LAS VEGAS – Knockdowns are a seminal event in a boxing match. Get floored and, chances are, you're going to lose.
For all of the many knockdowns that Mike Tyson scored in his career, he never won any of the four bouts he fought in which he himself was decked. The former heavyweight champion was knocked down by Buster Douglas in 1990, by Evander Holyfield in their first bout in 1996, by Lennox Lewis in 2002 and by Danny Williams in 2004. He didn't make the finish line in any of them.
Those who are able to get up after going down and go on to win are fighters in the purest sense of the word.
Felix Trinidad made a reputation for himself early in his illustrious career for his ability to recover and win after hitting the canvas early in bouts.
So, too, did Larry Holmes, the long-reigning heavyweight champion who went down several times during his seven-year title stint but always pulled himself up and rallied to win.
"When I got hit and went down, my first instinct was to get up and kick his ass, because it was a lucky shot," Holmes said. "You can't go out there and hold on and hang on, because the guy will just overwhelm you then and they'll stop the fight. When I was down, you watch, the first thing I did when I got up was I fought back. I got up and I was throwing punches."
Holmes was knocked down in the seventh round of a 1981 title defense in Pittsburgh against unheralded Renaldo Snipes. Video of the knockdown is still available at YouTube.
Holmes staggered into the corner and went down. But when he got up, the first thing he did was fire a hard right hand that blunted Snipes' charge.
"Really, the only time I was really seriously hurt was when I got it from Earnie Shavers, because the lights kind of went out," Holmes said. "But even then, I came to and I fought back. I wasn't going to let that guy come in there and start beating on me. I fought, because that's what you're supposed to do."
But neither Trinidad nor Holmes, as great as they were, were able to accomplish what Juan Manuel Marquez did when he met Manny Pacquiao on May 8, 2004 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.
Pacquiao floored Marquez three times in the first and, for all intents and purposes, had the fight won.
"I thought it was over," conceded Pacquiao, who meets Marquez again on Saturday at Mandalay Bay on HBO Pay-Per-View for the WBC super featherweight belt. "I didn't expect him to get up after the last one."
Marquez, though, managed to yank himself off the canvas after each of the three knockdowns, surviving not only those but also a blatantly illegal punch.
After the third knockdown, Marquez was on the seat of his pants along the ropes. Referee Joe Cortez had yet to get between the fighters and begin his count when Pacquiao landed a hard shot to the side of the downed Marquez' face.
"I was angry because Manny Pacquiao punched me when I was down and the referee never said anything to him," Marquez said. "I was mad and I realized that I had to do my best since the referee was not doing his job properly. I was angrier at the referee than I was with Manny Pacquiao."
Marquez survived that and made it to the finish line, though he didn't win that 2004 bout. It was scored a split draw, with one judge scoring it for Marquez, another for Pacquiao and the third calling it even.
A minor controversy ensued when the third judge, Burt Clements, admitted his 10-7 score in the first round was a mistake. The other judges scored the first round 10-6, but Clements said he was under the impression at the time that the Nevada Athletic Commission didn't want a judge to score a round 10-6.
Had Clements done so, and properly given Pacquiao the point for each of his three knockdowns, he would have had Pacquiao the winner by a point and Pacquiao would have taken a split decision.
Clearly, though, Marquez scored something of a moral victory, by not only getting up but also by controlling most of the remainder of the bout.
"This time," Pacquiao sniffed, "he won't get up if he goes down."
Boxing history says that the fighter who goes down may get up, but he usually doesn't win. Newly crowned WBC heavyweight champion Samuel Peter is one of those who defied that tradition.
In his Oct. 6 bout in New York against Jameel McCline, Peter was dropped three times, going down once in the second and twice more in the third.
Peter had been on the other side of a situation like that, so he knew while he was down that the fight was not necessarily over. He floored Wladimir Klitschko three times in a non-title bout in 2005, but Klitschko got up each time and won a decision.
Peter said injuries – he claimed he had a broken eardrum and an injured right hand – hampered his performance against McCline and, in part, led to the knockdowns. But when he was on the floor, he said he thought of what was at stake.
McCline and Peter were fighting for the interim WBC belt, because then-champion Oleg Maskaev had injured his back. Peter knew the importance of dragging himself from the mat.
"To be the champion was something I had put so much of my life into," Peter said. "I was down, but I wasn't (out). I just said, 'You can do it,' and I forced myself to get up."
Marquez said he used the same tactic as Peter. He was defending the WBA and IBF championships, belts he had only recently acquired.
Marquez had long been one of the game's finest fighters, but didn't get his first title shot until more than six years into his career. He lost that 1999 bout, controversially, to Freddie Norwood.
He didn't get another shot until 2003, when he pummeled Manuel Medina for the IBF belt. On Nov. 1, 2003, he won a technical decision over Derrick Gainer to add the WBA belt in his final match before taking on Pacquiao.
Pacquiao burst into stardom two weeks after Marquez had beaten Gainer in what was the Filipino's first bout at featherweight. He upset Marco Antonio Barrera, who at the time held no championship belts but carried the moniker, "The King of the Featherweights," by stopping him in the 11th round.
Marquez believed he'd win despite Pacquiao's burgeoning reputation, and never expected to find himself scrambling to survive the opening three minutes.
"I was pretty confident (for) that fight," Marquez said. "I was connecting well in the first round. And I was confident. I thought it was going to be an issue fight. But, whoa, I got a surprise that it wasn't. I mean, he got me with three great punches (and) I went down three times. But I got up.
"I got up because of the great condition that I was in at that time, but also because I was defending two titles. Two titles that cost me a lot to win them. And I wasn't letting them go in three minutes, just like that."