-- As the great Manny Pacquiao, boxing's only eight-division titleholder and a reigning welterweight titlist, was making his historic march up the scale, he was knocking almost everyone out.
Because of those eye-catching knockouts, including devastating performances against Miguel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and David Diaz, Pacquiao made history and rocketed to the top of the pound-for-pound list, as he and Floyd Mayweather Jr. were for years 1-2 in whichever order one preferred. He also became an international icon. This was especially true in his beloved home country of the Philippines, where he now serves as a congressman in his second job to boxing.
While Pacquiao remains one of the best in boxing, his knockout power has vanished. In fact, since a 12th-round knockout of Cotto in November 2009 to win a welterweight title for the first time, Pacquiao has not knocked anyone out in his past eight fights. The span includes a massively controversial decision loss to Timothy Bradley Jr. in their first fight, which Pacquiao avenged easily with a rout in April, and a knockout loss to rival Juan Manuel Marquez in the fourth fight of their legendary series.
Some have accused Pacquiao -- including Mayweather, which cost him a bundle in settling a civil lawsuit -- of using performance-enhancing drugs even though there was no evidence. Pacquiao and those around him have steadfastly maintained that he has never used any illegal drugs.
Trainer Freddie Roach said the lack of recent knockouts is simply because Pacquiao, whose first world title came at flyweight, is a small man who has been fighting bigger men in recent years and therefore has not been scoring knockouts.
"He has only knocked out two welterweights [Cotto and a weight-drained De La Hoya] since we've moved up in weight for the big fights," Roach said. "All those other big knockouts were in smaller divisions."
Many believe Pacquiao will regain his KO mojo when he steps into the ring to defend his title against junior welterweight titlist and big underdog Chris Algieri, who is taller and longer than Pacquiao but moving up in weight, on Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET) at the Venetian Macao's Cotai Arena in Macau, China (where the fight will happen in the Chinese morning).
The fight is being contested at a catchweight of 144 pounds, three fewer than the welterweight limit, because Pacquiao is considering a future return to the 140-pound junior welterweight division if the big one -- a fight with Mayweather -- still can't be made in the first half of next year.
"With this fight at 144, we're coming down a little, and if Manny feels good he will fight 140 for the next fight if we don't get Mayweather," Roach said. "Manny weighed 139 pounds the other day. I told him, go to his room and eat. He is not a big guy. Manny is faster, and I think he's a little sluggish closer to 147. This is at [a maximum of] 144, and I think Manny will come in about 142 the way he has been looking.
"He showed signs of greatness in training. He was knocking sparring partners down. It's not enough to win nowadays. You have to win impressively, and knockouts are impressive. I love knockouts."
Said Pacquiao, "The reason we are fighting this fight at 144 pounds is because I wanted to see how I performed at a lower weight. If I do well, I could easily fight at 140 for my next fight; 140 is the weight I walk around at when I'm not training for a fight. So that is no issue, and even 135 would be easy for me to make.
"The real question is, how do I feel and how do I perform when I return to those lower weights? I could be faster than when I fought at welterweight and [junior middleweight], and if my power remains the same, I may be able to score more knockouts at lower weights. I weighed 138 when I knocked out Ricky Hatton, 142 when I stopped Oscar De La Hoya and 144 when I scored a TKO of Miguel Cotto. Many people consider those fights some of my best, so why not go back down if that is where the bigger and better fights are going to be fought?"
Some view the 30-year-old Algieri (20-0, 8 KOs), a former kickboxer from Huntington, New York, as vulnerable because he was knocked down twice and hurt in the first round of his last fight. Ultimately, Algieri won a controversial split decision upset against Ruslan Provodnikov -- another one of Roach's fighters -- to claim a junior welterweight belt in June. But that is the only win of serious note on Algieri's record.
Roach might be giving Algieri respect but it comes off as a grudging respect as though he does not believe he is truly worthy of fighting Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs).
He looks at Algieri, who has a master's degree in clinical nutrition, as a sort of opponent against whom Pacquiao can end his knockout drought.
"Believe me, he wants an emphatic victory. He needs an emphatic victory," Roach said. "That is why he has gone the extra mile in this camp to achieve that. Manny is going to drop the curtain on the Chris Algieri show."
Roach said Pacquiao has sparring partners who are better than Algieri, namely No. 1 junior welterweight contender Viktor Postol.
"Postol is a little taller [5-foot-11] than [5-10] Algieri, and he has a better left hand than Algieri. ... Sometimes the truth hurts," he said.
Algieri, a cool customer throughout the promotion, said he will not allow Roach's ribbing get to him.
"My stance is to not go back and forth, and I am not fighting Freddie," Algieri said. "That's not the man I have to box with, so I am not going to go back and forth firing darts at each other. You don't see Pacquiao doing that.
"That's Freddie's prerogative, and that's what he likes to do. That's not me, even if it helps the promotion of the fight, that's not my style. It is what it is. If he wants to say that, that's fine by me. What matters is fight night and myself and Pacquiao."
Pacquiao, 35, will make the first defense of the welterweight title he regained by beating Bradley in April, and he would like a knockout even if he won't come out and say it directly.
"We cannot go into the fight thinking about the knockout," Pacquiao said. "A knockout will not change the result of the fight as long as we get the win. Chris Algieri is a very dangerous fighter, and we are taking nothing for granted."
But Roach, who is training Pacquiao in their 30th fight together, said Pacquiao has been more upfront with him about his desire to stop Algieri. Roach said that Pacquiao scored a number of knockdowns against sparring partners in training camp, including against Postol. After Pacquiao dropped another sparring partner in a recent session, he told the Hall of Fame trainer it would be an early night against Algieri.
"He knocked his sparring partner down and he said, 'This is what I'm going to do to this kid [Algieri]. I'm going to knock him out early,'" Roach said. "Manny has never said that to me before. Manny is very motivated. I told him, don't give him any momentum, so our plan is to start quick and jump on him. I think Manny will knock him out, and Manny thinks the same.
"Manny is not Ruslan. Manny is an eight-division champion with speed and power. When he hurts a guy, he knows what to do. Chris Algieri is not fighting Ruslan. This is not a 'Rocky' movie. It might be one round."