Before last Saturday (Sunday in the Philippines), the last time Manny Pacquiao had lost via a knockout was against Thailand's Medgoen Singsurat when he was going for the WBC Flyweightchampionship. That was on September 17, 1999, more than twelve years ago. He was "knocked down" by Shane Mosley in 2011 but the judges snubbed it. Needless to say Juan Manuel Marquez, the man Pacquiao knocked down four times previous, never had the chance to deck the 8-time world titlist. In fact, Marquez had never beaten Pacquiao officially.
That all changed in Las Vegas on December 8 (December 9 in the Philippines), 2012.
As the Catholic world celebrated Immaculate Concepcion day and the music world remembered the death of former Beatle John Lennon, Marquez made history of his own by not only sending Pacquiao to the canvass, but rendered him unconscious. Needless to say Marquez exorcised the sting of his former setbacks to the Filipino congressman and—in the eyes of his Mexican countrymen—vindicated himself as the true winner of their rivalry.
In the final second of the sixth, Pacquiao was walking in to finish off a round that he had clearly won. It was then that Marquez unleashed the punch of his life: a right hook that landed flush on Pacquiao's nose. Coupled by the fact that Pacquiao's foot caught a piece of Marquez's leg, Manny went down and his face hit the floor. He was out cold. Referee Kenny Bayless did not even employ the count. He almost immediately waved off Pacquiao and the shock of a nation (and the jubilation of another) commenced. Manny's wife Jinky was aghast and almost inconsolable as her husband laid sprawled on the canvass for what seemed to be more than five agonizing minutes. When he finally regained consciousness, Marquez was already making his way to see if he was alright. It reminded me of how Ricky Hatton went down when Pacquiao nailed him with that unseen left hook in 2009. Hatton's soul left the building momentarily. Now, it was Pacquiao who had the same experience.
What happened? How could the man who had always managed to escape with a victory against "Dinamita" get so decisively defeated? Let's look at it round by round.
Round 1 (10-9, Pacquiao): After the pre-fight festivities had fizzled out, the two grizzled warriors locked horns for the fourth time in eight years. It looked like they were just going up against each other for the first time. They exchanged measuring jabs, a few attempted incursions with some combinations and some side to side shifts just to see the reaction of the other. Pacquiao controlled the opener, like he always has. Marquez looked to be waiting for opportunities to counter-punch, but he couldn't get it done. It was uneventful.
Round 2 (10-9, Pacquiao): Still pretty much more of the same, but Marquez was noticeably advancing more. Pacquiao still kept him at bay with his jabs and combinations. Marquez, however, got the rhythm of his counter-punches and even landed a few to push Pacquiao backwards. But Manny still had the edge going into the third round.
Round 3 (10-8, Marquez): Ignacio "Nacho" Berstain, Marquez's superstar trainer, had been claiming that their training camp was concentrated on having his ward bring more aggression instead of being a pure counter-puncher. Although it was not evident in the first two rounds, it came to life big time in this third round. After an advancing move that looked like abait for Pacquiao to engage instead saw Marquez continuing the move and unleashed a wicked right hook that sent Pacquiao to the floor for the first time ever in their encounters. Manny was up by the count of two, but was clearly shaken. Pacquiao tried to salvage the round, but his legs weren't completely underneath him yet and Marquez just punctuated his mini-victory by ending the round with a flurry.
Round 4 (10-9, Marquez): Not yet fully recovered from being floored in the previous round, Pacquiao looked sluggish trying to hold off the attacks of Marquez. He did have a few moments when he had Marquez against the ropes, but JMM just used his speed to evade a staggering Pacquiao. One thing was for sure at this point: Marquez was showing a new, more aggressive approach. He was the initiator of the engagements. Pacquiao had a late run that almost stole the round, but clearly Marquez was still firing well.
Round 5 (10-8, Pacquiao): As both fighters tangled in the middle, Pacquiao released that vicious left hook that Marquez saw four times before…and for the fifth time Marquez was ruled down (his glove touched the canvass after losing his balance from a punch—a knockdown). It was what is called a "flash knockdown" and really didn't faze Marquez too much, but he was being administered the standing eight-count, his face evidently showed disappointment as he now knew the fight was close again. Then both got involved in the rumble of the fight, all the way until the end of the round. That still couldn't change the official score of Pacquiao, gaining a 10-8 score due to the knockdown.
Round 6 (2:59, Marquez via KO): Manny looked like he was really beginning to rev his engines. His combinations were now landing cleanly and had Marquez covering up more. His one-two salvos were finding its marks and Marquez could only parry some and counter-punch the others, but Pacquiao clearly had the round in the bag to take an "official" (all judges had the bout at 47-46 entering the sixth round) lead. Then the final second of the round changed the headlines completely. Marquez saw that Pacquiao was stepping into another one-two attempt to punctuate the round, stepped to the side and fired that right straight into the face of a charging Pacquiao. It was lights out for Manny and devastation for the millions of Filipinos who witnessed the fall of their hero. No count from Bayless, tears from Jinky, shock for the Philippines.
In retrospect, the name "Pacman" now holds a more significant meaning in all of this. Yes, Pacman gobbled up the pellets and when he swallowed the Power Pellet, had the ability to destroy the ghosts that were after him. But sometimes Pacman barely makes it to the Power Pellets. And also sometimes Pacman doesn't quite get there, resulting in the ghost destroying him. Pacman wilts and dies, but starts again as long as he still has "Lives". Interesting to see how that analogy becomes a fitting description to what transpired at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The ghost finally caught Pacman and Pacman wilted. The question is does this "Pacman" have any more lives? He's just lost two of them in a row.
Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao said it himself: "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose."
Juan Manuel Marquez won it fair and square, the way he wanted to—no judges.
Pacquiao himself won't make any excuses for his second consecutive defeat. He can't win them all and Marquez can't lose them all.
Top Rank Boxing's big boss Bob Arum: "Why not, why not, why not?" when asked about the possibility of a fifth fight. Manny said, "No problem." Can they get Marquez to oblige them again? That remains to be seen.
One thing is for sure, this was a classic bout. This rivaled the classics of Roberto Duran versus Sugar Ray Leonard—who was in attendance for this bout—and the late Diego Corrales versus Jose Luis Castillo; two of my favorite battles of all time. If there is a fifth bout, now I'll be very interested in that. Arum did point out a rivalry that was indeed historic and somehow never got old: Sugar Ray Robinson versus Jake Lamotta—they did tangle six times.
I said once that this particular rivalry was approaching "Shake, Rattle and Roll" proportions. People still watched that movie, even in its Nth sequel. This one might just work out.
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