by David P. Greisman
He can do it with 400 punches, and he can do it with one. He can do it with power, and he can do it with speed.
It is no longer “if” for Manny Pacquiao, but “how.”
He has been a champion in four weight divisions, a beltholder in four more. He has gone undefeated for the past five years, lost just once in the past decade, and won 14 times against 13 world titlists. Nine of those victories came by knockout or technical knockout.
No obstacle is insurmountable, no opponent unbeatable.
He has stood in with more powerful punchers and taken their hardest shots. He has broken down men who said he could not hurt them.
Pacquiao did both on Saturday against Antonio Margarito, demolishing a man who, a decade ago, was fighting five weight divisions above him. Pacquiao was a junior featherweight then, soon to capture a 122-pound title, Margarito was a welterweight then, still a couple of years from holding a belt in the 147-pound division.
Pacquiao weighed in at about 144.5 pounds on Friday, 148 pounds on Saturday. Margarito made the contractual limit of 150 pounds on Friday and had rehydrated to 165 pounds by Saturday.
This was a size advantage – for Pacquiao.
So many boxers starve and sweat to make weight, using the period between the weigh-in and the opening bell to pack the pounds back on. They strive to have advantages in size and strength in a division that they do not belong in for but for those few moments they step on the scale.
Pacquiao counts calories, too, but he adds them up rather than subtracting them. Those 7,000 calories per day help him pack on muscle – but not too much mass – so that he can carry his power into higher weight classes without losing too much of the speed that makes his punches all the more effective.
Pacquiao used to be a one-handed fighter, powerful but predictable, throwing out two southpaw jabs with his right hand and then following with a fierce left cross. He was often off-balance, but he often got away with it. As HBO’s Larry Merchant once described him, “He’s one dimensional, but it’s a hell of a dimension.”
He added a right hook. He absorbed the technique and training imparted to him by Freddie Roach. His improved footwork turned what was a fearsome puncher in the lower weight classes into a formidable boxer-puncher, one with the offensive and defensive skills necessary to compete with – and defeat – opponents who were now much larger, but also much slower.
He ducked and weaved and bounced and dodged against lightweight David Diaz, hitting him with jabs and crosses and hooks and uppercuts and the final overhand left that sent Diaz crashing face-first to the canvas.
He darted in and out and pot-shotted and delivered combinations against a welterweight Oscar De La Hoya, limiting De La Hoya to only one landed punch for every five thrown. Pacquiao, meanwhile, couldn’t miss. His lowest power-punch connect rate on the night was 50 percent.
He countered junior-welterweight Ricky Hatton with right hooks and then set him up for a perfectly placed left, knocking Hatton unconscious within two rounds.
He traded punches with a welterweight Miguel Cotto for four rounds, then cranked into a higher gear, and then an even higher one. Cotto had thought he could overwhelm Pacquiao with power, but Pacquiao overwhelmed him with speed. Pacquiao’s punches came from odd angles and in blistering, bruising flurries.
That hand-speed paralyzed a welterweight Joshua Clottey, who stayed in a defensive shell for nearly the entire 12-round bout. Clottey never went down, but he didn’t go down fighting either. Pacquiao threw more than 1,200 punches on the night, more than 100 per round.
Pacquiao was the overwhelming favorite against Margarito. His foot speed had proven to be too much for fighters who box better than Margarito does. His hand speed had proven to be too intimidating for fighters with better defense than Margarito has.
And yet the closer we got to the fight, the closer we were made to think the fight could be.
Clottey had thrown only 399 punches, hitting Pacquiao with just 108. But he had hurt Pacquiao with single shots and marked up his face with what little did land. Margarito, a pressure fighter, was bound to throw and land more punches than Clottey did.
Pacquiao’s training camp had been beset by distractions, particularly his role as a congressman in the Philippines. Word had leaked out that trainer Freddie Roach had been unhappy with how Pacquiao looked in some sparring sessions.
If Pacquiao couldn’t keep Margarito off of him, Margarito could break him down as he had done to other smaller, faster foes.
It is no longer “If” for Pacquiao.
The farther we got into the fight, the farther Pacquiao pulled away.
Margarito worked behind a jab in the opening round, trying to establish distance between himself and a shorter man who would need to get closer to land. Except Pacquiao would back away, stretching Margarito forward and bringing his head in range for counter shots.
Margarito ratcheted up the pressure in the second round. But it was Pacquiao’s volume of punches that would give him fits. Margarito would throw a three-punch combination. Pacquiao would respond with three punches of his own, then four, then more. Margarito would come forward or cut off the ring. Pacquiao would send out single shots, then move, then send out another barrage, then move again.
“He has no power,” Margarito told his trainer after the third round. “He can’t hurt me.”
Pacquiao had landed 70 punches through three rounds. One punch in the fourth would imprint a sizable welt under Margarito’s right eye. Another single punch in the fourth would hurt Margarito to the body, forcing Margarito to drop his right elbow and retreat in hopes of recovering.
Pacquiao would land 49 punches in that fourth round, including 43 power punches out of 62 thrown, a 69 percent connect rate. His punches always seemed to have the perfect placement, the perfect timing, the perfect amount of torque and speed behind them.
Margarito would have the rare moments, trapping Pacquiao on the ropes, digging heavy hooks and uppercuts to Pacquiao’s body and head. Those moments seemed to coincide with portions of rounds that Pacquiao was taking off. And then Pacquiao would explode off the ropes and regain control with firepower and flash.
Margarito’s past rise to welterweight prominence had come as a result of heavy pressure and a sturdy chin. No obstacle is insurmountable, no opponent unbeatable. Both Margarito’s willingness to throw punches and his willingness to take punches would be favorable to Pacquiao’s chances.
Margarito, never a defensive dynamo, would be in front of Pacquiao throughout the fight and open to the hundreds of shots that pierced his porous guard. And while Margarito would take punches in order to deliver his own, these punches from Pacquiao had speed that amplified their power. These punches added up.
Forty power shots in the fifth round; 32 in the sixth; 39 in the seventh; 36 in the eighth. Pacquiao seemed to take the ninth round off but still landed 25 power punches out of 48 thrown. He was 57 of 89 in that category in the 10th and 51 of 75 in the 11th.
It was one-sided. But what a hell of a one side it was. Pacquiao turned to referee Laurence Cole three times in that 11th round, silently imploring the third man in the ring to stop him from hurting Margarito any more. During a clinch in that stanza, Pacquiao stood inactive, seemingly not out of a need for rest, but rather out of a need for mercy.
Margarito’s right eye was almost completely closed, and even he could see that this fight had been decided. But he didn’t want it to be over. He went back out for more punishment in the 12th.
Pacquiao wasn’t willing to give it to him. He boxed for much of that final round, letting Margarito last the remaining three minutes behind an offense of 50 jabs and only eight power punches. Pacquiao would still flurry, but he would not seek a finish.
There was no need to prove something that had already been proven.
Pacquiao would land 474 punches out of 1,069 thrown, sending out 713 power punches and landing 411, a 58 percent connect rate. A brutal 401 went to Margarito’s head, including the one that left the welt and the subsequent shots that opened a cut, raised swelling and fractured his orbital bone.
Pacquiao had also taken 229 of Margarito’s punches, including 135 power punches. He stood in with a more powerful puncher and took his hardest shots. He broke down a man who said he could not hurt him.
Some withhold credit from a fighter for beating an opponent he should have beat. But judgment should not rely merely on whether a fighter wins, but the manner in which he does so.
Pacquiao demolished Margarito. What impressed was not if Pacquiao could do it. It is no longer “If” for Manny Pacquiao, but “How.”
The 10 Count
1. The announced attendance at Cowboys Stadium for Pacquiao-Margarito was 41,734. Whether that’s the actual number – as opposed to an inflated figure – remains to be seen. Whether that number is a disappointment – well, that’s up for discussion.
It’s actually less than Pacquiao’s fight with Joshua Clottey drew in March at the same venue. Forget the announced attendance of 51,000. Pacquiao-Clottey had 41,841 – selling 36,371 tickets with an additional 5,500 seats given away for free, according to the Sports Business Journal.
Pacquiao-Clottey had the misfortune of being a fight not involving Pacquiao against Floyd Mayweather Jr. But it had the fortune of being the first-ever fight in Cowboys Stadium, a spectacle of an event. Pacquiao-Margarito also had the misfortunate of not being Pacquiao-Mayweather. And it wasn’t the first-ever fight in Cowboys Stadium either.
There was no difference in ticket prices. Tickets for both fights ranged from as low as $50 to as much as $700, with mid-range prices of $100, $200, $300 and $500.
To some, ticket sales have to be seen as a relative disappointment – not because of the pre-fight predictions that as many as 70,000 people would come – but because there should have been more people there.
Clottey has no drawing power in the United States. Margarito is a popular Mexican fighter who was facing the best fighter in the sport today.
With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away (and Christmas in a month and a half), perhaps people chose to save their travel money for the holidays. Perhaps people chose to stay in and watch this fight on pay-per-view.
We’ll find that out later this week. Still, getting more than 40,000 into an arena to watch a boxing match is never a bad thing.
2. Pacquiao-Margarito received gobs of mainstream attention – Pacquiao was profiled on “60 Minutes,” Pacquiao sang with Will Ferrell on “The Jimmy Kimmel Show,” and the bout received write-ups in The New York Times and other newspapers. There was a “24/7” series on HBO. People knew about this fight.
Or at least they knew about the storylines outside of it.
Antonio Margarito’s tampered hand wraps for his fight with Shane Mosley.
Manny Pacquiao’s distractions that might or might not have been interfering with his training camp.
Margarito and his camp making fun of Freddie Roach’s Parkinson’s disease.
Pacquiao’s inability to consummate a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Ines Sainz being hired to be eye candy… er… a reporter for Top Rank.
3. Even on fight night, all the talk was about a cluster-mess of accusations and psychological warfare:
Antonio Margarito’s facial hair and whether his long goatee would need to be cut off.
Manny Pacquiao’s hand wraps and whether a piece of prepared, rolled tape had wrongly been inserted.
Antonio Margarito and whether he had taken Hydroxycut or ephedrine or two cups of coffee.
“I have the packet of Splenda in question, Jim,” Max Kellerman said during Round 6 of Mikes Jones vs. Jesus Soto-Karass. “It does appear to be empty.”
4. Dear Jim Lampley,
Thank you for sneaking this into Round 8 of a Manny Pacquiao fight:
“Margarito nods at him. Pacquiao hits him at will. BANG!”
5. We have one fight we want to see Manny Pacquiao in – against Floyd Mayweather Jr. But what about Margarito?
What about a rematch between Margarito and Miguel Cotto?
What about a war between Margarito and Alfredo Angulo?
What about a comeback fight for Margarito against Joel Julio?
What about a title shot for Margarito against Cornelius Bundrage?
6. It’s great that SportsCenter had Brian Kenny and Teddy Atlas on ESPN2 at 1 a.m. to dissect what had just happened on the HBO pay-per-view. It’s a shame that Kenny and Atlas were interviewed separately by a SportsCenter anchor, because Atlas made a false, damaging statement that otherwise would’ve been connected by the on-point Kenny had Kenny been the anchor.
Atlas told this one anchor – and, more importantly, the audience – that Manny Pacquiao had refused Olympic-style drug testing as a term for a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
This is not true.
Pacquiao agreed to drug tests, but the hang-up was on if there would be a cut-off date for those tests and when that cut-off date would be.
And it’s not like SportsCenter is going to run an on-air correction. The damage is done – and the clip is still posted on ESPN’s website.
7. As I’ve criticized media members for their perpetuating the myth that 51,000 people went to Cowboys Stadium for Pacquiao-Clottey, I must now credit media members for their proper descriptions.
Jake Donovan, BoxingScene.com, in a pre-fight feature last week: “Pacquiao’s previous visit to Cowboys Stadium drew a crowd of 41,841, the best-attended boxing event in the United States in more than a decade.”
Jim Lampley, HBO, opening the pay-per-view broadcast: “We are live at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Eight months ago in this building, more than 40,000 fans attended Manny Pacquiao’s decision victory over Joshua Clottey.”
Bart Barry, 15rounds.com, in his wrap-up of Pacquiao-Margarito: “Attendance was announced at 41,734 – though we’ll not know the actual number till the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation reports on gate receipts.”
8. Guillermo Rigondeaux landed an average of 10 punches per round against Ricardo Cordoba. Ricardo Cordoba landed an average of six punches per round against Guillermo Rigondeaux.
My forehead landed on the keyboard an average of three times a round during Rigondeaux-Cordoba.
Thank goodness Guillermo Rigondeaux isn’t represented by Al Haymon.
9. Boxers Behaving Badly update: Dereck Chisora’s shot at heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko is a go – Chisora, who pleaded guilty last month to charges of assaulting his now-ex-girlfriend, will not spend any time in jail, according to the Associated Press.
Chisora was sentenced to 12 weeks behind bars, but that sentence was suspended for two years. He was “ordered to carry out 150 hours of community service [and] pay $2,400 in compensation along with additional costs,” the report said.
Chisora, 26, is 14-0 with nine knockouts. The Klitschko fight is scheduled for Dec. 11.
10. Joshua Clottey just decided to throw a punch…
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
Follow David on Twitter at twitter.com/fightingwords2 or on Facebook at facebook.com/fightingwordsboxing, or send questions and comments to email@example.com
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