Henry Armstrong vs Manny Pacquiao – Who Would Win?
Since the beginning of human existence we have engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Fighting is a universal language all cultures and nationalities understand. Boxing, in particular, has been an Olympic sport since 688 BC when it was performed in ancient Greece. About 300-500 years ago boxing evolved from its origins into prize fighting. After the creation of the London Prize Ring Rules, the sport evolved into the more popularly known Queensbury Rules system. Throughout the sport’s history there have been a plethora of greats in every decade and every century of the sport’s existence.
A prevailing question throughout time as been, “Can fighter ‘X’ beat fighter ‘Y’ in each of their prime?” This is the third entry in the series where we will take a look at two of the welterweights greatest icons with pound for pound greatest Henry Armstrong enters the ring with world boxing icon, Manny Pacquiao. If you missed previous entries, click them below to see what you have missed so far in the series.
First Entry in Series: Mike Tyson vs Deontay Wilder
Second Entry in Series: Ezzard Charles vs Roy Jones Jr
Third Entry in Series: Roberto Duran vs Vasyl Lomachenko
Henry Armstrong (Early 1930’s to Early 1940’s) vs Manny Pacquiao (Mid 1990’s to Present)
Henry Armstrong-Brief Glance
Later called Henry Armstrong (151-21-9; 101KOs) was born as Henry Jackson Jr in December 1912 in Columbus, Mississippi 11 of 15 kids. After moving to St. Louis during his childhood, Armstrong discovered the sport of boxing and fell in love. Many will debate Armstrong’s name amongst the greatest pound for pound fighters but all will concede he was an extremely active boxer. Armstrong’s record consists of 181 bouts over a 14 year career. That breaks down to about 13 fights a year for a 14 year span. Also during the first three years of his career, Armstrong operated a shoe shine stand. He earned a record of 32-6-5 in this span.
Armstrong was the first boxer in history to become a simultaneous three-division champion (featherweight, light weight, and welterweight.) He is best known for his defense of the welterweight title 18 times successfully. Armstrong won the title on May 31, 1938 and did not lose the title until October 04, 1940. The title was lost to another active boxer in that of Fritzie Zivic. By the time Armstrong suffered this defeat, he had already competed in 133 professional bouts. During his storied career, Armstrong earned one of the highest knockout streaks in history for lower weight class fighters with 27 KO straight spanning from April 1937 to March 1938.
Henry Armstrong is considered by many boxing aficionados as one of the top pound for pound boxers of all time. Famed boxing writer Burt Sugar once stated of Armstrong, “I don’t know how many people know this but Armstrong had one of the most-amazing streaks in history in 1937 and ’38 – 37 straight victories, with 35 knockouts. And that wasn’t to start his career. He fought some of the best fighters of the era during that period.”
One of Armstrong’s many accolades include earning The Ring 1937 Fighter of the Year. In 1940 he earned the same honor from the Boxing Writer’s Association of America. In 2007 ESPN named Armstrong the third greatest boxer of all time behind Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali. The greatest accolade a fighter can earn is a nod into the hall of fame. In 1954 Armstrong was inducted into The Ring Hall of Fame. 1987 saw Armstrong enter the initial class of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Armstrong’s career and life reached out to his community as well, earning an induction into the St. Louis Walk of Fame along with other names such as baseball great Ozzie Smith, musician Chuck Berry, comedian Redd Foxx, and sports broadcaster Bob Costas.
The nickname “Hurricane Hank” was duly earned by Armstrong. From bell to bell Armstrong was relentless unleashing strike after striker. He wasn’t so much a combo fighter as he was at just stringing continuous strikes. Armstrong was also known for utilizing a “windmill” striking style. The only way to sustain a bell to bell barrage of punches is to have amazing stamina. Armstrong had just that. As far as his defense, Armstrong was said by many boxing historians to be able to take a punch. British boxing historian, Gilbert Odd, stated in his book, “Armstrong was a fistic phenomena. He had an abnormally slow heartbeat and had to warm up in the dressing room with ten rounds of fast shadow boxing before going into the ring to fight a torrid 15 round battle. Henry tossed punches incessantly and they came from all angles. He fought so furiously it was impossible to count the blows he struck.”
Manny Pacquaio-Brief Glance
A worldwide boxing icon, Manny Pacquaio (62-7-2; 39KOs) has represented the Philippines in the ring as well as the Senate floor of his native land which he has served since 2016. His political career began in 2010 when he was elected to the House of Representatives in the 15th Congress of the Philippines. A man with many hats, Pacquaio also serves in the military as a reservist colonel. He also played three seasons in Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) along with an acting and music career.
Often referred to as the greatest Southpaw of all time, Pacquaio began his professional career at the age of 16. He earned a unanimous decision victory in this bout in 1995 in the smallest available weight class. Pacquaio’s legacy will be cemented with 12 world titles spanning eight different weight classes. He is the only boxer in history to earn championships in eight weight classes. Remaining on the top of the mountain in any sport is difficult but especially so in combat sports. In July 2019 he became the oldest boxer (40) to win a welterweight world championship.
Few have accomplished the success of Pacquaio not only inside the ring, but outside as well. The Boxing Writers Association of America, WBO, and WBC named Pacquaio their Fighter of the 2000’s (decade) respectively. The Ring named Pacquaio their Fighter of the Year for 2006, 2008, and 2009. As of March 2020, Pacquaio sits at the number ten spot on The Ring’s pound for pound list. He also has two ESPY awards for Fighter of the Year in 2009 and 2011. Time Magazine also listed Pacquaio on their “Most Influential People” list for 2009. Sports Illustrated also named Pacquaio their Fighter of the Year for 2008 and 2009. If an organization gave an award for fighter of the year in 2008 and/or 2009, Pacquaio was more than likely the recipient.
It only takes seeing one Pacquaio bout to know his game is based on foot work and exceptional hand speed. Pacquaio is able to unless a five punch combo in the time it takes an average fighter to reel off two punches. He is able to use his exceptional foot work to make angles during his combos which was a polished trait learned from the great Freddie Roach. In addition to being a Southpaw, which many consider to make an unorthodox fighter, he also an aggressive style boxer, not necessarily a brawler. Pacquaio’s style of “aggressive striking” is totally different than that of his opponent for this matchup, “Homicide Hank.”
What boxing fan would not enjoy this matchup of two of the greatest boxers of all time? With both fighters having an aggressive style and Armstrong’s ability to take a shot and keep going and Pacquaio’s amazing foot work make for a non-stop action showdown. The Juan Manuel Marquez knockout of Pacquaio in 2012 sticks in my head and I can’t help but think Armstrong, a man with over 100 career knockouts, could catch Pacquaio with just one of those hundreds of shots to end the night. On top of needing his foot work to be at its absolute best, he would need a high volume of strikes to win rounds.