The boxing star delivered an uninspiring performance, but managed to win the judges' decision against Juan Manuel Marquez
After Saturday's megafight in Las Vegas, Manny Pacquiao was 30 minutes late for the press conference because he had a date with a plastic surgeon. Pacquiao, a Filipino boxer, had a gash over his right eye that needed twenty-three stitches. Pacquiao, who--until Saturday evening--was considered the world's greatest fighter, has a bubbly and likeable personality. He has captivated his nation. He is a Congressman (60 Congressman from the Philippines were in attendance), a game show host, a singer, a product pitchman for Hennessy, Hewlett-Packard and Nike, and a future presidential candidate. He even went to the White House to meet President Barack Obama. On Saturday when he fought (Sunday morning in the Philippines) his country stopped to watch him fight Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico. Watching Pacquiao fight, and win, has become like a religious experience to millions of people.
But when the fight concluded, Marquez lifted his hands in the air in victory. Pacquiao returned to his corner with his head bowed. I'm not sure I have ever seen him so defeated. The judges had seen it the other way. Remarkably, Pacquiao won the fight on two of the three scorecards (the other judge had it a draw) in what is called a majority decision.
Pacquiao was expected to trounce Juan Manuel Marquez, 38, a brilliant but aging fighter, who is known as "Dinamita" for his explosive counter punches. Pacquiao was a 10-1 favorite, and his Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach expected him to knock Marquez out by the sixth round. The two men have fought before. First in 2004 to a dramatic draw (Marquez was floored three times in the first round), then in 2008, which turned into a split decision favoring Pacquiao. Since that fight Pacquiao has had a stellar career--including sending Oscar De La Hoya into retirement--and winning fans through his athletic accomplishments as well as his fight against poverty in his home country. Pacquiao's story of living as the poorest of the poor as a kid and his efforts to help the impoverished as an adult have made him into a worldwide icon.
For the last three years, Marquez remained upset, claiming that he had won both of their fights, and pushed for a third fight with relentless zeal. He even took to wearing a t-shirt that said, "Marquez Beat Pacquiao Twice."
Finally, he received his wish. He was determined to prove to the boxing world wrong, that he was a better boxer. No one gave him a chance. Saturday was his chance to prove everybody wrong.
Pacquiao has dominated so many fighters of late that he seemed invincible. In the last several months, he worked relentlessly on learning how to combat Marquez' counter-punching style. Training sessions in Hollywood were the best of Pacquiao's career. I went to watch Pacquiao train and he was making his sparring partners suffer. Pacquiao has had foot problems and calf cramping in several of his fights, but everyone assured me that these issues had gone away. Pacquiao looked like a sure winner.