LAS VEGAS – At long last, Juan Manuel Marquez got the better of Manny Pacquiao, and he did it in ruthless fashion via sixth-round knockout in front of a sellout crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
In a brutal welterweight war of attrition, a counter right hand from Marquez (55-6-1, 40 KOs) sent Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 KOs), into the canvas face-first and emphatically put an exclamation point on their fourth fight after failing three times to edge the Filipino in the past. The official time was 2:59.
“We knew he was going to come out aggressive,” Marquez said. “We knew we had to capitalize on that. The last three rounds, I thought Pacquiao was coming to knock me out, and I knew I could knock him down. I landed the perfect punch.”
Pacquiao, 147, had outworked Marquez, 143, in the first two rounds, but the Mexican responded in the third with a massive overhand right that sent Pacquiao careening to the canvas. Though Pacquiao recovered, Marquez had seemed to gain the momentum.
Of course, the perpetual ebb and flow between the two combatants would continue in the fifth round, as Pacquiao decked Marquez with a straight left hand as they exchanged. Marquez would rise to his feet, and although Pacquiao would subsequently take a lead in the sixth, the end would come swiftly and viciously.
Moments before the bell, Pacquiao flicked his right jab out and Marquez snuck a straight right hand through the guard that would put the Filipino down for good, as the arena was inundated with jubilant roars and desperate cries depending on the fans’ respective contingents.
Referee Kenny Bayless signaled for the fight to end as it was apparent Pacquiao would be unable to beat the count. Pacquiao remained on the canvas for about a minute but eventually came to his senses and was healthy enough to do a postfight interview.
“I got hit by a punch I didn’t see,” said Pacquiao, who had no plans to retire.
Judges Adalaide Byrd, Steve Weisfeld, and John Keane all had Pacquiao ahead 47-46 at the time of the stoppage. Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, reflected on his charge’s first knockout loss since 1999, when the Filipino was a 112-pound flyweight.
“Manny came back and was in charge,” Roach said. “He just got a little too careless and he was hurting Marquez.”
Heading into the bout, whispers surfaced regarding Pacquiao’s flagging commitment to boxing. Between his political ambitions as a congressman to arriving in his Hollywood training camp two weeks late, the Filipino’s extracurricular pursuits were magnified considering his last two outings were subpar by his standards.
Many ringside observers scored Pacquiao’s third fight with Marquez in November 2011 in favor of his Mexican foe. Then six months ago, the “Pac-Man” lost a highly disputed split decision to Timothy Bradley that left the boxing world wondering if Pacquiao’s prime had expired.
Marquez solidified those qualms into stone as he not only defeated his longtime tormentor, he entered himself into the discussion of greatest Mexican fighter ever alongside the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez.
At Friday’s weigh-in, the 39-year-old unveiled a chiseled physique, crediting his new appearance to strength and conditioning coach Angel Hernandez. After a draw and two consecutive decision losses to Pacquiao over the past eight years, the new-look Marquez has rejuvenated his career and opened the door to further pay-per-view possibilities.
Bob Arum of Top Rank, who works with both fighters, has stated that former lightweight titleholder Brandon Rios would be in the mix to fight the winner next in the spring of 2013. However, following a likely Fight of the Year candidate, a fifth encounter between the two rivals might be in the cards.
“Fifth fight? Why not?” Arum asked aloud. “Have you seen a more exciting fight in years?”
While Pacquiao expressed his interest in another matchup, Marquez revealed that he would savor the victory with his family before making his next move.
• Yuriorkis Gamboa (21-0, 16 KOs) Michael Farenas (34-3-4, 26 KOs), WBA interim jr. lightweight title: Gamboa, from Guantanamo, Cuba, returned to the ring after a 15-month layoff to post a competitive 12-round unanimous decision over southpaw Michael Farenas of Gubat, Philippines.
With his promoter 50 Cent rapping in the ring as he made his ringwalk, Gamboa, 130, instantly showcased his blinding handspeed in the second round, knocking Farenas down from a left uppercut in the closing seconds of the stanza.
But Farenas, 130, persisted and pressed forward, clipping the Cuban with several right hooks and left crosses in the ensuing rounds. While the Filipino would make the bout a competitive contest, Gamboa attacked when necessary, decking Farenas again in the seventh with a straight right hand.
In the ninth round, Gamboa seemed to have finally put Farenas away, but as he rattled off a string of unanswered shots with his foe on the ropes, the Filipino unleashed a counter right hook and straight left that put Gamboa on the seat of his pants.
With his legs now as solid as a bowl of jelly, Gamboa aimed to buy time by hitting Farenas below the belt and holding him excessively. Although Farenas seemed to be the aggressor and land the more effective shots in the final three stanzas, his late surge was not enough to come back on the cards.
Robert Hoyle (117-109), Richard Houck (118-108) and Glenn Trowbridge (117-108) scored the fight for the right man, but much wider than would be expected.
“He gave me some good rounds,” Gamboa said. “It’s been a while since I’ve fought and [Farenas] gave me a good fight.”
“I thought it was a close fight, but I’m not down after my performance,” Farenas said. “I gave it my all and know I can compete at this level.”
• Miguel Vazquez (33-3, 13 KOs) UD12 Mercito Gesta (26-1-1, 14 KOs), IBF lightweight title: The 5’10’’ Vazquez enjoyed a three-inch reach advantage over Gesta, but instead of exploiting his height, the native of Guadalajara, Mex., won a 12-round unanimous decision with his fleet feet. Gesta, 134, demonstrated a lack of urgency throughout the bout, and the lack of pressure allowed Vazquez just enough real estate to pivot away from the southpaw’s offensive advances.
Vazquez kept Gesta at bay by circling to his left, pumping his left jab and scoring with the occasional lead right hand. Although Gesta would slightly pick up the pace toward the conclusion of the title tilt, he fell short of connecting with anything substantial to wobble Vazquez. The San Diego resident via Mandaue City, Philippines, suffered his first defeat, but at age 25, he has plenty of time to learn from the experience.
Patricia Morse-Jarman (119-109), John McKaie (117-111), and C.J. Ross (118-110) gave the nod to the Mexican incumbent, who successfully defended his belt for the fourth time.
“[Vazquez] was great in there,” said Ricky Mota, Vazquez’s manager. “Gesta’s strong, but [Vazquez] kept outboxing him round after round.”
“He was very awkward,” Gesta said of Vazquez. “I couldn’t get my rhythm going.”
The Filipino’s cornerman was in accord.
“We worked the entire camp on cutting the ring off, and we couldn’t do it,” said Gesta’s trainer, Vince Parra.
• Javier Fortuna (20-0, 15 KOs) UD12 Patrick Hyland (27-0, 12 KOs), WBA interim featherweight title: Fortuna, 126, earned his first world title belt with a 12-round unanimous decision of Irishman Patrick Hyland, 126. Fortuna, a flashy southpaw from La Romana, D.R., came into the bout renowned for his offensive displays of firepower, but was lured into a tactical fight in the early going.
Hyland, from Dublin, was content to stay on the outside of his 22-year-old foe in hopes he would physically fade as the rounds progressed. While Hyland had varying amounts of success in the final third of the fight, he was unable to knock out Fortuna. The Dominican had already won the majority of the first eight rounds with his handspeed in their exchanges, which were few and far between all night.
Gary Merritt (118-110), Duane Ford (116-112), and Dave Moretti (115-113) all saw it for Fortuna.
“I was looking for an easy knockout, but I underestimated Hyland. It ended up being more difficult than I thought,” Fortuna said.
• Jose Ramirez (1-0, 1 KO) TKO1 Corey Seigwarth (2-2, 1 KO), lightweights: Ramirez, a 2012 Olympian from Avenal, Calif., wasted no time in jumping on Seigwarth, a Denver resident. The 20-year-old debutant’s early pressure overwhelmed Seigwarth, 136, as a left jab spun him around and was a precursor of what was to follow.
Moments later, a left hook upstairs from Ramirez decked Seigwarth. Although Seigwarth would rise to his feet, another series of unanswered left hooks and right hands to the head from Ramirez, 137, caused referee Vic Drakulich to call a halt to the bout at 2:05.
“It was something different fighting as a pro for the first time, but I felt strong,” Ramirez said. “[Having] the smaller gloves, and being able to hit guys without the headgear was great. Jose Ramirez is 1-0, and for all the fans especially back at home in Avenal, I want to thank them and hope they continue to support me.”
• Dodie Boy Peñalosa Jr. (10-0, 10 KOs) KO2 Jesus Lule (6-5, 1 KO), featherweights: Peñalosa, a southpaw featherweight from Cebu City, Philippines, extended both his knockout and win streaks to 10 with a second-round stoppage of Jesus Lule, 124.
After an uneventful first frame, the Filipino abruptly ended the clash with a left uppercut to the body followed by a looping right that detonated on Lule’s temple, sending him to the canvas for good. Official time was 1:12.
Peñalosa’s pedigree was evident in the corner, as his father Dodie Sr. and uncle Gerry were world champions in their heyday. Lule, from Fort Myers, Fla., had won five straight before the loss.
“The knockout came so sudden,” said Peñalosa, 123.5. “I was surprised he didn’t get up, but I hit him with a very good shot. I want to thank my father for training me well, and my promoter is Manny Pacquiao, so it’s up to him to see what’s next.”
• Ernie Sanchez (14-3, 5 KOs) UD8 Coy Evans (10-2-1, 2 KOs), junior lightweights: In an exciting junior lightweight slugfest, Sanchez, from Pacquiao’s hometown of General Santos, Philippines, outworked Philadelphia’s Evans over eight rounds. Evans, 126.5, buckled Sanchez, 127, late in the second with a right cross, but was unable to put him down. The momentum shifted in the third, as a series of left hooks to the head and body punctuated by a screaming right cross from Sanchez floored Evans, who would recover but was faced with fighting from behind the rest of the way.
Lisa Giampa and Jerry Roth had the bout 78-73 for Sanchez, while Tim Cheatham scored it 77-74 for the Filipino.
“He hurt me in the second, but it was a good thing I trained my hardest in camp, because I was able to take it,” Sanchez said through his coach Nonoy Neri, who interpreted his fighter’s words from the Bisaya language. “In the third, when I knocked him down, I stayed careful not to get reckless and continued to fight my fight.”
• Alexis Hernandez (3-1, 1 KO) TKO1 Jazzma Hogue (2-4-1), junior featherweights: Hernandez, 121, swiftly concluded Hogue’s night with two knockdowns. The first came courtesy of a Hernandez left hook, and when Hogue, 121, rose to his feet, he stood on shaky ground. Hernandez, from Las Vegas, smelled blood and started to wind up with his shots; another powerful right hand and left hook soon had Hogue, a native of Farmington, N.M., doubling over once more. Referee Jay Nady waved the bout off at 2:20.
CSN Bay Area Boxing Insider Ryan Maquiñana is a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and panelist for Ring Magazine’s Ratings Board. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.