Even in a sport known for its brutality, this was a shocking sight. Manny Pacquiao, once considered the undisputed pound for pound king of boxing, lying face down, unconscious in the MGM Grand Garden Arena ring, with a pool of blood streaming from his mouth. Mexican power puncher Juan Manuel Marquez finally found professional salvation in Las Vegas by knocking Pacquiao out cold at the 2:59 mark of the sixth and what turned out to be, final round. It goes without saying that Marquez’s stunning one-punch knockout of Pacquiao is hands down the knockout of the year as well as a strong candidate for knockout of the decade.
With one corker of a counter right hand, Marquez rewrote history and guaranteed his future entry into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The end came so suddenly that many people in attendance were still not quite sure what had exactly transpired after referee Kenny Bayless had started to count over the prostrate Pacquiao before stopping a few seconds in and waving it off. The ending was so dramatic and so abrupt that fans of both fighters were still shaking minutes after the fight was declared over. To say that this was not the ending most boxing fans had expected prior to this bout is a cosmic understatement. By scoring such a vicious and unequivocal knockout victory over his arch nemesis Pacquiao, Marquez has now elevated his career standing to the level of the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez, as perhaps the greatest Mexican fighter of all time.
Marquez had been saying for some time, certainly since his controversial majority decision loss to Pacquiao last November that he could no longer leave the outcome of this, his fourth meeting with Pacquiao, in the hands of the judges. Marquez was good on his promise as he shocked the world by producing a result that truly no one thought possible.
Many boxing experts thought that Marquez would have little left at age thirty-nine after coming up short in their third encounter in a fight most ringsiders thought Marquez had won. It is fair to say that not even the most ardent of Marquez supporters predicted such a vicious knockout ending as even a remote possibility.
The last time Pacquiao had been stopped was way back on September 17, 1999, in Thailand by Medgoen Singsurat in three rounds in a failed bid for the WBC flyweight world title. It is safe to say that Pacquiao has come a long way since that time. Pacquiao was dominating Marquez at the time the knockout occurred. Pacquiao had broken Marquez’s nose earlier in the fight, and the Mexican power puncher was having a very difficult time breathing during the fifth and sixth round of what surely will be their final encounter.
Marquez is known for being far and away the best counter puncher in boxing over the past decade and proved that point once again emphatically in his fourth battle with Pacquiao. Mind you, Pacquiao helped Marquez’s cause along by walking into a straight right hand that would have knocked out any welterweight in the world. The margin between victory and defeat for Pacquiao was a mere three seconds because if he had not rushed in, and got caught flush by Marquez right on the button at the 2:57 mark of the round, the sixth round would have ended and Pacquiao would have come out for the seventh round ahead on the cards of all three judges.
At the time of the knockout, Pacquiao was gaining momentum and starting to really tee off on Marquez, turning his Mexican’s foe’s face into a bloodied and battered mess. What Pacquiao neglected to remember in the heat of battle is that Marquez is always at his most dangerous when he is hurt and backing up. Pacquiao had Marquez seriously hurt repeatedly during the sixth round and was moving in to finish him off, when he walked right into one of the greatest right hands of all time. As the old timers would say, he got caught with a good shot, and that is why boxing is known as the theatre of the unexpected.
Marquez is an absolute master at setting traps for his opponents and then capitalizing on their mistakes once they take the bait. There will be those critics who believe that Pacquiao should have seen the knockout punch coming as he was dropped heavily to the canvas by a similar punch in round three, a wide, arching, counter right hand. In both instances, Marquez put his entire body weight into the punch, intentionally looking to score a knockout. Pacquiao’s legions of fans were stunned by the suddenness with which their hero was dethroned.
It was evident when Pacquiao hit the canvas in the third round that Marquez was trying to set him up again for the very same punch. The fact that Pacquiao got caught twice by the same right hand, with the second encounter turning his lights out for good, is proof that he is no longer the single most dominant force in professional boxing. A younger Pacquiao would have slipped that punch or blocked it with his left hand.
Pacquiao deserves credit for fighting back hard after getting dropped heavily in the third round and was clearly dominating the fight at the time of the stoppage. The image of Pacquiao lying on his back in the third round with his feet flailing in the air is not something boxing fans around the world are used to witnessing. In his prime Pacquiao has been viewed, perhaps unfairly, as being almost impossible to hit. Pacquiao’s defeat has shown the world that despite all of his phenomenal ring successes, he is indeed human after all. Pacquiao, fully recovered from his knockdown, rallied to hurt Marquez during the fifth round several times, eventually dropping his arch nemesis to the mat with a short left hook. Marquez is a master strategist in the ring and all his career victories have occurred when he has exercised brains over brawn and this fourth showdown with Pacquiao was no exception.
Marquez was successful in trying to get Pacquiao to lung at him with his left hand, thereby exposing himself to a counter right hand. In other words, Marquez was patiently waiting for Pacquiao to over commit to his punch, a leaping left hook, and when he did, he made the former P4P king pay a very heavy price. Although, after the fight ended, both men briefly hinted at a possible fifth encounter between them, that is highly unlikely because the conclusion to this fight left absolutely no doubt whatsoever as to who was the better man on this evening.
Marquez appeared to be hurt several times during the sixth round and Pacquiao’s eagerness at trying to end the match then and there is ultimately what cost him the fight. Pacquiao is a warrior and when he saw that Marquez was hurt in the sixth stanza, he pounced. This time his desire to score a quick knockout backfired although given the opportunity to do so again, he would probably not do anything differently. This is a hurting business. Both men know the risks they are undertaking when they enter the squared circle. What made the victory so stunning was the manner in which it occurred. Pacquiao is known for having a solid chin and great recuperative powers, but consistently engaging in so many grueling and exhaustive ring wars eventually caught up with the greatest Philippine fighter of all time.
Pacquiao was unconscious for a good two to three minutes, lying face first on the canvas without moving a muscle. Particularly disturbing was HBO’s unnecessary insistence at showing his wife Jinkee’s horrified reaction to her husband’s brutal knockout. She was finally allowed in the ring (assisted by promoter Bob Arum) to comfort her defeated husband after ringside doctors had managed to revive the fallen champion. Marquez’s graphic knockout of Pacquiao brings to an end one of the most exciting eras in boxing history as Pacquiao dominated the sport of boxing for an entire decade in a manner few before him have ever managed to accomplish.
The biggest loser on the evening from a financial standpoint is without a doubt Floyd Mayweather Jr. who may now be kicking himself for overplaying his hand and refusing to fight Pacquiao at an earlier time. Mayweather’s inexplicable and steadfast refusal to even consider facing Pacquiao previously under any circumstances now stands to become the biggest financial gaffe in professional boxing history. Pacquiao’s loss to Marquez now means there will be little if any interest in setting up such a potential big bucks mega fight between Pacquiao Mayweather Jr.
Both P4P entrants stood a chance of making upwards of thirty-five million dollars apiece for such a fight several years ago when they were the two hottest fighters in the sport. Since Mayweather Jr. already owns a convincing, lopsided victory over Marquez, the odds are slim to none that a Mayweather Jr. Marquez II promotion will ever see the light of day. Yes, there are other big names out there for Mayweather Jr. to fight but precious few that would generate anywhere near the kind of financial heat a Pacquiao-Mayweather Jr. super fight would have earned.
There is talk now of a possible Pacquiao-Brandon Rios fight for some time late next year and don’t be surprised if that fight comes off. Pacquiao is a fighter and this is what he does. He has lost before and managed to come back successfully. However, he is clearly not the wrecking machine of a fighter he once was even though he is only thirty-four years of age.
Perhaps what is most intriguing about Marquez’s career defining win over Pacquiao is when it occurred. Marquez is 39 year of age, a time when most fighters punching power declines. Remarkably, or perhaps strangely, Marquez’s punching power has improved significantly as he has begun to age.
This sudden power surge has not escaped the attention of Pacquiao’s Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. It has also come to the attention of the media both in Mexico and the United States. Roach believes, and has stated outright that Marquez’s new found punching power stems from the tremendous definition Marquez is showing in and around his shoulder and back muscles due to a secret regimen of ingesting PED’s. Mind you, Roach has no verifiable evidence to back up these claims.
Roach has stated unequivocally before that he has no doubt that Marquez is using PED’s supplied to him by his strength and conditioning coach, Angel “Memo” Hernandez. Hernandez has threatened to sue Roach for his accusations. Hernandez admitted under oath to having supplied U.S. sprinters Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery with PEDs. Marquez has always claimed that his similarity in musculature to Popeye is nothing more than the product of good old-fashioned hard work. It is worth noting that Marquez has never been caught before with any illegal substance in his system during his entire professional career. Who knows where Marquez’s late career power surge comes from? Maybe it’s spinach. It has been known to work before.