Last night, the world's most beloved prizefighter was his usual amazing self. Once again, Manny Pacquiao (52-3-2, 30 KOs) took a much bigger man to the woodshed.
Other than a few tense moments in the sixth round when he was hurt by a body shot, Pacquiao was more or less in control from start to finish.
Antonio Margarito, for his part, showed quite a bit of heart, if not talent. Margarito (38-7-0, 27 KOs) used his size to keep himself in the fight, showing a better than expected jab and his usual granite chin.
The problem for him was, unlike past opponents who have wilted under the pressure of his willpower, Pacquiao was able to equal his fighting spirit.
After the big body shot that caused Pacquiao to double over in pain, he rebounded not by clinching or running, but firing back, stopping Margarito's rally in its tracks.
Towards the end of the fight, Manny showed something that we have rarely seen from him: tactical boxing. He smartly stuck and moved, staying away from Margarito and easily winning rounds with his superior speed and skill.
The HBO crew was a bit ridiculous in their analysis of Pacquiao's late-fight strategy, claiming that he wasn't engaging as much because he was such a great "citizen of the world" that he didn't want to cause any more pain.
Say what you want about Pacquiao being a good guy, he definitely doesn't mind hurting anyone in the context of a boxing match.
After the dust had settled though, and Pacquiao held his eighth world title belt in his hands, I couldn't help but wonder what direction his career was going. The junior middleweight championship itself was a farce.
Two guys who have never competed seriously in a division have no business fighting for a vacant title, even in today's climate of world titles being handed out for next to nothing.
When you consider that the catch-weight fight wasn't fought even close to the junior middleweight weight limit, it takes on even less meaning.
Pacquiao could decide to legitimize it by having a defense at 154 pounds, much like he did with his welterweight title fight against Josh Clottey.
However, does anyone really want to see him fight another middle-of-the-road contender? Call me crazy, but Pacquiao-Cintron doesn't really excite me.
Of course, the fight that the world wants to see is a summit meeting with Floyd Mayweather. Mayweather (41-0-0, 25 KOs) is ranked No. 1 the Boxrec computer ratings; Pacquiao is top dog according to the human voters in the Ring Magazine poll. Either way you slice it, these are the two best fighters on the planet.
However as we all know, the fight that makes sense to everybody other than the two fighter's camps hasn't been so easy to make. Floyd demanded random drug testing for a possible meeting last March, and Pacquiao balked at being tested within 14 days of the fight.
The second round of negotiations found Mayweather suspiciously silent as Pacquiao changed his stance slightly, agreeing to being tested as late as one week before the fight.
The last we heard from Floyd on the issue, in the ring after his win over Shane Mosley, was that he would no longer consider any compromise, and would demand completely random testing up to the day of the fight.
In fairness to Mayweather, who has taken a lot of criticism over this position, it is agreed on by drug testing experts at WADA that completely random testing is necessary in order to assure a level playing field.
The average boxing fan, however, just wants to see the fight. For the most part they either don't think Pacquiao is cheating, or don't care. It would seem very likely that Mayweather will continue to play the villain, and this fight won't ever happen.
Also worth noting is that even if a compromise could be reached, Mayweather's current legal problems could prevent from it from happening anyway.
So where does that leave Pacquiao? HBO analyst Manny Steward brought up probably the best option, forget the "Pacquiao fights a monster" freak shows against bigger and bigger men, and go down to his natural weight.
At this point in his career, I see Pacquiao as a natural junior welterweight. Fortunately, this is one of the most talent-packed divisions in the sport today.
If Manny were to drop to 140 pounds, an excellent match up could be made with the winner of a Timothy Bradley (26-0-0, 11 KOs) vs. Devon Alexander (21-0-0, 13 KOs) fight.
Although unlikely because they share a trainer, Amir Khan (23-1-0, 17 KOs) would also make a fascinating opponent for Pacquiao.
Khan would seem to have the size, skill, and speed, to give Manny trouble, as he has done at times in sparring according to trainer Freddie Roach.
However, Khan also has a somewhat suspect chin, something a fighter as powerful as Pacquiao could likely exploit.
Perhaps the best option for Pacquiao around 140 pounds would be a grudge match against an old rival.
Juan Manuel Marquez (51-5-1, 37 KOs) has a draw and a split decision loss against Pacquiao in two thrilling fights, and has been begging for a third chance ever since.
Considering that Marquez is still considered a top pound-for-pound fighter, this would be a true superfight.
Although many people have pointed out that Pacquiao has seemed to improve going up in weight, unlike Marquez who has perhaps slowed down a bit, Marquez's counter-punching style has given Pacquiao fits at times in their previous meetings, and possibly could so so again.
At this point, after beating two much larger but much less talented men in a row, Pacquiao has proven to me that he can handle a size difference.
Now let's see him go back to proving he can handle someone of his own skill level. If the Mayweather fight can't be made, bring on Marquez.
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