Manny Pacquiao at his finest appeared as unbeatable as a video-game motion hero. However some thought the a lot bigger Antonio Margarito can be a bridge too far, writes Thomas Hauser
ON November 13, 2010, Manny Pacquiao added one other web page to his boxing legacy when he fought Antonio Margarito at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for the vacant World Boxing Council 154-pound title.
Outdoors the ring, totally clothed, Manny Pacquiao seems nearly delicate and weak. The primary response many individuals have on assembly him is shock that he’s so small. His voice is comfortable. There’s a delicate high quality about him.
However within the ring, Pacquiao was a destroyer. He received his first world title in 1998 at 112 kilos and had compiled a 51-3-2 document with 38 knockouts by the point he fought Margarito. At age 31, he’d earned belts in opposition to credible competitors in seven weight divisions. Extra considerably, 3 times through the previous 23 months, Pacquiao had moved up in weight and destroyed larger males.
“It’s not nearly beating opponents,” former featherweight champion Barry McGuigan noticed. “It’s the best way that you just beat them. Pacquiao went by Oscar de la Hoya like a sparring associate. The best way he knocked out Ricky Hatton was staggering. He simply pole-axed him. Then he systematically took aside Miguel Cotto in a method nobody might have predicted.”
Pacquiao’s journey from abject poverty to wealth and fame nearly past creativeness had made him an icon in his native Philippines. And his superstar standing exploded after his stoppage of De La Hoya.
“The broad outlines of his legend,” Time Journal declared, “have made him a projection of the migrant goals of the numerous Filipinos who go away residence and nation for work. Some spend many years overseas for the sake of those they love. Everybody within the Philippines is aware of an individual who has made the sacrifice or is making it. Pacquiao provides that multitude a champion’s face of selflessness; the winner who takes all and provides to all.”
In Might 2010, the individuals of Sarangani province elected Pacquiao to Congress. Not like many politicians, he meant it when he advised voters that he noticed the battle of each Filipino in his personal torturous journey.
“I really feel what they’re feeling as a result of I’ve been there,” Pacquiao mentioned. “I slept within the streets. I ate as soon as a day. Typically I simply drank water, no meals. That was my life earlier than. So arduous. I perceive the wants of people that need assistance. My coronary heart hurts after I see individuals on the street, sleeping. I bear in mind my previous after I was younger.”
“Manny Pacquiao,” HBO Boxing commentator Jim Lampley noticed, “is having a lovefest with the world whereas beating the crap out of individuals.”
The lovefest continued when Pacquiao squared off in opposition to Margarito.
Pacquiao-Margarito was seen by many as a morality play of the very best order. Margarito had original a 38-6 (27) ring document and beforehand held the World Boxing Organisation and World Boxing Affiliation welterweight titles. The latter prize was attained by advantage of a 2008 knockout of Miguel Cotto in a brutal encounter. Then, in his subsequent outing, Antonio fought Shane Mosley. In his dressing room previous to that battle, unlawful inserts had been present in Margarito’s handwraps. They had been eliminated and Mosley knocked him out within the ninth spherical.
Margarito’s coach on the time, Javier Capetillo, took accountability for the incident, saying that he’d grabbed the unsuitable knucklepads “by mistake” and that Antonio was unaware of the issue. Thereafter, Capetillo was banned from practising his commerce in the US and Margarito’s licence to field was revoked by the California State Athletic Fee. The boxing neighborhood was break up on whether or not Margarito ought to have been given the chance to battle Pacquiao. Some thought that the choice by the Texas Division of Licensing and Regulation to license him was a thumb within the eye for the game. Be that as it might, Pacquiao-Margarito was contracted for at a catchweight of 150 kilos. That enabled the WBC to place its 154-pound belt on the road and allowed the promotion to speak about the potential for an unprecedented eighth world title for Pacquiao.
In late-October, Crew Pacquiao journeyed from the Philippines to Los Angeles for 2 weeks of ultimate preparation. Then it descended on Dallas. There’s no entourage like a boxing entourage, and Pacquiao’s was substantial. Manny had chartered an American Airways 757 that introduced 180 individuals from the Philippines to the US. “Air Pacquiao” price him $120,000 plus meals, lodging, and battle tickets for most of the travellers. Peter Nelson (then a contract author and later the pinnacle of HBO Sports activities) heralded their arrival.
“When Pacquiao fights in Cowboys Stadium,” Nelson wrote, “his countrymen will colonize Arlington, Texas, forming a populace replete with advisors, cooks, monks, safety, political chiefs-of-staff, a five-piece band, mentors, apprentices, previous exiles for crimes now forgiven, future ones for crimes but dedicated, and, in fact, his mom. The place he goes, his individuals observe. They’ve nowhere else to be however residing on his largesse. Manny Pacquiao has turn out to be the 7,108th island of the Philippines.”
On Wednesday of battle week, Pacquiao labored out in Longhorn Exhibit Corridor E (an enormous room within the Gaylord Texan Lodge that had been transformed right into a makeshift health club). Then 100 invited friends gathered on the far finish of the room. Pacquiao donned a straw hat and walked over to a gaggle of musicians that included three guitarists, a keyboard participant, and drummer (identified collectively as “The Manny Pacquiao Band”). Two back-up vocalists joined them. For the following 75 minutes, Manny sang.
“At this level, it’s all about conserving Manny blissful,” Rob Peters (the purpose man in Pacquiao’s safety element) defined. “He loves doing this. It relaxes him. Proper now, he’s having enjoyable, singing love songs. And Margarito is on a treadmill someplace, killing himself to make weight.”
Weight and dimension had been Margarito’s perceived edge within the battle (if he had one). Pacquiao was a 4/1 betting favourite. However Manny had begun his profession at 106 kilos. Two days therefore, he would weigh in at 144-½ kilos whereas Margarito (5 inches taller) would tip the scales at 150. On battle evening, there can be a 17-pound weight differential between them.
“Dimension doesn’t win fights,” Freddie Roach (who educated Pacquiao) mentioned. “Ability does. And Manny is probably the most expert fighter on the planet.”
However dimension in boxing interprets into energy and the power to take a punch. That’s why the game has weight divisions. Sooner or later, huge turns into too huge to deal with. Margarito’s battle plan can be to use strain, strain, and extra strain. Put on Pacquiao down. Suffocate him with punches.
“He’s a fantastic fighter,” Margarito mentioned of Pacquiao. “Everyone knows that he’s quick and lands punches from all angles. However I believe it’s inconceivable that he’ll have the ability of a super-welterweight. He would possibly hit me with 5 to 1 at first, however I’m too sturdy for him. I’ll regularly break him down and knock him out.”
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On battle evening, Freddie Roach arrived at dressing room F300 at Cowboys Stadium at 5.45pm. Peter Nelson and coaching assistant Billy Keane had been with him. A fee inspector was already there.
Pacquiao was Roach’s signature fighter. They’d begun working collectively in 2001. On the time, Manny had superior bodily items however was largely a one-dimensional boxer. Jab, jab, straight lefthand. Roach improved his cost’s footwork, stability, and defensive abilities; added a proper hook to his arsenal; and introduced consistency to his method.
How good a coach was Roach? Paulie Malignaggi mentioned that, when he watched a tape of the HBO telecast of his personal battle in opposition to Amir Khan, he listened to Roach’s nook directions.
“After the third or fourth spherical,” Malignaggi recounted, “Freddie advised Amir, ‘I want you to feint. In the event you feint, he’s going to drop down and you then do that.’ I’m saying to myself, ‘Wow. That’s my response to a feint. I by no means targeted on it earlier than, however that’s how I reply.’ Freddie knew me higher than I knew myself.”
When a fighter’s palms are wrapped earlier than a battle, the person doing the wrapping runs lengthy strips of tape between every finger (aside from the thumb) on every hand. Most trainers apply the tape flat, six strips in all. Roach likes to roll every strip vertically in order that they resemble sticks of incense. He calls the strips “ligaments.”
Sitting in Pacquiao’s dressing room, Roach started rolling the strips whereas conversing with Nelson and Keane.
“Manny loves to look at himself on tv,” Freddie mentioned. “Between rounds in Vegas, he watches himself on these huge video screens. The primary time it occurred, I tapped him on the cheek to get his consideration and he advised me, ‘I’m listening.’ In Cowboys Stadium, he can’t see the display screen as a result of it’s above the ring so I received’t need to compete for his consideration.”
Cutman Miguel Díaz entered the dressing room. He was sporting black pants. Pacquiao received’t put on black for a battle and he doesn’t like anybody in his nook to put on black.
“Don’t fear about it,” Roach advised Díaz. “You’re sporting a pink jacket. Manny received’t discover.”
At 7.20, by prearrangement, an observer from Margarito’s camp entered. Due to the Margarito handwrap scandal, it had been agreed that every facet would have a consultant within the opposing fighter’s dressing room for your entire pre-fight proceedings and every coach would trend his fighter’s knucklepads in entrance of the observer and a fee inspector.
Billy Keane left for Margarito’s dressing room.
Roach started folding gauze into knucklepads.
At 8.05, Buboy Fernandez (Pacquiao’s assistant coach and longtime good friend) arrived – a certain signal that Manny was within the constructing.
Buboy organized Pacquiao’s trunks, gown, and footwear on a rubdown desk.
Díaz’s pink nook jacket was adorned with promoting logos from a earlier battle.
“Buboy,” Miguel queried. “Is the promoting on this jacket okay, or will or not it’s an issue?”
“No downside,” Buboy answered. “They’re not paying me, they’re paying Manny.”
At 8.10, Pacquiao entered with 36 individuals in tow.
In the end, the dressing room was cleared of non-essential personnel. Pacquiao placed on his trunks and did some stretching workouts. “I’m going over to look at Margarito wrap,” Roach advised him. “In the event you want something, ask Miguel. Is that okay?”
With Díaz helping him, Manny began to wrap his personal palms. Margarito’s consultant objected to just about all the pieces, together with the tape supplied by the fee and the knucklepads permitted by the fee. The inspector overruled the objections.
Margarito’s co-manager, Sergio Diaz, entered and lodged extra objections. They too had been overruled.
Díaz completed wrapping.
At 9.30, there was an issue. Billy Keane telephoned Pacquiao’s power and conditioning coach Alex Ariza (now within the dressing room with Manny) to report that Margarito was about to take Ephedrine (an urge for food suppressant and stimulant) nasally.
“If you stack Ephedrine with caffeine and aspirin,” Ariza famous, “you get pace.”
Keane mentioned that three cups of espresso had simply been delivered to Margarito’s dressing room.
“It received’t present up in his urine until we take a look at him earlier than the battle,” Ariza advised Roach. “An ECA stack burns out shortly. A post-fight take a look at can be too late.”
William Kuntz (government director of the Texas Division of Licensing and Regulation) and Dickie Cole (administrator of fight sports activities) had been summoned to Pacquiao’s dressing room.
“I need a drug take a look at proper now,” Roach demanded.
“You deal with what it’s important to do,” Ariza advised Pacquiao. “Let the remainder of them deal with this bullshit.
Pacquiao did some extra stretching workouts and commenced shadow boxing.
Robert Garcia (Margarito’s coach) entered and complained that nobody from the Margarito camp had been current when Roach rolled the ligaments earlier within the night. He needed Pacquiao to rewrap.
“It’s items of tape,” Roach countered. “Your man checked out them and didn’t have an issue.”
Tempers flared. Folks began shouting. Pacquiao checked out Nelson and winked.
Kuntz and Cole introduced that they wouldn’t administer a pre-fight urine take a look at although Ephedrine is a managed drug and its use can be in opposition to fee rules.
Garcia’s criticism was overruled.
Keane reported that Margarito had agreed to not use the Ephedrine.
Pacquiao completed warming up.
As soon as a fighter steps into the ring and the bell for spherical one sounds, nothing that he has completed earlier than issues.
Earlier than the battle, Roach had declared, “I’m not apprehensive about Margarito. He’s made to order for us. Margarito is hard. He’ll come to win. However I’ve watched tons of movie on him. He’s all the time the identical, utterly predictable. He winds up on all of his punches so you’ll be able to see them coming. He likes to alternate and he’s hittable. He has poor footwork. He doesn’t reduce the ring off. And he’s too sluggish to beat Manny. You’ll be able to watch Manny on TV and say, ‘Oh he’s quick.’ However you don’t understand how quick till you get within the ring with him. Manny will beat him up badly. This is not going to be a troublesome battle for us. I don’t see any points.”
That mentioned, it was a hard-fought battle. The primary two rounds had been cautiously contested. Margarito was much less aggressive than anticipated. In spherical three, he started stalking in additional decided trend. Pacquiao circled, darting out and in, alternating between getting off first and touchdown sharp counter blows.
In spherical 4, the panorama tilted lopsidedly in Manny’s favour. One minute in, he landed a tough left uppercut. Seconds later, Antonio’s face was grotesquely swollen and discoloured beneath his proper eye and blood was dripping from a reduce that may require six stitches to shut.
The reduce wasn’t a significant downside. What was occurring beneath the reduce was. The world swelled up so dramatically that one might assume there was a fracture (there was). That led to additional splintering of the bone because the battle progressed and issues with the muscle groups and nerves across the eye.
Now Margarito was on his again foot, giving floor. Spherical 5 was extra of the identical. However at the beginning of spherical six, Manny regarded a bit drained. Take away the swelling beneath Antonio’s proper eye and Margarito might need appeared the more energizing of the 2 males. With 30 seconds left within the spherical, he backed Pacquiao into the ropes and dug a vicious left hook to the liver. Manny doubled over in ache and spent the following 20 seconds in retreat.
“I used to be somewhat apprehensive within the sixth spherical,” Roach admitted afterward.
“He damage me,” Pacquiao later acknowledged.
Margarito was behind within the battle however very a lot in it. He’d entered the battle in high bodily situation, and the power stage between the 2 gave the impression to be shifting.
Margarito started spherical seven by going to the physique. Pacquiao, as he’d achieved earlier than, circled and darted out and in. The combatants resembled a grizzly bear swatting together with his paw at a swarm of killer bees. Over the following few rounds, Manny landed the extra quite a few blows. Then the bout started to tackle the look of a person smashing a big boulder to pebbles with a sledgehammer.
By spherical 10, Margarito’s proper eye was ineffective and his left eye was closing, which meant that he was combating with half an eye fixed. The suitable facet of his face was disfigured to the purpose of mutilation. Referee Laurence Cole stopped the motion, raised his left hand to cowl Margarito’s proper eye, and requested the fighter what number of fingers he was holding up. Margarito answered. The motion resumed. However Antonio was now defenseless in opposition to Pacquiao’s onslaught.
With 20 seconds left in spherical 10, as Margarito was plodding hopelessly ahead, Pacquiao landed a pointy proper hook to the jaw. Antonio’s legs buckled and Manny adopted with a barrage of punches that left his opponent lurching again to his nook on the bell. Margarito had been blasted with 64 punches through the spherical; 57 of them, energy punches.
The ring physician examined Margarito briefly from exterior the ropes. He couldn’t look into Antonio’s proper eye with a penlight as a result of the attention was swollen shut.
Spherical 11 was goal apply. On three events, Pacquiao stopped his assault and regarded towards Cole – in impact, asking him to cease the battle. “Boxing will not be for killing,” Manny mentioned afterwards. However Cole ignored the gesture and the carnage continued.
Pacquiao fought the remainder of the bout with what gave the impression to be a mix of warning and compassion. The judges scored the competition 120-108, 119-109, and 118-110 in Manny’s favour.
After the battle, Pacquiao went to Margarito’s dressing room, the place Antonio’s cuts had been being stitched up. The 2 males embraced and exchanged phrases of mutual respect. Then Manny hugged Antonio’s spouse and left.
In the meantime, Roach was important of Robert Garcia for permitting the battle to proceed. “There’s little question in any respect in my thoughts that he ought to have stopped it after the eighth spherical,” Freddie mentioned. “Margarito had no likelihood to win by then and his face was a large number. After spherical 10, I believed, ‘They need to cease it now. If the nook doesn’t cease it, another person will.’ However they didn’t. Margarito would possibly by no means battle once more after this. For certain, he received’t be the identical fighter.”
Thomas Hauser’s most up-to-date e book – Damaged Goals: One other Yr Inside Boxing – was printed by the College of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Affiliation of America honoured Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for profession excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, Hauser was chosen for boxing’s highest honour – induction into the Worldwide Boxing Corridor of Fame.