PacMan Finishes De La Hoya... For Good. What Next?

December 8, 2008

Manny Pacquiao affirmed his status as the current pound-for-pound king in boxing with a dominant 8th round TKO of Oscar De La Hoya on Saturday night. In a totally one-sided fight, De La Hoya and his corner decided to quit on the stool after the 8th round sending Pacquiao's supporters into a frenzy. Many, including this writer, had thought that De La Hoya's natural size and reach advantages would be too much for Pacquiao, who was moving up two weight classes for this welterweight contest. Such thinking made De La Hoya roughly a 2-1 favorite in this fight.

Despite this reasoning everyone also knew that there was one major factor that could neutralize all of De La Hoya's advantages. Speed? No, try age. I remember Sugar Ray Leonard saying upon retiring after his loss to Terry Norris, "You see the opening, but the hands just don't move." On Saturday night, neither the hands nor feet moved as De la Hoya was slow and sluggish throughout and at times looked downright paralyzed with indecision.

To seriously analyze this fight would be an injustice to both fighters and an insult to boxing. Manny Pacquiao was totally dominant throughout the fight with his speed and power. He landed left-hand leads to the head and body at will while his movement constantly "turned" De La Hoya and prevented him from ever getting set.

But who did he dominate? The fighter the world saw on Saturday night was not Oscar De La Hoya. Hell, it wasn't even David Diaz, Manny's game but incredibly slow knockout victim several months ago. In fact Diaz looked like a young Sugar Ray Leonard in comparison to PacMan's opponent.

No, Saturday night we saw a totally shot fighter who had nothing to offer from the opening bell. The fact that the tomato can in the ring used to be a 6-division world champion, and that he happened to be fighting someone like Manny Pacquiao, only made the drop off appear that much worse.

Some might be tempted to trash De La Hoya for his performance and suggest that "true champions" never go out like that. They may suggest Oscar lacked the "heart" to go out on his sword instead of tentaviely shrinking into a corner and covering up.

But how little we remember history. Anyone who saw "The Greatest" Muhammad Ali end his career against Larry Holmes knows how silly it is to judge a finished fighter by his final bouts. Ali was the epitome of physical and mental toughness in the ring, yet his demise against Holmes was even more meek than De La Hoya's. When you are finished, sometimes the end comes shockingly fast. While De La Hoya's skills had clearly declined before this fight, his part-time boxing schedule made it difficult to predict when it would really be over. Now we know it's over.

Pacquiao for his part looked eager to participate in a real fight. He genuinely looked excited the handful of times De La Hoya would throw a combination or actually commit to a jab (as opposed to merely flicking one). Alas, Oscar could not oblige him and another big Pay-Per-View Boxing event ended in disappointment.

Here are my last 4 thoughts after the fight.

1. Oscar Should Retire Now

Oscar is a proud and intelligent man. There is no doubt he will realize his skills have diminished considerably. However, part of him may think that the loss was mostly embarassing because of the level of competition he fought in Pacquiao. Thus, I can see how me might attempt a farewell fight against Felix Trinidad or someone even more washed up to "end on a good note."

That would be a very bad idea. Beating a bad opponent would do very little for Oscar's legacy. Furthermore from what we saw it is doubtful the Golden Boy could beat any decent fighter anymore. Who would really be suprised if some journeyman knocked him out at this point? Let it go, now.

2. Pacquiao v. Hatton is Next

Undoubtedly Boxing's next Big Fight will pit Manny against Ricky Hatton. This will be a much more entertaining fight as both are very active fighters and both will actively seek knockouts. If PacMan can beat Hatton at 140 lbs, then he will likely be considered among the all-time greats. I would bet on PacMan, but the training insights of Floyd Mayweather Sr. may give Hatton an edge.

3. I Hope Manny Doesn't Duck Juan Manuel Marquez

While there are 2 "Big Money" Fights out there for Pacquiao (Hatton, Mayweather Jr.), I would much rather see Pacquiao fight Juan Manuel Marquez. Of course, I understand PacMan deserves to go after the money but the longer we wait the older Marquez gets. Manny is a Hall of Famer but I do believe his legacy is incomplete without fighting Marquez again. I say this because Pacquiao may soon be compared to some of the all-time greats and to earn that distinction, he must beat the best of his era. Arguably, he has yet to beat Marquez in two fights. Let's hope if Floyd Jr. doesn't come out of retirement that we see this fight in 2009.

4. Freddie Roach Was Right, But He Needed To Show Some Class

Pacquiao was very gracious in victory telling De La Hoya, "You're still my idol, " and De La Hoya was equally gracious in defeat choosing to focus his comments only on Pacquiao's performance. In contrast, Trainer Freddie Roach simply gloated and referring to his insults of De La Hoya leading up to the fight smilingly stated, "I proved I was right."

Somebody tell this fool that his man already won the fight. The comments are all the more odd when Roach later revealed that De La Hoya told him immediately after the fight, "No hard feelings Freddie. You were right, I'm through." Perhaps Roach will have kind words for De La Hoya upon further reflection (considering how much money he helped him earn), but I suspect that moment revealed something about the "Joke Coach."

Manish Pandya
Staff Editor of The Daily Sports Herald

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