Weekend Afterthoughts On Pacquiao-De La Hoya And More

We have a busy week ahead at The Queensberry Rules: I’ll be heading to Newark, N.J., for a couple days to cover the undisputed cruiserweight (200 lbs.) championship fight between Steve Cunningham and Tomasz Adamek Thursday evening, and Sean will be previewing bouts such as the rubber match between junior welterweights (140 lbs.) Kendall Holt and Ricardo Torres.

Until then, there’s plenty more to say about the stunning Manny Pacquiao knockout of Oscar De La Hoya, its undercard and some other events over the weekend. There were historic moments and human moments we haven’t yet discussed at any length, as well as moments that don’t fit into either category, like Keyshia Cole’s kickass rendition of the national anthem above.

  • First, a little word about Saturday night’s live blog. I had a great time with it, and really appreciated all the people who stopped by, all of whom brought something to the table. It was enough of a success I suspect I’ll do it for fights of smaller magnitude as well in the near future. Like, for instance, the Cunningham-Adamek fight. And some of you folk who stopped by for the live blog, please do share your comments more frequently and regularly for non-live blog events. I’ve said it a bunch, but one of the things I like most about this blog is connecting with other real boxing fans, arguing with them, joking with them, all of it.
  • We’ll do our year-end awards next week, but I’ve already telegraphed the fact that if Pacquiao defeated De La Hoya, he’d be my easy pick for 2008 Fighter of the Year. By beating De La Hoya at 147 lbs., his third weight class of the year, he not only sealed the Fighter of the Year award for me, but he became the clear front-runner for Fighter of the Decade. It was primarily a two-man race between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and now the only way I can imagine Mayweather winning it is if he comes back and beats Pacquiao. Not only that, but I’d have to think long and hard about how high is too high for Pacquiao on the list of all-time greats. Top 50? I can see it. Top 25? Considerably less crazy than before Saturday night. And why?
  • Because what Pacquiao did was a reasonable facsimile of what Henry Armstrong did when he simultaneously ruled three divisions, one of boxing history’s greatest achievements. No, it is not the same thing. Amstrong went from featherweight (126 lbs.) to welterweight (147 lbs.) then to lightweight (135 lbs.) and won titles in each weight class. That was back in the day when there was only one champ per division. Pacquiao controversially won the lineal 130-pound Ring magazine title against Juan Manuel Marquez to start the year; stole an easy-pickings title against a nonetheless legit opponent and paper lightweight beltholder David Diaz; and completely destroyed one of the best fighters of the past couple decades in a fight expected to be a mismatch the other way at welterweight. I’ve often said Pacquiao’s weight division leaps mean less to me than his quality of opposition, but at a certain point, the gymnastics become too incredible to ignore. Doing all of what he’s done since debuting at 106 pounds is unbelievable, but the last leg of it coming in three consecutive fights is all the more unbelievable.
  • Not to be a statistics nerd, but the Pacquiao connect percentages are so very, very gaudy and must be shared for those who didn’t see them. The Pacman landed a whopping 59 percent of his power shots, to De La Hoya’s 31 percent. He almost quadrupled De La Hoya’s power punch totals, connecting 195 to Oscar’s 51. Pacquiao swamped him so badly that all three judges scored the 7th 10-8, and one judge awarded another 10-8 round. The only fighter I’ve seen do that kind of business against his fellow elite opponents regularly is Mayweather.
  • If I haven’t said it enough times, Pacquiao-Mayweather is THE fight. I’ve never been a big fan of Mayweather’s ego, and I offered mixed praise when he officially quit the sport, but today, I’m rooting for his ego to get all inflamed so he’ll end this so-called retirement. Pacquiao knocked out De La Hoya while Mayweather narrowly out-pointed him. That’s gotta sting, right, Floyd? For your pound-for-pound #1 successor to outshine you so?
  • Absent that fight, despite remarking that Ricky Hatton wouldn’t stand much of a chance against Pacquiao, I’d still be interested in seeing the undisputed junior welterweight (140 lbs.) champ get it on with Pacquiao. It’d be a big momentum-killer if Pacquiao fell into “fight once a year” mode, and there’s no reason Pacquiao can’t make a fight with Hatton in early 2009 if Mayweather won’t sign. From there, again absent a Mayweather fight, I hope Pacquiao will consider that third bout with Marquez, especially if Marquez gets his own big win in early 2009. Because if Pacquiao slays Hatton and Mayweather stays retired, what’s next? A fight with Miguel Cotto? Maybe, but only if he beats Antonio Margarito in the rematch this summer. And what if Cotto loses? Pacquiao-Margarito is no longer laughable, but I have to think Pacquiao-Marquez III does better business. Fights against Nate Campbell, Juan Diaz, any of it — none of them do better business than the trilogy fight. Whomever he chooses, I’d like to see him fight three times or more in 2009. I think he’s a highly saleable commodity, Pacquiao, but he has to strike while the iron is hot, because for as good as his personal story is, he’s not in the personality galaxy De La Hoya, Hatton or even Mayweather are in the United States. He needs to be selling the best product he offers often: the way he fights.
  • For as amazing as Pacquiao’s performance was, I think it’s interesting that his trainer, Freddie Roach, is attributing the win in large measure to De La Hoya being “shot.” It’s not that Roach isn’t right, but you think he’d be emphasizing how good Pacquiao was, not how bad De La Hoya was. It’s hard to say precisely why De La Hoya looked so terrible, because while he didn’t look great against Mayweather or Steve Forbes, his two most recent opponents, he very nearly beat Mayweather on the scorecards and rather easily beat the less formidable Forbes. I have to think that making 145 pounds contributed to his demise, because his legs were deceased. As much as Roach deserves credit for building Pacquiao into what he is, I have a tough time blaming Nacho Beristain for De La Hoya’s loss — he was giving De La Hoya sincere advice in the corner, but Oscar wasn’t following any of it because (yes) he couldn’t pull the trigger, and Beristain’s only had him for one fight.
  • If there is one tremendous down side to what happened, it is that De La Hoya’s days as an attraction are completely over. I get why some people hate De La Hoya, I really do. But everyone needs to acknowledge that for the past decade or more, he is the only person whose name a random person off the street would recognize among current boxers. He has drawn millions upon millions of fans to the sport, and he’s given some of the best fighters on the planet an opportunity to boost their profile simply by stepping into the ring with him. His absence will, in some ways, be a positive, but mostly not. It will create a tremendous void that Pacquiao can’t fill by himself. This was very much like the Joe Louis/Rocky Marciano “passing of the torch from faded face of boxing to fresh new face of boxing” fight, but back then, there were more people who could carry the Transcendent Boxing Superstar torch than there are now.
  • I have nothing but disdain for people who complain about De La Hoya quitting, which he effectively did by not answering the ref’s questions about whether he wanted to continue. De La Hoya was taking a beating that, if it had continued much longer, could have been of the life-shortening variety. So ferocious was the beating that Pacquiao, who never took his foot off the gas against David Diaz, effectively backed off of De La Hoya in the final round. Nobody should have to give his life in the ring, especially in a fight that effectively retires him. Anyone who wants to go out on his shield should be praised for the effort, but I’m sorry, nobody should be ridiculed for making a decision like the one De La Hoya had to. If he quit after the 3rd round or something, yeah, I could see the criticism. But he was toast for at least two rounds before he quit. I realize we’re in a society where quitting is frowned upon, and boxing is a sport where that’s especially pronounced, but I’d like to see people adjust their attitudes in situations like this, because at a certain point it’s like we’ve become advocates for suicide or potential self-inflicted long-term harm. It takes exceptional bravery to do what boxers do. We shouldn’t give them incentive to be too brave, which is when guys get into deep, deep trouble.
  • Both men were simply
    about as classy as you can get at the end of the bout, behaving like true sportsmen. I always imagine grace in those moments being difficult to summon, whether one is the victor or the loser. De La Hoya, in what was basically the worst moment of his career, seemed almost eager to congratulate Pacquiao. The words they exchanged were very poignant. “You’re still my idol,” Pacquiao told De La Hoya. “No, you’re my idol,” De La Hoya told Pacquiao. De La Hoya offered zero excuses, at least so far. “He’s just a great fighter, he deserves everything that he’s accomplished… My heart still wants to fight, that’s for sure. But when your physical doesn’t respond, what can you do?” He went over to Roach — who relentlessly savaged him in the build-up to the fight for being over the hill — and humbly said, “Freddie, you are right. I don’t have it anymore.” (Or “were,” not “are;” different outlets have offered different quotes.) Honestly: How many of us would have been as dignified in any comparable situation?
  • Before switching topics, I want to give some props to a couple friends who didn’t make it to the live blog to offer the good insights/quips etc. that so many did there. One is my co-worker Josh, who called the precise round in which Oscar would fall. Second, here are some words from Jared, who was at my place last night, writing me and saying something I thought precisely but that he put so well I have to defer to him: “To watch De La Hoya sit there with the look of defeat on his face — it was there, even though his face was swollen — and not respond to the trainer because he was too proud to say what everyone knew — that it was over — was difficult. That’s why boxing is so fascinating — it can be both tremendous and terrible at the same time — and exposes everyone’s humanity without compromise. Sadly, a great fighter had [his] career end in almost the worst possible way.”
  • So that undercard was an atrocity, and I deeply apologize for suggesting to anyone that it would be anything less. E-ROC, Spirit and some others raised the point that MMA events always have better undercards, and in the list of things that boxing should emulate about mixed martial arts, quality undercards is a candidate for #1. HBO says its surveys show that people buy pay-per-views for the headline fights and don’t care about bad undercards. It’s my suggestion that they take a look at the live blog transcript and see how many people specifically avoided buying the pay-per-view Saturday because they’d be paying $55 for a single quality fight. Really: That survey data is bad. I can’t say I talk to as many boxing fans as HBO does, but plenty of them that come through here have said they can’t bring themselves to pay that kind of money for a PPV absent a good undercard.
  • Keyshia Cole, as I said in the live blog, should sing every national anthem ever. She simply rocked it, and she may have had some funky hair and garb, but one way or the other, she has the visuals to match the pipes. Live blog participant OMG said that “as a black man” he would… well, I won’t repeat what he said. But as a white man, I’m right there with him.
  • Finally, in other weekend action, Carl Froch out-pointed Jean Pascal in what has widely been described as an entertaining brawl for a super middleweight (168 lbs.) belt. I’ll be looking forward to tracking that one down and sharing it here as soon as I can. And Amir Khan bounced back well from a knockout loss to score a 2nd round knockout over an opponent there to get knocked out. I hope the 21-year-old Khan doesn’t see that as a sign that he’s ready for a lightweight world title or something. It would be a shame to see the guy not tighten up his defense over the next couple years before stepping up again, because that’s his only hope for winning a world title.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.