questions pertaining to boxing’s past, present, and future. And, as in Pacquiao-Ross, we’ll occasionally delve into the realm of fantasy.
So, who would win – Pacquiao or Ross?
Ross was Lightweight, Light Welterweight, and Welterweight Champion of the World. Never knocked out over the course of 81 fights, he won 74, 22 by KO (four losses, three draws). His opponents? The best.
Ross was given his first title shot in 1933, when he faced World Light Welterweight and Lightweight Champion Tony Canzoneri. In beating Canzoneri, which Ross did by decision, he became a two-division champ in one blow (well, it took several blows). In the following year, Ross had his first of three matches with Jimmy McLarnin (the great Pancho Villa’s last opponent). Ross vacated the light welterweight title in order to win McLarnin’s welterweight championship, which he did by decision. In their next encounter, Ross lost both the fight and his newly acquired third title. Ross returned to the light welterweight division and regained that title by defeating Bobby Pacho. He revisited the welterweight division for a final fight with McLarnin. And – you guessed it – he reclaimed that championship.
Ross won his next 17 bouts before coming face-to-face, in what proved to be his final fight, with one of the most formidable names in the history of the sport – Henry Armstrong (whom we’re thinking of matching against Floyd Mayweather). Although Ross lost, he demonstrated an indomitable will and almost superhuman courage in the face of Armstrong’s merciless pummeling. Destroyed, perhaps, but never defeated, to paraphrase Hemingway. Ross left the ring – and the Sweet Science – on his own two feet.
Pacquiao has won 54 of his 60 matches, 38 by KO (four losses, two draws). He’s number-one ranked in the welterweight division and holds the number two spot (in a tie with Mayweather) on the list of best pound-for-pound fighters (currently, not of all time).
As a welterweight, he defeated Oscar De La Hoya in 2008. The following year, as a light welterweight, he beat Ricky Hatton, winning the IBO and Ring titles. Later that year, but this time as a welterweight, Pacquiao defeated Miguel Cotto. Shane Mosley lost to Pacquiao in 2011, as did Juan Manuel Marquez (again). Earlier this year, Pacquiao suffered one of only four losses, defeated by Timothy Bradley (though most observers scored the bout a win for the Filipino).
Since the days of the Boston Strong Boy (for those of you under 100, that’s John L. Sullivan), there have been universally recognized champions for each weight division (there used be 10, but now there are 72…or 17…or something). Those days are sadly gone. Still, Pacquiao’s stats are extraordinarily impressive. An eight-division title holder, the Filipino has, among others, the following belts under his belt: The WBC flyweight, super featherweight, lightweight, and light middleweight championships.
So, Pacquiao or Ross?
I have enormous respect for Pacquiao (I mean, how could I not?), but I declare Ross the winner. His record is more impressive, his opponents more formidable, and he was a more skilled and experienced boxer. Most importantly, he was tougher. Pacquiao is obviously no cream puff, but Ross was tougher because he had to be – it was the nature of the game in the 1930s.
What do you think – Pacquiao or Ross? And I don’t want you to be at all influenced in knowing that Ross’ bravery during World War II was recognized with a Silver Star.