Before a crowd of 41,734 in Cowboys Stadium (about 10,000 fewer than Manny Pacquio's victory over Joshua Clottey last March), Pacquiao out-punched, out-landed, and out-classed Antonio Margarito en route to a unanimous decision.
Saturday's fight between Pacquiao and Margarito began in the locker room between the corners. Pacquiao's camp disputed the reported presence of Hydroxycut (containing a banned substance similar to ephedrine) in Margarito's dressing room and Margarito's disputed the tape that trainer Freddie Roach used to wrap his fighter's hands. A member of the Texas State Athletic Commission mediated a conversation in Pacquiao's locker room between Roach and Mararito's trainer Robert Garcia, in which he chalked up both claims to the camps "playing mind games with each other." While the trainers' rhetoric escalated, Pacquiao smiled as he shadowboxed seemingly unaware of the drama. Each side relented in the interest of getting the fight underway.
Pacquiao usually enjoys watching highlights of himself between rounds for inspiration, but the enormous overhead screen of Cowboys Stadium extends well beyond the confines of the ring, robbing Pacquiao of his ritual. He will sadly have to watch the rebroadcast. He will likely enjoy what he sees.
The judges cards read 120-108, 118-110, and 119-109 in favor of the Filipino congressman, whose record improves to 52-3-2. Pacquiao has now won his 8th divisional world title: the WBC super welterweight crown. (The most divisional titles any fighter has garnered second to Pacquiao is six by Oscar De La Hoya.) As of fight night's immediate aftermath, Pacquiao had more wins in Cowboys Stadium in 2010 than did the Dallas Cowboys.
Pacquiao entered the ring the smaller man by a differential of 4.5 inches and 17 pounds (according to HBO's unofficial scale). Margarito seemed to lose every round but the sixth, which he largely won because of how poorly he performed in the first five. Despite being routed, the Tijuanan delivered several substantial shots, particularly to Pacquiao's body, while pinning him against the ropes. Both fighters succeeded with power punches (58% for Pacquiao and 43% for Margarito, though the Filipino connected 376 more times). The fight would not fulfill Margarito's quest for redemption with fans after a hand wrap scandal surfaced in his knockout loss to Shane Mosley in January 2009.
Continually turning Margarito, catching him off balance, and hitting him with an accumulation of blows, Pacquiao dominated Margarito with speed and footwork, leaving trainer Freddie Roach to believe, "Margarito's corner should have stopped that fight. They didn't protect their fighter in those final rounds. He may never fight again."
Normally a fighter of superhuman stamina, Pacquiao waned in work-rate after the sixth, particularly after Margarito nearly buckled Pacquiao with a body shot. By then, however, Margarito's right eye had already been sealed shut for two rounds. The other would close shortly. He would need to be stewarded for inspection at the Methodist Medical Center in Dallas for stitches and a brain scan. His right orbital socket had been broken and would need surgery. While Pacquiao did not need to head to the hospital, his mother did, fainting after being overcome by her emotions during the fight. (By Sunday, she reportedly had recovered.)
Despite Pacquiao's romp over Margarito, it did come at a cost: the heavier man connected with plenty of blows to Pacquiao's mid-section. At first, Pacquiao would respond to Margarito's best shots by slapping his gloves together and demanding greater nourishment of his appetite for pain. After the sixth, however, Pacquiao was well-enough fed to content himself by throwing lead left hands or hooks and spinning out of range. His strength coach Alex Ariza said in the locker room after the fight of his bruised charge, "I hate seeing him bleed. We're almost like family now."
In his post-fight interview with Max Kellerman, Pacquiao himself admitted of Margarito's body-punching, "I hurt."
After the fight, Pacquiao left his locker room in a white cap and vest, heading to check on Margarito, whom Pacquiao appeared to carry in the later rounds. Roach said of the final stanzas, "Pacquiao didn't knock him out because he's compassionate. At the end of the 11th, I said, ‘Manny, go knock him out for me.'" Instead, Pacquiao himself turned to referee Laurence Cole in hopes he'd stop the fight out of mercy to Margarito.
In the past, Pacquiao has proven he can beat bigger men. Saturday proved he can beat far bigger men who are in superb condition, which Margarito was. Having made history again with an eighth world title, Pacquiao brings fight fans around the globe to ask the same question one more time, "What would happen if he fought Floyd Mayweather?" They will all hope to find an answer next spring. Mayweather is currently awaiting a court date on January 24, 2011 after a domestic dispute earlier this year.
On Tuesday, while Margarito undergoes surgery on his eye, Pacquiao will perform a concert at Lake Tahoe. Later that week, Pacquiao will head to the Philippines to return to Congress, where at least a dozen House resolutions have been filed commending his work in the ring against Margarito. While politics has taken on a significant role in Congressman Pacquiao's life, he asserted that this fight would not be his last. As Pacquiao prepares to celebrate his 32nd birthday December 17, his illustrious career in the ring is coming to its conclusion so he can focus on politics. Pacquiao has much yet to accomplish in that arena before 2016, when the fighter recently confessed he would like to become Vice President.