Recently in this series we looked at Manny Pacquiao winning his first world title, with his shock win, at the age of 19, against Chatchai Sasakul. That win is one that often goes over-looked when people look over his career despite it being a massive upset against the WBC and Linear Flyweight champion. That however wasn't the only upset scored by "Pacman" and today we look at another upset win by the Filipino icon.
June 23rd 2001
MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Manny Pacquiao (32-2, 23) vs Lehlo Ledwaba (33-1-1, 22)
At the time Pacquiao was 22 years old, he boasted an impressive looking 32-2 (23) record but he had mostly fought at Flyweight, where he had claimed the OPBF and WBC titles. He had moved up to Super Bantamweight after struggles to fight at 112lbs got too much, and lead to him being stripped of the WBC Flyweight title in 1999 and he had failed to secure another world title bout after that.
Although well regarded in Asia Pacquiao wasn't known at all outside of Asia and his title reign at Flyweight had been a short one, consisting of just a single defense. Outside of his short world title reign, several weight classes below, there was little to suggest he was a world class fighter, or would become one.
What many don't realise is that Pacquiao wasn't the original opponent for the bout. That was supposed to be Enrique Sanchez, a Mexican who had been injured in training and Pacquiao took the bout on 2 weeks notice. This had given him almost no time to prepare for the bout, tough he had fought just 2 months earlier against Wethya Sakmuangklang, aka Foijan Prawet. In fact this bout, with Ledwaba, was Pacquiao's third fight in 4 months, his first outside of Asia and, as mentioned, a bout he took on 2 weeks notice.
Whilst Pacquiao was an unknown outside of Asia Lehlo Ledwaba was the IBF Super Bantamweight champion. He was from South Africa and had began to get the attention of HBO, who were very impressed by him. He had won the title with a win at home against John Michael Johnson before going on the road to defend it in the US and the UK. By the time he was facing Pacquiao he had defended the belt 5 times and shown himself to be a very talented fighter, who had stopped 4 of his 5 challengers. He had looked like a brilliant boxer, with an excellent jab, some really sharp movements and a good boxing brain. He knew how to control the ring, and how to box smartly, something that was expected to help him get a read on his unknown challenger.
We mentioned that Enrique Sanchez was originally lined up as the opponent for Ledwaba. Whilst Pacquiao hadn't been training Ledwaba was training to face a southpaw, like Pacquiao. Notably however Sanchez and Pacquiao were very different types of southpaws, and in fact Pacquiao wasn't like the footage that was available on him, of which there wasn't a lot like their is now. One thing we often forget is that youtube has made access to footage a lot easier, but that wasn't around in 2001.
Interestingly this was also Ledwaba's third fight 2001, he had also fought 2 months earlier, beating Carlos Contreras, and had also fought in February, stopping Arnel Barotillo.
Before the opening bell Ledwaba had been priced as a clear favourite. He was a known quantity, a talented fighter and some bookies actually refused to take bets on the bout, seeing it as a foregone conclusion for the South African, who seemed to be heading towards greatness.
From the off the two men both looked to quickly feel out what the other man had in their locker. After only a few seconds however Pacquiao found his groove and he looked crisper, sharper and faster than the champion. To his credit Ledwaba looked relaxed and tried to keep control of the center of the ring, landing some solid straight shots. Despite Ledwaba having some nice moments he was being tagged frequently by the Filipino, who had bloodied the champion's nose and looked dominant as we went to the bell.
After winning the first round Pacquiao managed to dominate the second round, dropping the South African champion. Ledwaba, despite being the champion, was put into survival mode about a minute into the round. The champion tried to do what he could to get Pacquiao's respect, landing a good body shot, but couldn't slow the Filipino for long and Pacquiao would regain control before the round was over.
Mentally and physically Ledwaba was being beaten up. His best shots were only having a momentary effect, and he was being punished soon afterwards. By round 3 Ledwaba was in a hole and he knew it. He did well early in the round, creating space and keeping Pacquiao away early on. Pacquiao however turned it on midway through the round and quickly took the play away from the champion with heavy hurtful blows that again saw him take the round. By the end of the round Ledwaba was a bloodied mess.
Round by round Ledwaba was getting beaten up. He looked a done fighter at the end of round 5 and as we went into round 6 the champion was looking like he needed something big to happen to keep his reign alive. Sadly for him something big did happen though not in the way he would have wanted.
Around 30 seconds into the round Ledwaba was dropped from a left hand by the Filipino. On the restart he was still hurt and another left dropped him. The referee didn't even think about letting Ledwaba got to his feet, instead halting the bout.
Pacquiao had been given a chance to shine and had taken it, beating up the champion to announce himself as a heavy handed, fan friendly fighter.
From this win Pacquiao built and built, and became the global boxing star that fans know and love. He would use this to launch his career in the US and quickly became one of the faces of boxing, scoring big wins over the likes of Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barerra, OScar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto among others.
Sadly for Ledwaba he never really recovered from this loss, fighting on until 2006 but going 3-4 before retiring following a stoppage loss to Maxwell Awuku.
Whilst we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel and we can begin to see fights just around the corner they aren't here yet. With that in mind we look at more bouts to enjoy during isolation with 5 bouts that all took place at Super Bantamweight.
These include a global fight of the year contender, a bout that helped launch a mega star and one of the most brutal bouts ever to take place at Korakuen Hall.
Bong Chul Kim (8-0, 2) vs Jae Won Choi (7-0, 3) 
Naoto Takahashi (15-2, 10) Vs Mark Horikoshi (17-1, 13) 
Yong In Jo (11-2, 6) vs Tae Woo Kim (1-2, 1) 
Manny Pacquiao (32-2, 23) vs Lehlo Ledwaba (33-1-1, 22) 
Somsak Sithchatchawal (45-1-1, 35) Vs Mahyar Monshipour (28-2-2, 19) 
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).