TITANIC BATTLE BEGINS
Eight championships in eight weight divisions. Manny Pacquiao fights again – another drubbing of a much larger opponent, and Pacquaio’s legend as a boxer continues to grow.
The recent fight between Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito pro-duced not just a memorable pay-per-view experience, it pro-duced some moments of clarity that helped us better understand what makes this Filipino so much more than just a great athlete.
If you didn’t see the fight, you probably have read that Pacquiao dominated; that he won almost every round; that he cut Margarito to shreds so much so that everyone, including Pacquaio, had legitimate concerns about Margarito’s health and whether the fight should continue the last few rounds.
That rendition of the fight is accurate up to a point – but it fails to capture the genuine peril that Pacquaio himself faced in the early rounds, the growing threat that Margarito repre-sented, and the challenge that Pacquiao overcame to prevail against him – a fighter who was in the best of shape who weighed in at 165-lbs to Pacquiao’s 148-lbs on fight night. That was a major advantage of not just 17-lbs but 12% of bodyweight and in professional boxing terms – a Goliath to Pacquiao’s David. What’s more is that Margarito was a dis-graced Mexican warrior on an epic quest for redemption. He couldn’t have been less pre-pared or motivated. That’s what Pacquiao was up against.
THE CLASH MOVES ON
In the early rounds Margarito landed not only some shots but a head butt followed by a right hand – hard hitting bombs from a big man. Pacquiao mounted a furious flurry that didn’t seem to hurt Margarito. Ringside commentators agreed that Margarito’s height advantage was causing Pacquiao to punch skyward and this was taking power out of his punches. Studying his facial ex-pressions, Pacquiao was much more uncomfortable than Margarito at this stage even though he appeared to be scoring winning points.
Margarito, a notoriously slow starter got stronger as the fight wore on towards Round 4. Yet in spite of being hurt more than once, Pacquaio dominated; he repeatedly landed bombshells that soon had Margarito’s entire face swollen and bleeding. Yet Margarito, to his credit as a warrior refused go down and refused to stop.
That’s how it felt after the first few rounds. But as he has so often in the past, Pacquiao – guided by the man he calls his “master” Freddie Roach, gradually began to solve the Margarito puzzle. He found ways to use his astonishing hand speed, footwork, head move-ment, and ring savvy to launch stinging attacks against his opponent and most notably, opening a deep cut under Margarito’s right eye that immediately began to swell, causing his eye to almost shut close.
TIDE BEGINS TO TURN
From there on Manny gained the upper-hand. But even after the cut had produced a problem, there were some nerve-wrack-ng moments, notably in the 6th round, when Margarito got Pac-quaio against the ropes and hit him with a huge left to the liver section that buckled Pacquiao’s knees. Later, and more than once, he rocked Pacquiao with uppercuts. One delivered in the 8th round clearly hurt Manny but he continued to tear down Margarito in the next round. The damage was beginning to show.
By round 10 there was ample reason for everyone to see to stop the fight. Pacquaio glanced at the referee more than once as if to ask, “Shouldn’t you end this?” But the re-feree’s look was one of dismissiveness – he wouldn’t because Margarito was still demons-trating his grit by throwing punches even though he could hardly see. But his punches no longer had the snap or power in them.
How many power punches flush to the head can a man really take? By the end of the fight the compu-box figures revealed that Pacquaio had landed a disturbing 401 power punches to Margarito’s head alone and who knows what damage that kind of pummeling would re-sult in. Manny seemed to know this full well.
COUP DE GRACE?
Towards the home stretch, Margarito on his stool between the 11th and 12th rounds looked more like Rocky Balboa in the ori-ginal film “Rocky”. Both eyes almost swollen shut, punch drunk but demanding that he be allowed to continue to finish it. There he was the oblivious-to-pain warrior, insisting through his man-gled features that he wanted to fight one more round to make it to the end, and his corner let him do it – a decision that honored Margarito’s epic courage but also placed him in epic danger at the powerful hands of Pacquiao. And then – the last round came.
Margarito up on his feet and all but defenseless, game but beaten. There was every ex-pectation to believe that Pacquiao, hungry for the KO that would put the exclamation point on his performance, would swarm Margarito like a hive of African killer bees and mount a blistering final assault that would leave the referee with no choice but to stop it or barring that, deliver the Coup de grâce – a death blow intended to end the suffering of a wounded creature, that would drop him to the canvass for good.
But that didn’t happen you see. Something else surprisingly did.
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