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ARLINGTON, Texas – Antonio Margarito entered the ring standing five inches taller and weighing 17 pounds more than Manny Pacquiao.
By the ninth round, Margarito’s right eye had been nearly closed. His nose was bent. The rest of his face was bloodied and bruised. So pronounced was the destruction that Pacquiao kept turning to the referee and begging him to stop the fight, to end his massacre of this bigger, stronger man.
“Look at his eyes,” Pacquiao said he pleaded to the referee. “Look at his cuts.”
Somewhere Floyd Mayweather had to be watching this beatdown. He had to be watching this incomparable talent defy all known properties of size and strength. And he had to feel reassured about his recent career decisions.
For Mayweather, ducking Manny Pacquiao has never seemed so smart.
If Mayweather has any brains – and for all his fool’s antics, he most certainly does – he’ll keep dodging the superfight the world wants.
All the motivation he needs is to look at those busted-up cheeks of Antonio Margarito.
Pac-Man (52-3-2) won a unanimous decision Saturday here at Cowboys Stadium over a courageous but clearly outclassed Margarito. He won a title in his eighth weight class even though he didn’t bother to even get close to the contracted 150-pound weight limit. He officially weighed 144.6 and entered the ring at 148. Margarito was bulked up to 165 and the hour leading up to the fight had Pacquiao’s team accusing him of trying to take illegal stimulants.
Margarito may as well have snorted the 50-yard line. Nothing can stop Pacquiao and deep down Mayweather has to know that includes him. Step into the ring with Pac-Man these days and you leave a swollen mess (Miguel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya, Margarito).
“I promote both Antonio and Miguel Cotto,” said Bob Arum of Top Rank Boxing. “Both of them got an ass-whipping from Manny. I ran out of my own guys. He’s beat all my guys.”
Mayweather (41-0) is a different class of fighter than those men. He’s a darting, defensive wizard who would offer the most formidable technical challenge to Pacquiao. It’s why everyone wants to see the fight made.
At this point, though, Pacquiao has separated himself and each hellacious beating he hands out serves as a new round of caution. Pacquiao isn’t just fast. He isn’t just skilled. He is a destructive force. And increasingly he’s shown to possess a formidable chin. If Pacquiao can put his back on the ropes and take the best shots of Margarito and Cotto, you wonder how the lighter-punching Mayweather could possibly hurt him.
“I can’t believe I beat someone this big and this strong,” Pacquiao said.
Pacquiao's winning wasn’t a surprise (he was more than a three-to-one favorite). Margarito’s face being turned into a mangled mess as some fans screamed from ringside for the fight to be called was. Why the ref and ringside doctor allowed it to continue remains a mystery. Pacquiao disabled Margarito’s reach, height and strength advantage with barrage after barrage of swift, precise combinations. It was equal parts brilliant and brutal.
“My opponent looked bad and I wanted the ref to stop,” Pacquiao said. “I didn’t want to damage him permanently. That is not what boxing is about.”
Margarito refused to quit – “I’m a Mexican and we fight to the end,” he said. His corner said they couldn’t throw in the towel on such a warrior. It was all so foolish; their fighter caught two or three extra rounds of savage punches.
“He has the worst corner,” said Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach. “It probably ruined his career by not stopping the fight.… He might never fight again. He took too many unnecessary punches.”
That’s the danger of stepping into the ring with this guy. He’s not just winning fights; he’s altering, if not ending, careers.
Mayweather has found a hundred ways to avoid Pacquiao and increasingly it all makes sense. He was right to demand strict drug testing. But as the Pacquiao camp moved significantly on that issue and agreed to a reasonable timetable, Mayweather ran out of viable excuses. His mouth has run too long and too hard to reverse course now. So instead we keep getting delays and excuses and self-destructive behavior.
“After this great performance, Mayweather needs to put up or shut up or move out of the country,” Roach said. “Face it, Manny’s way above him at this point. I remember when [Mayweather] was ducking Margarito. If he doesn’t fight Manny now we know this guy should retire.”
Both Arum and HBO’s Ross Greenburg said they’d reach out to the Mayweather camp again this week but why would this time be any different? The pile of money – maybe $100 million plus – remains on the table, but now both Mayweather and his trainer/uncle Roger are dealing with significant legal issues in separate domestic violence incidents.
“We wouldn’t want to be blindsided by something like a trial,” Arum noted.
Legal woes should serve as one more roadblock that Mayweather can use. If you’re Floyd Jr., what’s the rush anyway? How many opponents need to be sent to the hospital to try to avoid being the next one?
Mayweather has never faced a relentless force like this. They just don’t exist. Pacquiao threw an astounding 713 power punches and landed an equally astounding 53 percent of them. It’s what carved Margarito’s face to bits.
It was ugly. It was violent. It was an unmistakable message to the one opponent everyone wants to see next.
No one dodges a punch like Mayweather. And the best way to slip Pacquiao’s blinding combination is to keep finding a way to stay out of the ring.