After yet another stunning performance from Manny Pacquiao Saturday, there are only a few professional athletes today who have accomplished close to as much in their sports as Pacquiao has in his: Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Lance Armstrong, maybe one or two others. There are only a handful of athletes who are in his league for pure excitement. Nobody but Pacquiao is upper crust for both accomplishment and excitement.
The fight went basically how I expected, and as most did: Antonio Margarito was anywhere from a 6-1 to 4-1 underdog, and he lost almost every single round on the scorecards. But that doesn’t take away from the exquisite execution of the expected execution. For Pacquiao’s first fight, he weighed 106 pounds, and that was reportedly with stones in his pockets. He weighed 148 pounds Saturday. Margarito weighed 165. Differentials in weight like that have happened before and the smaller man has won, but it’s still remarkable for a junior flyweight-to-welterweight to beat up a super middleweight as badly as Pacquiao beat up Margarito.
Some other observations:
- On re-watching the bout, it was a bit more competitive than it looked to me last night. Pacquiao said that he was lucky to survive the 6th round because of a big body shot Margarito landed, and said some of Margarito’s uppercuts hurt him. (Let’s just get this out of the way: I was drunk last night, and a bit worked up, to say the least. This fight has been the most polarizing event I’ve written about since I started writing about boxing. As a result of my criticisms of the bout, and related feuding, I’ve been called a crybaby, a whiner, sanctimonious, hypocritical, and so forth. So when the fight proved as one-sided as I predicted, I reacted emotionally, not rationally; personally, not professionally. I ain’t proud of it and I apologize. I think I’m seeing more clearly today, and I hope you can write this off as a one-time outburst rather than think my credibility permanently damaged. You’re entitled if you do, but I hope my regret — and reconsideration of positions I took last night — suggest I am indeed looking at this in a clear-eyed fashion now.)
- Speed was the major difference between these two, but Pacquiao also threw more, landed more, was more accurate — more than 400 power punch connects? ouch — and was just better in every way except size. Better offensively, better defensively, better better better. Jim Lampley said Pacquiao is the best offensive fighter he’s ever seen, and you know, it’s not an overstatement. And really, Pacquiao opted to make it harder than he had to, as we thought he might. He decided to trade more and move less than he could’ve. And he did it after his worst training camp ever. The guy loves fighting, and for all my misgivings about the Margarito match-up, it takes the sting out of it some to have watched such a transcendent fighter work his magic.
- Friend of the site JasonTO raised a fair objection to my increased suspicion of whether Margarito was a career-long cheater in light of this performance. Would even the “old” Margarito, pre-glove loading bust, have stood a chance against Pacquiao? And I think the answer is, probably not. But I think he might have done better. Stylistically, a fast fighter is the worst thing for Margarito. But he fought differently than the old Margarito, focusing so much on the jab. And volume-wise, Margarito got completely outworked. Paul Williams once outworked Margarito, but Margarito did a lot more work overall in that fight than in this one. This Margarito wasn’t the old one in his approach, the guy who threw insane numbers of power punches, and maybe that version would have had a better chance of stopping Pacquiao. What this Margarito brought was, first and foremost, size; Pacquiao might have faced some competition from any super middleweight. He also brought determination and a great chin. He didn’t seem to bring much power. It’s the third consecutive fight where his power appeared absent. So I think there are a few theories one could put forward. 1. The likelihood increases that Margarito probably cheated more than the once he got caught against Shane Mosley. That’s my theory, and I admit it’s only a theory. It’s one that has a fair amount of anecdotal evidence in support of it, but there’s no direct proof and I recognize that. 2. Margarito was badly diminished by the punishment he took in his win over Miguel Cotto. Also totally plausible. 3. Margarito’s new style doesn’t accumulate punishment like his old style. But even then Margarito showed more power on his shots pre-Mosley, to my eye. 4. Pacquiao was just so awesome that it didn’t matter. Pacquiao has a tremendous chin, so maybe that somehow made Margarito’s power seem less than it was. Also plausible, but I would ask you this: Did Margarito look like he would have hurt any of the top men at 154? Would you have picked Margarito to beat Alfredo Angulo last night? Williams, in a rematch? Sergio Martinez, in a rematch? Cotto, in a rematch? Even Kermit Cintron, in a rematch? I wouldn’t have. Against someone of any ability close to his size, I think Margarito loses just the same last night.
- As much as I’m not a fan of Margarito, I can’t enjoy any fighter taking an unnecessarily prolonged beating like that. Referee Laurence Cole should have stopped it, but the one thing you can count on from Cole is making the wrong call. And trainer Robert Garcia evidently doesn’t understand his job, either. He said, hey, Tony’s a warrior, I wasn’t not going to do that to him. I hear trainers say this kind of thing a lot. It is wrong-headed beyond belief. When you’re fighter’s a warrior, that’s exactly the time when you have to be prepared to pull the plug. If the guy wasn’t a warrior, he’d quit on his own. Margarito was competitive in the fight, but by the 10th round he wasn’t. You did him no favors by letting him finish. He went the hospital for precautionary reasons, but I haven’t heard about it being anything worse than that. Still, better safe than sorry on that kind of thing.
- The announced attendance for the fight was 41,000, far below what was predicted by promoter Bob Arum — 70,000 — and less even than the announced attendance for Pacquiao’s fight with Joshua Clottey. This is mystifying. Margarito should have been more of a draw than Clottey, right? I can think of a couple explanations. Maybe Margarito’s antics were even more of a turn-off than I expected, but I doubt it. I still expect the bout to do strong pay-per-view numbers. Maybe Dallas was too depressed by the Cowboys to want to visit the home of their sad team, but that doesn’t explain everything. Maybe the novelty of a big fight at Cowboys Stadium had worn off, and that sounds reasonable. Or maybe boxing has lost momentum as 2010 has gone on. Or were the tickets just more expensive this time? I find this curious.
- Pacquiao intends to keep fighting, and I couldn’t be any happier. Top Rank’s Bob Arum says the first target is Floyd Mayweather, but Mayweather is a mess right now — legal trouble, disinterest in boxing, etc. Mainly, I believe Mayweather doesn’t think he can beat Pacquiao, and I agree with him. If you’re Mayweather and you watch last night, do you think you have a better chance of beating him than before? You shouldn’t. I don’t think this fight will ever happen, and it’s all Mayweather’s fault, shamefully. Shane Mosley is another option, and it wouldn’t be my first choice. Honestly, I don’t think Pacquiao should fight above welterweight — he probably should stick to junior welterweight. That makes Juan Manuel Marquez an option, or the winner of the Timothy Bradley-Devon Alexander/Amir Khan-Marcos Maidana round robin, albeit probably later in the year for that. Outside of Mayweather, there’s just nobody all that compelling at 147 for Pacquiao. There’s good news in Arum’s declaration that Pacquiao’s next opponent probably won’t be from Top Rank, which rules out a Cotto rematch or the likes of Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., thankfully. But don’t expect anyone to compete with Pacquiao. Not at this rate.