Sunday, December 7, 2008
PACQUIAO PUTS IT ON DE LA HOYA
Manny Pacquiao confirmed his status as the world's best pound-for-pound boxer last night with a stunning, lop-sided victory in Las Vegas over Oscar De La Hoya, one that - if sense prevails - will send boxing's "golden boy" into retirement and propel Ricky Hatton towards the most sustained and serious preparation of his career. The Manchester boxer is hoping to fight the Filipino in England next May, probably at Wembley. He had better be more than ready.
Lighter, shorter and less illustrious, Pacquiao was billed as De La Hoya's inferior in multiple ways but when the boxing started he was so superior that this hugely anticipated contest rapidly developed into a ritual humiliation. The official verdict was a technical knock-out at the end of the eighth round but truth was that De La Hoya quit on his stool – whether at the behest of his corner or of his own volition wasn't immediately clear, although in the greater scheme of things such detail scarcely mattered. The 35-year-old began the night as the odds-on favourite and ended it in a Las Vegas hospital, where he underwent precautionary checks.
Two of the three judges scored all eight rounds for Pacquiao, while a third gave the opening round to the American – an assessment that was not so much a mistake as a case for the ringside doctor. "I just don't have it anymore,'' the loser, a world champion in six weight divisions, said afterwards.
No one inside the MGM's Grand Garden Theatre had any reason to disagree with that, although in fairness to De La Hoya it was hard to believe anyone – not even De La Hoya in his prime – could have prevailed in the face of Pacquiao's speed and ringcraft.
The tone was set from the opening bell, with the Filipino landing a couple of early combinations, both unanswered, and a series of jabs. They didn't appear to seriously hurt his opponent but they established that his disadvantages in height and reach were destined to be of little consequence.
By contrast, De La Hoya barely landed a punch, never mind a punch of any consequence, in the opening exchanges and was reduced to the pawing aimlessly in the direction of his elusive opponent, like a late night reveller in search of the bedroom light switch.
The second round was no less one-sided, along with the third and fourth rounds, by which time De La Hoya's face was badly marked and Pacquiao's confidence so heightened that he could afford to mock his opponent on the (rare) occasions where he was actually able to land a blow.
De La Hoya retained a puncher's chance of snatching a victory, but even that hope was extinguished when he landed a solid upper-cut in the sixth round only to see his opponent shrug it off and press on ahead. Pacquiao's sustained attacks in the seventh and eighth left the American staggering, held upright only by his own courage. But even that had its limit.
"We knew we had him after the first round," Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach said. "He had no legs, he was hesitant and he was shot. He is a great fighter, I love him, but I hope this is last fight and that he will retire."
If De La Hoya's career is over, it will be the end of a remarkable story that began when he won the Olympic gold medal in Barcelona in 1992 and went on to become the biggest box office attraction in the sport. "My heart still wants to fight, that's for sure," De La Hoya said. "But when your physical doesn't respond, what can you do? I have to be smart and make sure I think about my future plans."