Bigger, stronger... better: Pacquiao tackles another challenge
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Arlington, TX (Sports Network) -
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
But in the end, it was just like old times for scale-climbing superstar Manny Pacquiao.
The 5-foot, 6 1/2-inch Filipino vanquished yet another bigger, stronger foe in his personal four-cornered workshop Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium, ripping Antonio Margarito with speedy precision en route to a wide 12-round decision in their WBC super welterweight title bout.
The 154-pound championship bauble is the seventh in the collection of the 31- year-old southpaw, who'd previously been recognized on the world stage at 112, 122, 130, 135 and 140 pounds, and entered the ring as the incumbent WBO claimant at 147.
And while the latest title may be slightly devalued because it came in a catch-weight bout in which the fighters agreed to come in at or below 150 pounds, his effort won't be.
Judges Juergen Langos, Oren Shellenberger and Glen Crocker had the easiest job of the night at ringside, differing only a trifle while awarding the verdict to Pacquiao by counts of 120-108, 119-109 and 118-110.
Sports Network saw it just a smidge closer -- 117-111 for Pacquiao.
"It's hard. I really did my best to win the fight," Pacquiao said. "He's strong and a very tough fighter. I can't believe it. I'm so lucky to win tonight."
Magnanimous, perhaps. Lucky... not so much.
The No. 1 charge of trainer Freddie Roach jumped, jived and wailed on Margarito from a variety of angles and with a number of punches, controlling all but brief interludes with his palpable edges in hand speed and footwork acumen.
He claimed to have been hurt by a Margarito uppercut during one of the former welterweight champ's occasional rallies, but wound up dishing out far more than he took while decorating the California native's face with gruesome lumps around the eyes and a jagged cut along the right cheekbone.
The competitive gap between the two widened significantly in the latter stages and Pacquiao seemed on the verge of a stoppage in the 11th round, when he gestured toward referee Laurence Cole to stop the fight during a stretch in which he landed 51 of 75 power punches.
Cole refused to intervene during the round and Margarito's corner sent him out for the finish in the 12th, though Pacquiao admitted after the fight that he'd stepped off the gas and was content to settle for the easy decision.
"I feel pity for my opponent," Pacquiao said. "I look at his eyes and I see his bloody face, and I feel for that. So in the 12th round I wasn't looking for the knockout. I wanted to finish the round and my team said 'take it easy, just win the round and be careful.'"
The win upped Manny Pacquiao's record to 52-3-2 in a career.
The win upped Pacquiao's record to 52-3-2 in a career he began as a 106-pound teenager in 1995. He is 12-1-2 with nine knockouts in 15 title fights and hasn't lost on the championship stage since he was dumped in three rounds by Thai flyweight Medgoen Singsurat 11 years ago in a 112-pound bout.
His last defeat of any kind came in March 2005 in Las Vegas, when he was beaten over 12 rounds by veteran Erik Morales in a non-title affair at 130. Two subsequent fights with Morales at that weight ended in 10th-round and third-round stoppages for Pacquiao.
Margarito, a former IBF, WBA and WBO champion at 147 pounds, fell to 38-7.
The 32-year-old is 10-4 with a no-contest in 15 championship events of his own, including losing his WBA welterweight title by punishing ninth-round TKO to veteran Shane Mosley on a controversial night 22 months ago in Los Angeles.
The surprise beating came after a state commission inspector discovered an illegal substance in Margarito's hand wraps during a routine pre-fight check, a finding that eventually prompted suspension of his license in California and denial of a reinstatement application in August.
The Pacquiao and Margarito camps endured some of their own pre-fight drama on Saturday, with Margarito trainer Robert Garcia questioning the tape job on Pacquiao's hands, while Roach alleged that Margarito had ingested a drink with a substance banned by the Texas athletic commission.
Cooler heads eventually prevailed and the fight went off without a significant hitch.
"We knew Manny Pacquaio was very fast, but things were going good until I got cut. That's when problems started," Margarito said. "I'm a Mexican and we fight until the end. This time I failed Mexico, but we'll be back."
Unbeaten Philadelphia welterweight Mike Jones won his 23rd consecutive fight -- albeit not without peril -- with a majority 10-round decision over Mexican Jesus Soto-Karass in the final prelim to the Pacquiao-Margarito main event.
The 27-year-old earned 97-93 and 95-94 verdicts on the scorecards of judges Sergio Caiz and Levi Martinez, respectively, while judge Gale Van Hoy saw it even at 94-94.
Sports Network scored it for Soto-Karass, 96-94.
Jones controlled the initial round and nearly scored a stoppage in the second, pinning Soto-Karass along the ropes and unleashing a powerful minute-long flurry that opened a jagged cut on his foe's right eye.
Soto-Karass survived the onslaught, however, and was carrying the fight by the end of the round against a clearly fatigued Jones.
The momentum continued in that direction through the middle rounds before an also-bloodied Jones rallied late to re-establish control in rounds nine and 10.
Soto-Karass is 24-5-3.
Two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux escaped with his unbeaten record intact but gained few fans along the way, winning a sleepy 12- round split decision over Ricardo Cordoba in a super bantamweight bout.
Judges Nelson Vazquez and Ruben Garcia awarded the verdict to Rigondeaux by 117-109 and 114-112 margins, while Raul Caiz Sr. saw Cordoba a winner by a 114-112 count.
Both fighters were knocked down in the bout. Cordoba was dropped with a straight left hand to the body in the fourth round and rose at the count of 9, while Rigondeaux's right glove briefly touched the floor in sixth round after a straight right from Cordoba.
It was the first knockdown in the year-plus pro career for Rigondeaux, now 7-0.
The 30-year-old Cuban controlled the early rounds with effective aggression and sharper punches but settled into a less fan-friendly style following the knockdown, spending much of the final half on the move with little sustained punching output.
Cordoba fell to 37-3-2.
Sports Network scored the bout 114-112 for Rigondeaux.
Unbeaten lightweight prospect Brandon Rios won his eighth straight fight and improved to 26-0-1 overall with a fifth-round TKO of Omri Lowther in a scheduled 10-rounder.
Referee Raul Caiz Jr. stopped the bout at 2:17 of the round as Lowther reeled along the ropes after taking several hard shots from Rios in the preceding 30 seconds.
Both fighters took the match on eight days' notice after former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik bowed out of his undercard match with a reported rib injury.
Rios, who'd defeated formerly unbeaten prospect Anthony Peterson in his last fight, weighed in a quarter-pound over a contracted weight of 139 pounds and was required to pay Lowther a $5,000 penalty to go through with the bout.
The knockout was Rios' 18th overall and 17th in five rounds or less. A 10- round draw with Manuel Perez two years ago is the only blemish on his record, though it was avenged with a seventh-round TKO a year later.
Now a resident of Toronto, Lowther fell to 14-3 in a four-year pro career.
Elsewhere on the undercard:
Angel Rodriguez UD 4 Juan Martin Elorde (4 rounds, super featherweights)
Robert Marroquin KO 1 Francisco Dominguez (8 rounds, featherweights)
Mike Lee KO 1 Keith Debow (4 rounds, light heavyweights)
Jose Benavidez KO 3 Winston Mathis (6 rounds, super lightweights)
Richie Mepranum SD 6 Anthony Villareal (6 rounds, flyweights)
Oscar Meza UD 4 Jose Hernandez (4 rounds, lightweights)
Dennis Laurente UD 8 Rashad Holloway (8 rounds, welterweights)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.