Manny Pacquiao Picture Perfect Journey over Oscar De La Hoya

Diamond BoxingContributor IDecember 14, 2008

De La Hoya and Pacquiao Kick off the “Dream Match” at the Statue of Liberty

BY: Rick Assad - After what transpired between Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya inside the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena this Saturday night, it became apparent to the 15,001 fans in attendance and those watching on pay-per-view, the Golden Boy has likely fought for the final time.

The relentless pounding that Pacquiao rendered over eight rounds during their non-title welterweight match, and the manner in which De La Hoya left the ring, his only decision can be “no mas.” Anything else would be futile.

“I was able to defend his jab,” said Pacquiao, considered the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.”I was connecting with everything. He was connecting with nothing. Speed was the answer to this fight.”

Once great and formidable, the 35-year-old De La Hoya looked old, out-of-shape and tired when trainer Nacho Beristan called a halt to the fight prior to the ninth round. De La Hoya’s left eye was practically closed, and his face looked pained.

“I stopped the fight because I didn’t want him to leave his greatness in the ring,” said Beristan.”Oscar was in good condition, but he couldn’t control Manny’s southpaw stance or style. He wasn’t able to stop him. He just didn’t seem to have the strength tonight.”

The beating De La Hoya absorbed, especially in the seventh round, should tell the one-time Olympic gold medal champion that his time is over.

“I am not shocked because at this stage, when you face someone like Manny Pacquiao, you know you are going to be in a fight,” De La Hoya said. “I worked and trained really hard for this fight, but as I have told everyone, it is a totally different story when you get in the ring.”

De La Hoya went on: “My style is to go forward, but he was boxing on his toes all night and waiting for me to make my mistake. I just didn’t have the strength to stop him and my body did not respond.”

Don’t feel too sorry for the 10-time world champ in four weight divisions. With Golden Boy Promotions the industry leader, the company will be solvent for years to come.

The same, however, couldn’t be said for De La Hoya, who landed 21 percent of his punches (83 of 402), 13 percent of his jabs (32 of 238), 31 percent of his power punches (51 of 164), and was taken to a local hospital as a precaution after suffering the worst loss in his distinguished 17-year-career.

Then again, the last few years haven’t been kind to De La Hoya (39-6-0 and 30 knockouts), who once had brilliant hand speed and extraordinary footwork.

In May at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, De La Hoya won a unanimous decision over lightly-regarded Steve Forbes.

Despite that, after the fight, De La Hoya had obvious puffiness around his eyes. He even looked slow, and couldn’t floor the heavy underdog.

Mind you, this was against Forbes, who would never be compared to a world-class fighter like Pacquiao (48-3-2 and 36 KO’s).

A year earlier at the same MGM Grand Garden ring, De La Hoya had a close bout with undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr., for the World Boxing Council super welterweight belt, but walked away losing a split decision.

That night, De La Hoya started quickly, winning four or perhaps five of the first six rounds, only to fade in the second half.

On Saturday, after eight rounds, Judges Dave Moretti and Adalaide Byrd each had Pacquiao ahead, 80-71, while Stanley Christodoulou favored Pacquiao, 79-72. scored the bout in favor of Pacquiao, 78-73.

This time, from the opening bell, the quicker and better-conditioned Pacquiao, who has held world titles in four weight classes, was the aggressor, throwing stiff right-hand jabs, followed by darting lefts that continued to find De La Hoya’s face and midsection.

Covering the final three rounds, the 29-year-old Pacquiao connected with 97 punches, while De La Hoya answered with 21.

The seventh round was the tipping point, as Pacquiao, the Filipino hero, threw head and body shots seemingly at will, and had De La Hoya in the corner over much of the three minutes. It wasn’t until the final 30 seconds or so that the East Los Angeles-native answered with his own material.

Over the course of eight rounds, Pacquiao, who landed 38 percent of his punches (224 of 585), 59 percent of his power punches (195 of 333), and 12 percent of his jabs (29 of 252), minimized De La Hoya’s four-inch height and five-inch reach advantage.

These numbers, and De La Hoya’s 20 percent bigger body size, enlisted him a 2-to-1 opening-line favorite. The line dropped significantly in the days prior to the fight.

In retrospect, the younger and faster boxer prevailed. Anyone who saw Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard at the end of their Hall of Fame careers can vouch for this.

Or as Babe Ruth, baseball’s one-time home run king put it at the close of his brilliant career: “Getting old is hell.” De La Hoya knows that feeling.