LAS VEGAS — Juan Manuel Marquez took advantage of Manny Pacquiao’s daredevil ways and the Filipino paid for it the most devastating way imaginable Saturday as Marquez won on a one-punch sixth-round knockout in their welterweight war at the MGM Grand.
The Mexican champion called it “the perfect punch.” Referee Kenny Bayless didn’t even bother to count as Pacquiao appeared motionless, sending the pro-Mexican crowd in a frenzy and Pacquiao’s followers in utter shock. Pacquiao’s wife Jinkee was hysterical at ringside and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum had to calm her.
After being floored with a Marquez overhand right, Pacquiao took command in the succeeding rounds and even scored a knockdown in the fifth round with a sneaky left at ring center and it immediately looked like it would be a matter of time before Pacquiao stopped Marquez.
Marquez was battered and bruised as he walked back to his corner at the end of the round, blood dripping from his nostrils and Pacquiao heading to his corner with renewed confidence. The official time was 2:59 and Pacquiao was ahead on all three judges – 47-46 – when Marquez uncorked the punch that will go down in history as one of the most destructive ever, and the one that he described as “the perfect punch.” “I thought he was coming to knock me out and I knew he was going to be open,” said the 39-year-old Marquez, who finally got payback after complaining that he had been robbed in their first three matches.
Pacquiao offered no excuses but admitted that he was caught with his pants down. “It was a punch that I didn’t see,” said Pacquiao, who turns 34 on Dec. 17, and surprisingly still smiling even after being soundly defeated. Marquez, who had never knocked down Pacquiao in their three previous fights, wasn’t surprised by his newfound power.
“The change in rhythm was important. We knew he was going to come out aggressive, so we had a fight plan that was more technique and we were able to capitalize on it,” he said. “We knew it would be a difficult fight but not an impossible fight. We had to use our technique and skill,” Marquez said. The Mexican champion knew he had the power and skill to do it after scoring the first knockdown. “After I knocked him down, I knew I could knock him out,” he said.
Trainer Freddie Roach summed it all up by stressing that Pacquiao just “got careless.” “Manny came back after the knockdown and he was in charge and he just got careless. He was hurting Marquez until the knockout,” said Roach, who has been calling the shots in Pacquiao’s corner since June 2001. Talks of a fifth fight swirled as soon as Top Rank’s publicists were gathering information on top of the ring.
“Fifth fight? Why not?” said Arum. Pacquiao, who had to be brought to the hospital for precautionary measures, also expressed his interest in having a fifth fight. But the latest word is that Pacquiao is going to take a break and decide what’s down the road for him. The win boosted Marquez’s record to 55-6-1 with 40 knockouts, while the loss saw Pacquiao’s mark drop to 54-5-2 with 38 knockouts.
The nightmarish defeat was the second straight for Pacquiao, who had dropped a controversial decision to Tim Bradley last June. After being helped to his corner, Pacquiao sat on a stool, blew his nose and stared vacantly ahead as his handlers cut his gloves off. It was a stunning end to a furious fight and it may have signaled the end of Pacquiao’s career.
The two came out for the sixth round and the pace was relentless like in the previous rounds. Both were landing big punches and both were brawling when suddenly, just before the bell, Marquez caught Pacquiao moving in, landing a right flush to the jaw of Pacquiao, who crumpled to the canvas in a heap and lay motionless.
Pacquiao was aggressive from the opening bell, but paid the price in the third round when he got by a Marquez right hand that put him down. Pacquiao got back up and seemingly took control of the fight, dropping Marquez in the fifth round and landing the bigger punches until he was dropped Pacquiao, who earned more than $20 million for the fight, was ahead 47-46 on all three scorecards after the fifth round.
There was no title at stake, but that didn’t stop 16,348 fans from filling the MGM Grand Arena and roaring in unison from the opening bell as the two fighters went after each other. Ringside punching stats underscored the ferocity of the bout, showing Pacquiao landing 94 of 256 punches to 52 of 246 for Marquez. But it was the one big right hand from Marquez that counted more than anything, knocking Pacquiao out for the first time in a career that goes back 17 years.
Aside from the widely discredited Bradley decision, this was the first real loss by Pacquiao since 2005 when he lost a unanimous decision to Erik Morales. It was only the third time he had been stopped, having suffered a knockout and a TKO early in his career. (With a report from AP)
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)