- Nike produced boxing and training shoes for Manny Pacquiao in his heyday
- Pacquiao’s line failed to achieve a fraction of the popularity of the Jordan brand
- Boxing shoes might never find a life outside of their destination inside the ring
Retired Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao was one of Nike’s most recognizable athletes thanks to his prowess and accomplishments in the sport of boxing.
For many of his compatriots, he was their own version of Michael Jordan – someone they could look up to and aspire to be like if they worked hard enough at their craft with any luck.
However, if there’s one thing that separates Pacquiao from being Jordan, it’s that the “PacMan” was never able to translate his in-ring accomplishments into becoming his own brand recognized across the globe.
Sure, people loved Pacquiao for being one of the most dominant boxers of his generation, but he wasn’t able to generate the same widespread appeal and everyday lifestyle impact that Jordan did. did with basketball.
Filipino journalist Santino Honasan summed up this thought perfectly in a episode of a local online boxing show called “Round By Round”.
“I think what made sneaker culture what it is today was the ability to incorporate sneakers into your everyday lifestyle. This is why basketball sneakers like the Jordans and Kobes are so big right now because they have transcended their purpose of being a functional shoe. They became lifestyle shoes, something you would wear off the basketball court,” Honasan told Round By Round host and combat sports analyst Nissi Icasiano.
“It’s hard to replicate the same success in boxing because if you leave the house in HyperKOs or other boxing shoes, [they don’t look as good for casual wear]. Boxing as a sport in itself isn’t as lifestyle-appropriate when it comes to clothing as basketball or running. It’s not as culture-friendly when it comes to style and fashion.
For example, Jordan has become such a recognizable name to people all over the world regardless of their race, religion, color and creed.
The public’s love for Jordan became so overwhelming that Nike decided to start selling its basketball sneakers to become the basis of the now famous Jordan brand, allowing people to be more and more “Llike mikein at least one way.
Because boxing shoes aren’t as widely regarded or as popular as basketball shoes, few sneakerheads even remember the several loose pairs by Nike in partnership with Pacquiao.
From the famous HyperKO MP boxing boots to the beautifully designed Air Huarache TR Lows and the extremely limited “Lights Out” Nike AirTrainer1, Pacquiao has put his mark on some of the Swoosh’s most respected pairs.
However, none of them have been able to achieve “cult classic” status like that of the Jordan brand, and even the Kobes, outside of the most diehard Pacquiao fans.
By comparing the HyperKO and the Jordan 11 side by side as an example, we can already guess which pair is best suited for which sport.
The higher-end HyperKOs have a more boxing-centric look, while the Jordan 11s look like something you’d wear on the basketball court, but also look good enough to rock on a day out with friends.
Boxing’s identity as a niche sport hasn’t helped either and memorabilia from Pacquiao’s time as a great boxer has been relegated to other merchandise like shirts and posters – memorabilia much easier to produce and store long term, manufactured at low cost. and then sold as collectibles.
To Nike’s credit, Pacquiao’s HyperKO shoes were actually one of the best boxing shoes – and athletic shoes by extension – ever produced.
The Swoosh was still experimenting with its Flywire technology combined with the forefoot strap, which subsequent Nike pairs took advantage of.
Take the case of the respective iconic shoe lines of NBA stars Paul George and Kyrie Irving.
The PG 1s had both the forefoot strap and Flywire technology woven in when they received critical acclaim in 2017, which Nike improved upon in the PG 2 released in 2018 by removing the Flywire strap and forefoot but with variations of the beastly herringbone outsole found on the HyperKOs.
As for Irving’s line, it also featured variations of the herringbone outsole that was present in the Brooklyn Nets star’s signature pair of sneakers from its original release in 2015 until the latest model, the Kyrie 7.
Another thing Jordan wanted in the sneaker department was for celebrities and people from all walks of life to start wearing his pairs off the court, while Pacquiao’s shoes were limited in their appeal due to their style.
Whether it was the wild colorways or the fact that they stood out too much in public, Pacquiao’s shoe line was just too difficult to incorporate into everyday outfits.
It was too focused on the performance of the shoes in the ring rather than the lifestyle flexibility offered by that of Jordan sneakers.
Nike has ended its partnership with Pacquiao after the famous boxer had a few controversial comments regarding same-sex marriage before his candidacy for a seat in the Philippine Senate.
Jordan has had his fair share of controversial statements in the past, including his “Republicans also buy shoes” remark in the 90s, but Pacquiao’s remarks had dealt too much of a blow to Nike’s public image, leading them to drop him.
Anta then signed Pacquiao to their growing stable of athletes in 2016, but his brand name had already been dragged through the mud enough for him to gain traction among the youngsters.
To sum up, Nike definitely put in a ton of hours designing Pacquiao’s shoes for one of boxing’s greats and his in-ring pairs were definitely one of the best outings at the time.
However, boxing just isn’t the most suitable for clothing and that has certainly affected the public performance of the Nike shoes released in partnership with Pacquiao.
If Nike and other brands are looking to try their hand at developing a lifestyle-centric line among boxers, signs point to it being a lose-lose investment, as the personalities of the boxing need to be more open to the idea of change.