Ringside physician William Capanna looked into the eyes of Manny Pacquiao while time was out in the fifth round of Saturday night’s main event in the MGM Grand Garden Arena and asked the Philippine fighter if he wanted to continue.
Only one eye was able to look back.
But Pacquiao, a deep cut over his right eye, blood washing down the right side of his face, faked it. He assured the physician that he could go on against Erik Morales in their super-featherweight showdown.
Pacquiao hadn’t come halfway around the world to quit. His legions of flag-waving countrymen hadn’t made the journey to go home early.
So even though he had fallen behind early on all three judges’ scorecards, even though a punch, or perhaps the head butt that preceded it, had split his right eyebrow earlier in that fifth round, even though Morales, a notoriously slow starter, had set a furious pace and employed an aggressive style, Pacquiao fought on.
And made a brilliant fight out of it, one which left the sellout crowd of 14,623 standing and cheering through much of it.
Although Pacquiao (39-3-2, 30 knockouts) ultimately made it close, Morales (48-2, 34) prevailed, winning a close but unanimous decision. All three judges -- Paul Smith, Dave Moretti and Chuck Giampa -- gave Morales the decision, 115-113.
The difference was Morales’ boxing ability.
“I knew boxing was the key,” Morales said, “because he is so fast. He took a lot of punishment. We were prepared for his punching power and we knew he was quick, but, after the cut, I focused on punishing him. He was a very tough guy. I hit him with everything I had.”
Before the fight, much of the focus was on Pacquiao’s weight. He was fighting at 130 pounds for the first time. But after the final bell sounded, Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roche, said the difference was the gloves. Pacquiao had been forced to wear a brand of gloves he doesn’t like, a softer glove than he prefers, because his promoter, Murad Muhammad, had agreed to that brand.
After Roche cut the gloves off his fighter, he waved them at the promoter in anger.
“I would have liked to use my gloves, but I had to go with what was in the contract,” Pacquiao said. “I will fight him again anytime, anywhere.”
The oddsmakers had made Pacquiao a 7-5 favorite.
“That was because of the [Marco Antonio] Barrera fight,” said Morales, referring to his previous match, a loss to Barrera in November. “But I won the fans back tonight. I feel vindicated.”
In a preliminary bout, Martin Castillo (28-1, 16) of Mexico defended his World Boxing Assn. super-flyweight title with a unanimous decision over Eric Morel (35-2, 18).
The most brutal fight of the night, however, was a flyweight match between Jorge Arce (39-3-1, 29) of Mexico and Hussein Hussein (26-2, 20) of Australia.
It ended with a TKO victory for Arce at the 2-minute 7-second mark of the 10th round. By that point, a total of 1,393 punches had been thrown in a match fueled by an unrelenting pace, with 459 of those punches landing. Of the 250 punches landed by Arce, 240 were power punches.
The bout ended after Arce, blood covering his face from a cut on the bridge of his nose, put Hussein down with a flurry of blows that caused Hussein’s corner to order the bout stopped.
Undisputed middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins has reached a tentative agreement to defend his title against Jermain Taylor, considered the best young fighter in the division. The match is scheduled for July 16 at a site still to be determined. Arenas under consideration are Staples Center and New York’s Madison Square Garden, along with sites in Las Vegas and Memphis, Tenn.