In one of the most stunning and completely dominating upsets in boxing history, Manny Pacquiao won "The Dream Match" by TKO victory Saturday night when De La Hoya's corner threw in the towel after the eighth round.
A crowd of 15,001 fans at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and a worldwide HBO Pay-Per-View television audience witnessed what was described by HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg as "one of the greatest performances by a prize fighter I've seen in 31 years in this business."
Pacquiao, who began his career as a 106-pounder and had never before fought above 135 pounds, defied the big-man beats the smaller-man logic by winning his celebrated welterweight debut against the sport's most popular fighter.
Showing why he's considered boxing's No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, Pacquiao repeatedly struck with lightning-quick and precision hand speed to pummel De La Hoya to the face and body almost at will, and stayed fast and light on his feet to dance and dart away from taking a big punch, always circling to De La Hoya's right to avoid his vaunted left hook.
Most predictions gave the WBC lightweight champion, who has also won world titles at three smaller weight classes, no chance to beat De La Hoya, a ten-time world champion who has fought as high as 160 pounds. The Golden Boy, who was moving down in weight, was expected to steamroll Pacquiao, who moved up two weight classes for the 147-pound showdown.
It was clear from the start that the theater of the unexpected was changing another boxing script.
"They said this was a mismatch and it was a mismatch,'' Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said, taking a jab at all the wrong prognosticators, many whom thought the bout should never have been made in the first place because of De La Hoya's size advantage.
The stunning part was that Pacquiao not only won but also dictated virtually every round of the scheduled 12-round fight.
"In the first round, Oscar was very hesitant and I knew we could win the fight and most likely by a stoppage,'' said a jubilant Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer who said coming into the fight that De La Hoya no longer has what it takes to win the big fight.
The latest scuff mark on his once shining career was enough for the 35-year-old Golden Boy to consider calling it a career as a fighter. Certainly De La Hoya's marquee value was diminished after continuing a trend of losing his biggest fights -- Felix Trinidad, twice against Shane Mosley, Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and now Pacquiao.
"Freddie, you're right,'' De La Hoya told Roach after walking over to Pacquiao's corner. "I don't have it any more."
With his face swollen and his left eye nearly closed, De La Hoya was on his stool when his trainer Nacho Beristain told referee Tony Weeks that the fight was over.
"I stopped the fight because I didn't want him to leave his greatness in the ring,'' Beristain said. "Oscar was in good condition but he couldn't control Manny's southpaw stance or style."
"He was the better man tonight and he deserves all the credit,'' said De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs). "He's a great fighter. I'm not shocked because at this stage when you face someone like Pacquiao you know you're going to have a fight."
On Friday, De La Hoya weighed in at 145 pounds, three pounds more than Pacquiao's official weight of 142, but the bigger man actually came into the ring lighter than Pacquiao, who weighed 148 1/2 pounds Saturday night to De La Hoya's 147.
"I trained really hard in the gym,'' De La Hoya said. "But I told a lot of people it's a lot different in the gym than when you actually get in the ring. My style is to go forward, but he was boxing on his toes all night and waiting for me to make my mistakes. I didn't have the strength to stop him. I felt really flat..."
Asked if he going to retire as a fighter, De La Hoya, speaking over boos from the partisan crowd that he had just let down, said " My heart is still in in it, that's for sure. But you have to be smart and make sure you think about your future plans."
For Pacquiao, the victory over the East Los Angeles-born, Mexican-American icon was the biggest achievement in his long career. He said he would be fighting for the pride of the Philippines and he did his nation proud.
"I knew right away I could win this fight,'' Pacquiao (48-3-2, 35 KOs) said. "I controlled the fight. I was able to defend against his jab. "I said speed would be the key and it was. This is a great victory for me and a great victory for my country."