I knew this was a mismatch, this Manny Pacquiao vs. David Diaz number. What I didn’t imagine is how much Pacquiao would thoroughly dominate a tough lightweight (135 lbs.) title-holder en route to a 9th round knockout that mercifully ended an absolute massacre. By the end of the fight, Diaz, laying on his back, was so swollen on both sides of his face he looked like E.T. So there you have it, people. Pacquiao is the best boxer in the world now. That’s my opinion. Yeah, Diaz wasn’t even within a football field’s distance of how good Pacquiao was, but he was the rated the #2 lightweight in the world by Ring magazine, a position he clawed up to because of pure grit and deserved. What’s more, this is now the fourth weight class in which Pacquiao has won a title, and for an Asian fighter, that’s boxing history. We’ll discuss the latter point in a moment. Three heirs to the throne of “boxing’s biggest superstar” — Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto and Kelly Pavlik — have now won mismatches in the last few months in which the outcome was virtually certain but where they so completely proved they were the elite in doing so that they enhanced their stock with obvious wins. Of the three, Pacquiao’s is by far the highest caliber of the wins, by virtue of Diaz’ resume. It’s fair to say Pacquiao looked quite happy at and most excellent at lightweight. Having just today watched his 2007 win over Marco Antonio Barrera at 130 lbs., I did detect a slight drop in speed five pounds higher, and that, of course, is to be expected. The important thing is that, compared to Diaz, he looked like Hammy the hyper squirrel after dosing on an energy drink in “Over The Hedge.” Which is to say, Pacquiao was so much faster than Diaz, Diaz might as well have been standing still. Pacquiao’s power was evident, although I did find it interesting that a shot Erik Morales was able to knock down Diaz early whereas Pacquiao was not until the 9th. It was the accumulation of punches from Pacquiao that did Diaz in. Boy howdy did they accumulate, too. That Diaz is one tough hombre to last as long as he did. I’m glad ring announcer Michael Buffer asked the crowd to applaud him after, because he earned a good hand for his bravery. That those punches accumulated to the nth degree was a testament to Pacquiao’s conditioning — I’ve never seen him throw more punches in a fight. Never. And while there were a few moments where the steam was off them toward the end of rounds, they were basically as hard in the 1st as they were in the 9th. Really, in every category, Pacquiao was amazing. Diaz is no power puncher, with a 50% knockout rate, but he was a big enough lightweight to maybe test Pacquiao’s chin at a new weight. Nope. Never once did Pacquiao seem bothered by what Diaz offered. Speed, power, chin — all passed the test here, but if you ask me, there’s one area where Pacquiao excelled above all else. That is: He’s a real boxer now. He’s always been underrated in his skill set, and he’s steadily been improving in defense, punch variety, etc. for years and years. But, like, where the hell did he suddenly find the ability to throw an uppercut? Having read that trainer Freddie Roach was focusing on that punch in training, I paid attention closely to the Barrera rebroadcast to see if he even threw one. If he did, I couldn’t find it. I scratched my head at the introduction of a new punch into a 14-year career. Clearly, though, that Pacquiao is some kind of sponge, because his uppercut was freaking beautiful. Oh, and as bewildering as his offensive arsenal was, Paquiao’s defense was tighter than ever. Diaz was whiffing all night long. Now, on that title belt: Anyone who follows the antics of the WBC, WBO et al knows that they aren’t angels. That Diaz had this belt, as I said before, speaks ill of the WBC. I repeat, Diaz “won” his title belt without ever having fought for it. They just took it away from Joel Casamayor and handed it to Diaz, who was the interim champ because of his hail mary win over Jose Armando Santa Cruz. There is some legitimacy to Diaz’ having the title belt because he beat Morales to keep it, but don’t get confused and think Pacquiao taking it is some major achievement. It’s an achievement, sure. It’s worthy, even, of commendation. But winning title belts these days is way overrated. Pacquiao is my #1 pound-for-pound fighter for plenty of reasons, and that he collected another title belt Saturday night is only one of them. This fight shouldn’t have been on pay-per-view, and honestly, I regret buying it. I bought it out of the intrigue of seeing whether Pacquiao was moving up too high in weight, or whether he didn’t train properly. I could tell from the 1st round that Diaz was in way over his head, and there would be no intrigue. But to be honest, I hope the world was watching Pacquiao. If he ends up atop the pile of himself, Cotto and Pavlik as the fighters who can replace Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather, and on a more localized scale Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe, as the figureheads of boxing, well, the sport’s in pretty good shape, isn’t it? For a long time now, he’s been one of the best in the world. Now I have no question that he is. At least until we see what welterweight (147 lbs.) stud Cotto does with Antonio Margarito July 26. (Insert winking, smiling emoticon here.) Next for the loser: A new car, with air conditioning! Diaz complained before the fight that he didn’t even have air conditioning in his car, but the $800,000 check he’ll get ought to be enough for a new one, even with the way the government and the promoters and managers carve a check of that size down to bits very quickly. If he wants to keep fighting, Diaz could make competitive fights with the second tier of the division, anyone except Casamayor, Campbell, Marquez and the moving-up Joan Guzman. You gotta love him, no matter what. He over-achieved his way into a big fight, so here’s to Diaz — may your new car be big and luxurious. Next for the winner: Tonight I’m gonna wish upon a star that Pacquiao next fights Juan Manuel Marquez, with whom he has unfinished business and with whom serious talks have finally begun for a third bout. Marquez has a very complex task ahead of him in taking on Ring magazine lightweight champ Joel Casamayor in September. If he pulls it off, I can’t see how any other fight tops it on Pacquiao’s agenda. It would be one of the two or three most important fights that could be made in the entire sport, period. Pacquiao’s trainer favors moving up to 140 to take on Hatton, and that’s an interesting fight, but all in due time, man. Pacquiao’s now in boxing’s best division, a division, by the way, he has made one of the best by virtue of moving into it. There’s plenty of business for him to do down at 135. My worry prior to tonight was that a real puncher at 135, like, say, Nate Campbell, might be too big a step up for Pacquiao. Now, after this performance, I say that’s a tough fight still for Pacquiao, but the Pacman has the look of the pick of the litter in this division already.