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Manny Pacquiao lands a right against Antonio Margarito during the second round of their WBC light middleweight title boxing match at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas on Nov. 13.  (AP photo/David J. Phillip)


Nov. 19, 2010 


ryan.songalia.2

 

 Exclusive to the Filipino Reporter

 

ARLINGTON, Texas — Bigger is not necessarily better.

That’s what Manny Pacquiao had to prove when, just 30 hours before his 12-round World Boxing Council (WBC) junior welterweight title fight on Nov. 13 with Antonio Margarito was to begin, the General Santos City, Philippines native tipped the scales at 144.6 pounds.

Margarito, who stands nearly five inches taller at 5-foot-11, registered in at the contractually stipulated catch weight of 150 pounds.

When the weights were announced, a chorus of gasps rang out from the hundreds of fight fans, pundits and boxing personalities in attendance at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Undoubtedly, some were wondering if the comparatively diminutive Pacquiao had finally bitten off more than he could chew.

By the time they stepped into the ring, Pacquiao weighed just 148, while Margarito rehydrated up to 165 pounds.

Essentially, it was a matchup of a welterweight versus a super middleweight.

One person who wasn’t worried was Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s zen-like trainer of nine years.

“I said, ‘Great, the more weight he gains, the better it is for us.’ Food makes you sluggish and slows you down. For someone to gain 15 pounds from the weigh-in to the fight is terrible for your body.”

After 12 gruesome rounds, it was “The Pacman” who would prove to be too much for the “Tornado” from Tijuana, Mexico.

The judges scorecards reflected the one-sided nature of the bout, with Juergen Langos scoring it a shutout 120-108.
Judge Oren Shellenberger had it 119-109, and Glen Rick Crocker had it 118-110.

The live crowd tallied in at 41,734, which was significantly less than the 70,000 that was anticipated.

The real success was the pay-per-view numbers.

The Dallas Morning News is reporting that the card sold approximately 1.4 million in the U.S., which far exceeds Pacquiao’s bout with Oscar De La Hoya, which sold 1.2 million.

Pacquiao, who won his first world title at 112 pounds, added a championship in his record eighth weight division.

Unlike records in other sports, this one appears to be one that will never be bested.

“It’s a great honor to me and it’s a big honor to my country,” said the humble Pacquiao, now 52-3-2 (38 KO). “All of you guys are part of that. Without you, I’m not here, I’m not Manny Pacquiao.

That accomplishment I have in boxing, it’s because of God. He gave me the blessing and also the support of the people.”

Margarito, 32, provided the first shock of the evening as he eschewed his typical reckless approach and boxed conventionally behind his left jab in the opening round.

Pacquiao, 31, was able to connect from time to time through the first three rounds, but Margarito’s size allowed him to absorb the punches without taking a backwards step.


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Manny Pacquiao, right, lands a punch against Antonio Margarito during the third round of their WBC light middleweight title boxing match.  (AP photo/David J. Phillip)

 

That all changed in the fourth round, when Pacquiao took complete control of the fight.

A left uppercut, reminiscent of the shot Sugar Ray Robinson used to shut Gene Fullmer’s eye in 1957, accomplished the same task on Margarito’s face and produced a cut below his right eye.

Moments later a left hook to Margarito’s body doubled him over in pain and opened him up to a vicious barrage that nearly had the fight halted by referee Laurence Cole.

“We were going good until I got cut,” said the former three-time welterweight champion Margarito, 38-7 (27 KO) in the post-fight interview. “And then that’s when the problems started coming.”

Margarito, who was fighting for redemption after his image had been irreparably tarnished by the “plaster wraps” scandal that forced his year-long exile from boxing, refused to go out without a fight.

He weathered another one-sided assault in round five, but finally hurt Pacquiao with a series of heavy body shots that sent Pacquiao reeling into the ropes in the sixth round.

It was a graphic reminder of how dangerous the much larger man remained.

“He got me with a good shot in the body,” Pacquiao later recalled.

“It was really painful and I’m lucky to survive that round.”

Pacquiao remained undaunted though, and continued to take chances to attack the increasingly battered and disfigured warrior.

Margarito continued to come forward and be effective whenever Pacquiao allowed himself to be backed into the ropes.

By the end of the 10th round however, with blood streaming from his right eye and both eyes completely closed, Margarito was a sitting duck to the fistic fury of the Pacman.

Many legends abound regarding Pacquiao’s humanitarian side, but until you see it, you cannot truly appreciate it.

During the 11th round, Pacquiao on several occasions turned to the referee to ask him to mercifully stop the fight.

“In the ninth and 10th rounds, I look at his eyes and his face and I feel pity to him because his eyes are getting closed,” Pacquiao said. “It’s really bad.”

“He could’ve knocked him out but he’s too compassionate,” Roach said after what he described as “one of his greatest performances.” “Let’s face it, he did take it easy on him. I told him to knock him out because I can’t stand [Margarito].”

Roach says he was surprised by the number of punches Margarito connected with.

According to Compubox, Margarito landed 229, which was less than half of Pacquiao’s tally of 474.

For the first time in recent fights, Pacquiao’s face was noticeably swollen and marked up.

Roach would like Pacquiao to rest for six months and enjoy life a little.

“This is the hardest fight in my boxing career,” said Pacquiao, who was unable to sign autographs after the fight due to swollen hands.

“Margarito is really tough and strong. I feel it, he’s really bigger than me. I want to give a good fight and I want to make people happy. That’s why sometimes I fight him toe to toe and exchange punches. I won the fight but I can say it wasn’t easy fight.”

Pacquiao visited the hospital briefly afterwards to have his sore ribs inspected, but there were no breaks found.

Contrarily, Margarito was hospitalized over the weekend, where surgery to repair a fractured orbital bone in his right eye.

According to a Top Rank press release, the surgery went off without any complications.

Pre-fight controversy

Margarito, who was suspended for a year after a plaster-like substance was discovered in his hand wraps prior to his 2009 bout with Shane Mosley, made one final attempt to bend the rules before stepping into the ring with Pacquiao.

Said promoter Bob Arum: Margarito was preparing to take a drink with a substance — ephedrine. We had people from each camp in the other camp’s dressing room. The Pacquiao camp protested and words were exchanged. [Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation Executive Director] Bill Kuntz came in, quieted everything down and told Margarito that he wasn’t allowed to take the drink. So he didn’t. In other words, it was handled in the proper manner. He had the thing ready to take and it never got into the water.”

Pacquiao’s conditioning coach Alex Ariza said that the substance ephedrine can “amp you up” and increase your energy output if enough of the substance is taken. He feels that Margarito still doesn’t believe in fighting on an even playing field. “So I can give Manny a hit of cocaine, even though I know it’s illegal? That is cheating. You don’t think I want to jack Manny up and give him a Super Fuel or those kind of things? You have to go in there balanced. If you’re not allowed to do this, I’m not allowed to do this.”

When asked whether or not he believed Margarito was a compulsive cheater, Roach said, “I don’t know about compulsive, but I’m pretty sure [Miguel] Cotto is probably happy we paid him back tonight,” alluding to the widespread belief that Margarito used loaded hand wraps in their 2008 encounter.

‘Worst training camp’

Ariza says that, despite Pacquiao’s masterful performance, he was only 75% of his peak form, adding that Pacquiao did not adhere strictly to the physically taxing conditioning program he had outlined.

“In the six fights since I’ve worked with him, this was the worst training camp. I just said, ‘Please don’t do this to me again.’

“We’ve always focused on plyometrics, conditioning, building up a stronger, more durable body and then focusing on speed in the last few weeks. The sparring became harder so he got away from the [training] in the morning so he can be more efficient in the ring. I told him, ‘You’re only gonna spar at 60%, because I kill you.

But when we start the recovery phase towards the end, come fight night you’re going to fight 100%.’”

Ariza feels that the version of Pacquiao that fought Cotto and Joshua Clottey in his two most recent fights would have knocked Margarito out.

Next for Pacquiao?

Now Arum’s dilemma is not just promoting Pacquiao’s fights, but finding opponents to occupy the other corner.

In his three most recent fights, Pacquiao has eliminated Top Rank’s entire welterweight roster.

“I ran out of my own guys,” said Arum. He beat all of my guys.”

Ideally, Pacquiao would be matched next with Floyd Mayweather Jr., the 41-0 (25 KO) pound-for-pound runner-up.

That fight figures to be one of the most lucrative — if not the most — in boxing history.

Yet after negotiations fell through not once but twice last year and Mayweather’s ongoing legal problems, few are optimistic about the fight coming off any time soon.

“We, like everybody else in boxing, would like to see Manny Pacquiao fight Floyd Mayweather next,” said Arum. “We’re gonna see if we can make that happen; that’s our first priority.”

“It only requires Floyd Mayweather’s willingness to make the fight and secondly some take on the Nevada court system as to when the fight could take place where we wouldn’t be blind-sided by something like a trial.

“We’re going to work through those issues in the next couple of weeks.”

Mark Taffet, HBO’s senior vice-president of sports operations, declined to endorse any one opponent for Pacquiao’s next fight, but alluded to the painfully obvious preference of everyone in the sport.

“There’s one big fight out there that everybody is talking about and everybody wants to see and we’ll leave it to the promoters to discuss it,” said Taffet.

One interested observer who arrived in Dallas on the night of the fight was Mosley, who is the only man to ever knock the iron-chinned Margarito out.

Despite losing to Mayweather and drawing with lightly-regarded Sergio Mora in his last two fights, he believes he is the most-qualified to face Pacquiao, save for Mayweather.

“Pacquiao has fought everybody except for me and Floyd,” said the 39-year-old Mosley, 46-6-1 (39 KO) of Pomona, California.

“I see some openings [in Pacquiao] that I can exploit. I think that my power is a little bit stronger than Margarito’s.”

James Prince, Mosley’s manager and hip hop mogul, believes that his guy has the necessary tools to get the job done against Pacquiao.

“[Pacquiao’s] speed was such an advantage. Anyone without the proper speed would never be able to do anything with Pacquiao. Sugar Shane happens to be the solution to the speed to deal with a Pacquiao. We’re looking forward to the opportunity.”

Despite being a partner in Golden Boy Promotions — Top Rank’s archrivals — Mosley does not have a promotional contract with them and is free to negotiate with other promoters under his own Shane Mosley Promotions banner.

Prince says that he has already spoken casually with Arum about the fight.

When asked about the possibility of facing Mosley next, Roach was completely dismissive. “I don’t give a sh@! [expletive] about fighting Shane Mosley, we’ll just beat him up too. He’s a nice guy but he can’t fight Manny Pacquiao.”

If Roach had his way, Pacquiao would face Juan Manuel Marquez next for the third time.

Marquez, who defends his unified lightweight title on Nov. 27 against Michael Katsidis, held Pacquiao to a draw in their first meeting and lost a razor-thin decision in the rematch.

“I would love to fight Marquez one more time to shut him up at 147 pounds,” said Roach. “If he wants to fight us, let’s do it.”

While members of his camp discuss the future of the Fighting Congressman, Pacquiao refuses to expound on any of the particulars of his boxing career except to say that he will fight again.

Perhaps it’s because, with one battle finished, a much tougher one with a less-clearly defined success plan awaits him back home.

“I don’t want to talk about that. If there’s any decision, I give it to Bob Arum. My job as a fighter is to train hard and fight in the ring. I’m not scared to fight anybody.

“I’m going back to the Philippines to do my other job and be a public servant. I want to help people.”

(Editor’s note: Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America [BWAA] and contributes to Ring Magazine, GMA News and the Filipino Reporter newspaper in New York City. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel. He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia).


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Nelly performs before Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito's WBC light middleweight title boxing match in Arlington, Texas.  (AP photo/LM Otero)

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