LAS VEGAS – The images were shocking. The big right hand. Manny Pacquiao laying motionless on his face, being counted out. A triumphant Juan Manuel Marquez thrusting his arms in the air, finally victorious over his rival. Pacquiao still not moving. His wife sobbing.
Manny Pacquiao knocked out cold? Crazy … but true.
Marquez recorded a historic victory Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, stopping Pacquiao with a single counter right at 2:59 of the sixth round that put a sudden end to a brilliant fight and might’ve turned the lights out on the Filipino icon’s remarkable career.
For Marquez, the result couldn’t have been sweeter. He fought his heart out and effectively in their previous three meetings only to come up short each time, fighting to a draw once and losing close decisions twice.
And the profoundly emphatic manner in which he got it done will go down as one of the most-dramatic moments in boxing history, leaving no doubt whatsoever about the 39-year-old Mexican’s greatness. This will define him.
For Pacquiao, the result couldn’t have been more stunning or devastating.
It seemed as if it were yesterday that Pacquiao did the same thing to Ricky Hatton, who lay motionless on the canvas after a perfect left hook that made the victor the toast of the boxing world and an international celebrity.
Pacquiao also beat the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley, to name a few, leading knowledgeable boxing observers to compare him to legendary Henry Armstrong and other all-time greats.
And then, only a few fights later, he lay motionless.
The energy at the MGM Grand Garden Arena was particularly thick before and during the fight, with the majority of the fans supporting Marquez with passionate cheers and chants throughout. It was as if they sensed that something special was going to happen.
The fight was close and entertaining before the stunning finish. Marquez (55-6-1, 40 knockouts) knocked Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 knockouts) flat on his back with an overhand right in the third round. Pacquiao knocked Marquez down in the fifth – forcing him to touch the canvas with his glove – and then seemed to hurt him in wild flurries in the last 30 seconds of the round.
Pacquiao also seemed to be winning the sixth round when … BAM! … he walked into the right that put him to sleep. One writer on press row, who has seen it all over many years, spoke for us all when he yelled, “Oh, my god! Oh, my god!” as the great champion lay beaten.
And then the screaming of the fans drown out all the voices at ringside, creating a surreal moment – Pacquiao down, the crowd creating a deafening din, Marquez with his arms in the air, perhaps the end of an era at hand.
One of Pacquiao’s handlers sat him up and wrapped a wet towel around his head, trying to ease him back into full consciousness. And then they used smelling salts, which did the trick. He was lucid by the time he did a post-fight interview in the ring.
The assumption at ringside is that we’ve the last of Pacquiao, who has now lost consecutive fights for the first time. However, he said his intention is to return.
“I got hit by a punch I didn’t see,” said Pacquiao, who had graciously congratulated Marquez on his victory. “I’m going to rest and then come back.”
Marquez apparently wasn’t stunned at the result.
“I knew in the last three rounds, with him coming after me, that he could be knocked out at any time,” said Marquez, who has never been known as a one-punch knockout artist. “I knew when I knocked him down early that I could knock him out cold.
“And I threw the perfect punch.”
Marquez seems to be at least near his best even as he approaches 40, as remarkable as that might seem. And he earned another huge-money fight with that unforgettable punch, for which he’ll always be remembered.
Pacquiao took the kind of punch that ends careers, particularly for fighters who have been in as many taxing wars as he has. He’s only 33, though. And, if we can set aside the KO punch for a second, he looked good for five-plus rounds.
Another fight might not be wise but it certainly isn’t outrageous. So that raises this question: Could they do it again?
“A fifth fight?” promoter Bob Arum asked. “Why not?”
Photos / Al Bello-Gettyimages