Commentary

Pacquiao proves he's a great

Updated: November 15, 2010, 11:06 AM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Is there anything Manny Pacquiao can't do?

Filipino congressman by day, legendary prize fighter by night, Pacquiao climbed another yet mountain and did it easily.

When you watch Pacquiao ply his trade, you are not only watching the best fighter in the world -- and there is no question about it at this point -- you are watching one of the greatest fighters of all time.

And Pacquiao showed it again as he destroyed former welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito to win a vacant junior middleweight title before an electric crowd of 41,734 on Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium.

In doing so, the Pacman carved out another chunk of history in his legendary career. Sure, we are in an era of a ridiculous amount of titles, but Pacquiao has done something nobody has ever done -- or even come close to doing or attempting to do.

He broke his own record by winning a title in an eighth weight division. Keep in mind, he started his career at 106 pounds and won his first title in the 112-pound flyweight division.

And then, he skipped over two divisions and has won titles at 122, 126, 130, 135, 140, 147 and now in the 154-pound junior middleweight division.

"He's the best fighter in the world," said Robert Garcia, Margarito's trainer. "He's just too fast. We couldn't get him into the ropes to hit him with clean shots."

Although the fight was contracted at 150 pounds -- a point of contention for some -- Pacquiao wasn't even a close to the weight. He weighed 144.6 at the official weigh-in on Friday and entered the ring at 148.

Margarito was massive compared to him, making Pacquiao's performance that much more impressive. Margarito was 150 pounds officially, but rehydrated to 165 on fight night. And besides outweighing the little guy by 17 pounds, Margarito also held a 6-inch reach advantage and 4-inch height advantage.

So what did Pacquiao do?

He chopped on that tree all night long. He gave Margarito the beating of a lifetime, one many believed he deserved in a fight he didn't deserve.

Margarito, who made at least $3 million (a figure likely to more than double after the pay-per-view total comes in), came into the fight as the clear villain. He had been given a license in Texas for the fight following more than a year on ice after he was caught trying to enter the ring for his January 2009 fight in California with Shane Mosley, which Margarito lost.

So watching him take a beating must have been satisfying for those disgusted that the fight was even made in the first place.

"It was a hard fight," Pacquiao said. "I did my best to win this fight. I can't believe I beat someone this big and this strong."

Believe it.

It was not even close as Pacquiao moved to 2-0 at Cowboys Stadium this year -- two more wins in the $1.2 billion palace than the hometown Cowboys have this NFL season.

Pacquiao's voluminous punch output and otherworldly speed advantage was clear immediately, and in the end, the judges had it 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110. ESPN.com also had it 120-108 as Pacquiao ravaged him with hard, fast, flush blows with both hands.

The statistics were overwhelming in Pacquiao's favor, although that's the way it has been for his past several fights as his opponents, each one bigger and bigger, were outclassed.

"I don't think Manny lost a single round," trainer Freddie Roach said. "I wish we had knocked him out. He's a very tough guy. I was surprised how tough he was. He has the worst corner. They probably ruined his career by not stopping the fight."

Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KOs) landed 474 of 1,069 punches for a ridiculous 44-percent connect percentage. Of those blows, he landed 411 of 713 power shots (58 percent).

[+] EnlargeManny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty ImagesManny Pacquiao's quick hands kept Antonio Margarito out of step for 12 rounds.

He simply strafed Margarito with punch after punch. In the fourth round, all those punches left Margarito with nasty swelling under his right eye as the crowd began chanting, "Manny! Manny! Manny!"

Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs) got to Pacquiao here and there in the middle rounds, but he could never sustain any offense because Pacquiao was so fast he was able to escape.

"I got hurt," Pacquiao admitted. "He hurt me in the belly and in the face."

Margarito's swelling would only get worse and by the 11th round both of his eyes were swollen so much that referee Laurence Cole called timeout to cover Margarito's eye and make him guess how many fingers he was holding up.

Pacquiao even looked to Cole during an onslaught and asked him to stop the fight in a humane move.

"My opponent looked bad," said Pacquiao, who earned $15 million plus pay-per-view profits that should take him well over $20 million. "I wanted the referee to stop it. In the 12th round I was just looking to get thru the fight. I eased up on him. I told the referee, 'Look at his eyes.' I didn't want to damage him permanently. That's not what boxing is about."

Said Cole: "In the 10th round the eye was starting to swell really bad. I was looking for a chance to stop the fight but Margarito kept fighting back."

Margarito took his beating like man.

"He's very fast. It's hard to land a punch on that guy, but there's no way I was going to quit in the fight," Margarito said. "I am a Mexican and we fight to the end."

Said Garcia, "Toward the end the of the fight the punches were coming clean and Pacquiao was looking to the referee to stop the fight, but we have a warrior here and he would never let me stop the fight."

Having rolled through Margarito, as well as Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey at welterweight, there is but one fight left for Pacquiao.

That would be against Floyd Mayweather Jr., the only fighter in the world close to him in terms of pound-for-pound recognition.

We all know the story about how the talks have fallen apart twice. Mayweather should have been the one in the ring with Pacquiao on Saturday, but he declined the fight, which looms as the richest in boxing history.

We don't know if Mayweather will ever take it, but Pacquiao remains up for it.

"I will fight anybody," he said. "I'll fight anyone, any where. If the fight happens, it happens. If not, I'm satisfied with my career already, but this fight with Mayweather would be great for boxing."

But before any of that, Pacquiao, the singing congressman, has other plans.

"I have a concert in Lake Tahoe next week," Pacquiao said.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.

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