By Michael Rosenthal
Arlington, Texas – We’re running out of words.
Manny Pacquiao fought a three-time world titleholder who outweighed him by 17 pounds when they entered the ring. He supposedly had a number of distractions while training in the Philippines. He was sluggish in sparring. Even some of those close to him were concerned going into this fight.
The result? A beating the likes we’ve rarely seen at this level of boxing, one that gave Pacquiao a major title in a mind-boggling eighth weight class – almost half of the 17 – and added to a legend that just continues to grow.
The scores indicate how one-sided it was before 41,734 on Nov. 13 at Cowboys Stadium: 120-108 (a shutout), 118-110 and 119-109. The RingTV.com had it 120-107. The CompuBox punch stats were staggering: Pacquiao landed 474 punches (out of 1,069 thrown), No. 8 all-time for a title fight. And get this: He landed 411 of 713 power shots, 58 percent.
You had to see it to fully understand it, though.
Pacquiao landed two-, three-, four-punch combinations seemingly at will and avoided taking blows unless he purposely stepped into the path of danger, a pattern that left Margarito’s face a grotesque mess. His skin was bright red, his eyes were swollen shut and blood dripped from a deep cut under his right eye.
Exhilarating and gruesome
It was exhilarating and gruesome at the same time.
It was exhilarating because of the explosiveness and efficiency of Pacquiao’s work. I was in absolute awe at what I saw, a once-in-a-lifetime athlete whose ability is a true gift to boxing fans.
It was gruesome because a brave man was being beaten to a pulp by the fast hands of a killer. Even those disgusted with Margarito’s role in the hand-wrap scandal had to feel sorry for him during the last few rounds of the fight, which should’ve been stopped to prevent further suffering.
To be clear, this wasn’t a great fight. It was a slaughter, which was predictable given the wide disparity in their talent. Margarito’s size advantage was meaningful only because it likely played a role in his survival.
Pacquiao could’ve won every second of every round by pecking away at Margarito from the outside and avoiding his rushes by using his quick feet, as he did numerous times when the Mexican tried to trap him in a corner or against ropes.
Make people happy
That’s not Pacquiao, though. He purposely entered dangerous situations – fighting Margarito inside, laying on the ropes — because, as he said, “I wanted to make people happy.” As a result, he added some drama to the fight by taking a few unnecessary punches.
“It was a hard fight,” said Pacquiao, being charitable. “I did my best to win. I can’t believe I beat a guy that big and that strong.”
That said, Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 knockouts) was never, ever in trouble. He said afterward that he knew in the second round that this was his fight but I suspect that realization probably came before they signed the contracts several months ago.
The Filipino marvel knew exactly what he was getting into. Still, he had to get the job done against a relative giant. Margarito weighed 165 pounds , Pacquiao 148, which in effect meant they were three weight classes apart.
And Pacquiao made it an absolute rout.
“I don’t think we lost a round,” said Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach. “I wish we would’ve knocked him out. He’s a very tough guy. I’m surprised how tough. He has the worst corner. His corner ruined his career by not stopping the fight.”
Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs) did show uncommon courage, which isn’t surprising given his track record of such efforts.
The proud Mexican would never have quit. And referee Laurence Cole probably would never have stopped it because Margarito continued to defend himself (or at least try) and throw punches.
It was up to Robert Garcia, Margarito’s trainer. He reportedly asked his fighter whether he wanted to continue late in the fight – and was told emphatically, “yes” – but Garcia probably should’ve stepped in nevertheless.
In the end, it was Pacquiao who saved his opponent from undue punishment. He went into cruise control the last few rounds because he didn’t want to inflict unnecessary punishment, which might’ve cost him a knockout.
“I told the ref, ‘Look at his eyes, look at his cuts,’” Pacquiao said. “I didn’t want to hurt him anymore.”
So in the end he turned in one of the most-dominating performances in recent years and then capped it off with a heart-warming act of kindness.
That’s Manny Pacquiao. One of a kind.
(Michael Rosenthal is an associate editor of The Ring magazine.)