As the fighters stepped through the ropes this past Saturday night, they both felt they had something to prove.
Manny Pacquiao was looking to make history, while his opponent Antonio Margarito was fighting for redemption.
In front of a enormous crowd of 41,734 screaming fans inside Cowboys Stadium, Pacquiao dominated every round by using speed and quickness to his advantage.
Pacquiao, 17 pounds lighter than Margarito, was fighting for his eighth world title in different weight classes. Margarito was his biggest opponent yet, giving up 4.5 inches in height and 6.5 inches in reach to the slower fighter.
From the opening bell, Pacquiao tattooed Margarito with powerful combinations using his elusive footwork from a southpaw stance by slipping punches, and countering with three or four of his own.
Pacquiao constantly and consistently fired lead lefts, and rights finding a home for it on Margarito's face by getting through his tight guard. As the rounds progressed, it was clear that Pacquiao was putting on a boxing clinic and the fight was closer to getting stopped.
“I can’t believe I beat someone this big and strong,” Pacquiao said to HBO’s, Larry Merchant.
Before the fight started, Robert Garcia—Margarito’s trainer—watched while Freddie Roach wrapped Pacquiao’s hands, found something wrong with the way they looked and made the trainer wrap them for a second time. Upon entering the ring, Pacquiao made his way to his corner in order to do his religious ritual that he does before every fight by falling to one knee, bowing his head in prayer, and quickly rising to his feet.
Margarito is a straight forward, pressure fighter that uses constant punching as his relentless attack to break a fighter's will and spirit.
Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach labeled Margarito as a “cheater” and wasn’t concerned about the size difference.
In 2009, moments before his fight with Shane Mosley, Margarito was caught with a substance on his hand wraps later on identified as plaster which hardens during a fight causing punches to be more powerful and dangerous.
He had his boxing license revoked for a year, and was trying to use this fight to prove to the world that he didn’t use loaded gloves to cheat throughout his career.
A member of Pacquiao’s entourage found a banned substance called Hydoxycut in Margarito's dressing room, and Roach unsuccessfully pleaded to the Texas Athletic Commission for a prefight drug test.
Even though Margarito towered over Pacquiao from the offset, the smaller man attacked from angles by repeatedly hitting the body then aiming for the head.
Despite the beating, Margarito kept coming forward but was stopped in his tracks by a barrage of punches that kept landing and staggered the former welterweight champion round after round.
In the fourth round, Pacquiao opened a cut under Margarito’s right eye that kept getting hit throughout the fight, and by the 11th round, Pacquiao disfigured his face and had both eyes swollen completely shut.
Pacquiao looked to the referee to stop the fight, but Margarito kept fighting back while barely being able to see.
“My opponent looked bad, I wanted him to stop it,” Pacquiao said, “I said, look at his face, I didn’t want to damage him permanently. That’s not what boxing’s all about.”
Ringside punch stats showed Pacquiao's dominance by displaying his 474 landed punches to 229 for Margarito. Margarito landed a significant amount of punches that hurt his opponent but Pacquiao would respond with a three or four-punch combination that would hurt Margarito. Even though punch stats show utter domination, Margarito made Pacquiao earn this victory.
Roach ridiculed Margarito’s corner, and blamed them for maybe ruining his career.
“He was really hurt,” Roach said. “He may never fight again. He has the worst corner. His corner ruined his career.”
Margarito takes too much pride in the sport that he loves, and credits his Mexican heritage for having the heart of going out on his shield. “There was no way I was going to quit, I’m Mexican, we fight until the end,” Margarito said through a translator.
After the fight, Margarito was brought to the hospital and the doctors explained that he has a broken orbital bone that required surgery. Even though he lost the fight, he proved that he has the heart of a champion.
Before the fight took place, there were rumors that this was the worst training camp that Manny Pacquiao ever had and that his mind was concentrated more in politics than boxing. On HBO’s Pacquiao/Margarito 24/7, Pacquiao leaves training camp to travel to the Philippines to sit in on a day of Congress.
In the ring, it didn’t look as if his head was somewhere else, and he resembled the Pacquiao of old.
There’s one question left and that is, “Is Mayweather next?”
“If the fight happens, it happens,” said Pacquiao. “If not, I’m satisfied with my career.”