With one titanic right hand from Juan Manuel Marquez to the jaw of Manny Pacquiao at the end of Round 6 on Saturday night, Marquez finally got his long-sought vindication over the man he tried to best over three fights over the last nine years.
It didn't come easy, and it was a worthy cap to the rivalry, but Marquez has undoubtedly the sweetest victory of his career at the age of 39, and it came the way he had always fought—landing a counterpunch when he needed to.
The action was uptempo and give-and-take from the opening bell, with the first two rounds going either way on the scorecards. Round 3, however, may have signaled the beginning of the end for Pacquiao, as Marquez caught him flush with his first great counter right hand of the night, square on the chin, and sending the Filipino down hard to the canvas.
It was the first time Pacquiao has been put down from a punch since fighting Rustico Torrecampo on Feb. 9, 1996, which was also the first time he had been knocked out. Pacquiao was 11-0 and a 112-pound flyweight at the time. He was stopped again three years later, against Medgoen Singsurat on Sept. 17, 1999, via a third-round TKO.
Despite the knockdown, Pacquiao beat the count and fought furiously to the bell. It looked like the tide had shifted in Marquez's favor at last after the 10-8 round, but in Round 5, it was the Mexican's turn to touch the canvas for the fifth time in the rivalry. A Pacquiao straight left hand made him touch his glove to the canvas, which is correctly scored a knockdown. The punch didn't seem to have the same firepower as Marquez's did, but it provided the opening necessary for Pacquiao to start unloading.
By Round 6, it was clear Marquez was having a problem with his nose, which was bleeding heavily and was likely broken by a Pacquiao left. They continued to trade heavy shots throughout, with Pacquiao seeming to get the better of the exchange until the bell.
Then came the end. While Pacquiao continued to apply pressure and back Marquez up, Marquez was still finding openings for his patented counter combinations and his right hand. And with two seconds remaining, Pacquiao may have made the biggest mistake of his career and stepped into range with his chin exposed.
Marquez made him pay with another perfect right hand, sending Manny to sleep face-first on the canvas for several minutes and the crowd at the MGM Grand into sheer chaos.
Throughout the lead-up to the fight, Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said he wanted it to end with a knockout to prove once and for all who the best fighter is. Even though anyone who watched the first three knew how dangerous Marquez was, I seriously doubt many were expecting it to end so decisively and so shockingly.
Pacquiao seemed to be out for a lifetime on the canvas, though he did get up eventually and was gracious even in defeat in the center of the ring.
The final tally for the rivalry stands at 2-1-1 in favor of Pacquiao, yes, but Marquez can walk away now knowing he will likely not have a bigger victory on his Hall of Fame credentials. He has the knockout, and it came just the way he wanted it to happen.
For Pacquiao, this should be a sign that at 33, with 61 fights and 10 world titles to his name, it's probably time to go. The fighter he was even three years ago would likely not have been exposed to that punch, and that type of knockout especially serves as a warning. Pacquiao is too great a fighter to be the next Roy Jones Jr., or Evander Holyfield, or even his great rival Erik Morales.
It's time for both men to walk into the sunset together. They've both earned it after tonight.
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