2008-12-07 20:09:37

Against All Odds: Pacquiao TKO's De La Hoya


MANILA, Philippines --- Filipino ring hero Manny Pacquiao continued to validate his status as the world's top pound-for-pound fighter when he defied the odds in knocking out boxing icon Oscar "Golden Boy" De La Hoya in their welterweight Dream Match at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas Saturday night (Sunday in Manila).

There was no knockdown but a relentless Pacquiao gave De la Hoya all that he could handle, before the "Golden Boy" called it quits at the end of the eighth round, prompting referee Tony Weeks to declare the Filipino the winner by technical knockout.

In facing boxing's acknowledged icon, Pacquiao had to move up two weight divisions --- from lightweight to welterweight. He gave up four inches in height and six inches in reach, massive numbers for even the most skilled boxer to overcome.

But the Filipino icon leaned on his speed, all-action style, and brilliant ring movement to score the upset in what was billed as the fight of the year.

"I think I did well tonight," Pacquiao said. "I controlled [the] fight. We worked on my speed in the gym and I think that was the key in this fight."

"Thank you God for giving me the strength. I don't think he would last long. I was still careful even though I was in control," he said.

The stoppage came after a late flurry from Pacquiao in the eighth round, where De la Hoya started to show some signs of life after getting overwhelmed in the first eight rounds. At the time of the stoppage, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net, had Pacquiao ahead, 80-72, winning all the rounds.

Pacquiao got off to a solid start, dumbfounding De la Hoya with his ring movement and sneaking his pet left, snapping the Mexican-American's head several times.

By the time De la Hoya utilized his vaunted left jab in the third round, Pacquiao was firmly in control.

De la Hoya came alive in the fourth round, but Pacquiao came up with a whirlwind finish to steal it. De la Hoya landed a solid right to Pacquiao's face early in the round, his first big punch of the match.

Pacquiao shifted into high gear in the seventh, unleashing a run of combinations which staggered De la Hoya, sending the Golden Boy on the ropes for most of the round. But De la Hoya still managed to stay on his feet. Refusing to take further punishment, De la Hoya threw in the towel at the end of the eighth round.

The 29-year-old Filipino, who won his ninth fight in a row, has improved to 20-1 since 1999, his lone loss a 2005 decision to Mexican Erik Morales. He raised his record to 48 wins, including 35 knockouts, three losses and two draws.

"He's just a great fighter," the 35-year-old De la Hoya conceded. "He fought a tremendous fight. He was the better fighter and he deserves this win. I give him all the credit all the world."

De la Hoya added: "He prepared like a true champion. At this stage, when you face a great fighter like Manny, it's [the performance] expected.

But despite his impressive victory, Pacquiao still held De la Hoya, the sport's icon, in high esteem.

"You're still my idol," Pacquiao told De la Hoya.

The four-division champion and current WBC lightweight king is expected to earn close to $15 million for this fight, which includes a guaranteed purse -- reportedly $6 million -- and his share of the pay-per-view pie.

Pacquiao's latest conquest comes after wresting the WBC lightweight crown from David Diaz in June and WBC super featherweight crown from Juan Manuel Marquez last March.

De la Hoya, a gold medalist in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, dropped to 3-4 in his last seven fights and 39-6-0 overall.

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