Manny Pacquiao doesn’t scale it back
From Arlington, Texas
The marvelous Manny Pacquiao did it again. The 98-pound weakling kicked sand in the big guy’s face. Yet another Paul Bunyan was chopped down, although this one, a tough and game Antonio Margarito, never allowed anyone to yell “Timber.”
Pacquiao did what his camp, and especially his trainer, Freddie Roach, said he would. He methodically sliced apart a man who had five inches on him in height, six inches of reach and 16 pounds by fight time.
The Congressman from the Sarangani district of the Philippines, a boxing wonder, countered off most of Margarito’s plodding charges with flurries of combinations. By the fourth round, Margarito’s face was a mess and Pacquiao was in control.
By the 11th round, the cut under Margarito’s right eye, inspected in his corner after each round, was so bad and Pacquiao was doing such damage that Pacquiao kept glancing at the referee, expecting him to step in and stop it. He even admitted after the fight that he had backed off a bit in the last two rounds because he didn’t want to damage the eye any more. The result was a unanimous decision and the WBC junior-middleweight title.
Margarito kept coming forward, plodding, lunging, lurching and occasionally landing.
Little did we think that there was another body part in Pacquiao’s arsenal that we hadn’t identified. Now we have: his chin. Margarito connected several times. Pacquiao took the hits, danced away and peppered Margarito with four or five quick shots in return.
“I never expected him to be as strong as he was,” Pacquiao said.
Margarito said, “I am a Mexican. I would never quit.”
Roach was less diplomatic. He said the Margarito corner “probably ruined Margarito’s career by not stopping it earlier.”
The issue before the start of the match was one of size. Did it matter?
Clearly, it did not.
The image of the 144.6-pound Pacquiao, standing side by side on the weigh-in platform Friday with the 150-pound Margarito, had a lot of boxing experts who had envisioned a fairly easy victory wondering if they might be wrong.
Had the handlers of the world-famous Pacquiao, Philippine Congressman and pound-for-pound best in the world, pushed him a notch too far, a division too high? Had victories over bigger fighters such as David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey skewed everybody’s perspective?
And then, when word drifted ringside that Margarito had gained 15 pounds and would come into the ring at 165, and Pacquiao had gained just over three pounds to 148, the buzz turned to memories of Arturo Gatti versus Joey Gamache in Madison Square Garden in 2000.
Gatti had weighed in at 141 and entered the ring at 160. Gamache had gone from 141 to 144. That 19-pound weight gain and 16-pound difference, which became somewhat legendary in later lawsuits, represents one less than the reported difference between Pacquiao and Margarito.
In that Gatti-Gamache fight, Gatti destroyed Gamache with a series of brutal punches and when Gamache finally went down in the second round, he stayed out for several minutes before awakening and demanding to walk out. He later sued and said that he had suffered brain damage in that match.
But Pacquiao is an altogether different athlete.
His victory meant that Pacquiao has now won eight titles in eight weight divisions. That has never been done before and probably won’t ever be done again.
As Roach said earlier, “With those eight titles, I will be in the record books with him forever.”
What a show
The prefight extravaganza included music by artist Nelly, who, for the uninformed and unhip, is a boy.
He sang nicely and the woofers and tweeters were turned up so loud that the entire arena vibrated. Anybody who was hard of hearing before Nelly’s show, and a film clip that followed of past great fights, did not have that problem afterward. Afterward, they had no hearing.
After a while, with the music going on and on and the clock ticking, it was hard to tell whether this was to be a boxing match or a rock concert.
Jerry Jones’ $1.2-billion arena is supposed to rock like this only when the Cowboys score. On further thought, with their season this year, Nelly’s five minutes may be the loudest it gets in Cowboys Stadium this year.
Cowboys Stadium is still new enough to be a tourist attraction, one of those things that prompt a side trip to just to gawk. It is so big that, if Staples Center were next door, they’d use it for the press room.
The upper deck was curtained off because the 100,000 capacity for football was unreachable. But even those in the sections just below that, as well as the next section closer to the boxing ring, had no chance of actually seeing anything other than foggy little blurs in the distance.
But there is, of course, the huge TV screen, at least 50 yards long and centered above the 50-yard line — on this night the tiny boxing ring — to satisfy the far-off reaches. It’s not the eighth wonder of the world, but when they get to No. 9, it makes the list of nominees.