It needed Manny Pacquiao barely 24 minutes to prove that Oscar de La Hoya could no longer give and take punches.
Weeks before the Pacquiao-de La Hoya fight took place on December 6, 2008, the Pacman’s chief trainer Freddie Roach had assessed that the Mexican-American legend can no longer pull the trigger and that his ward, a 1-to-2 underdog fighting as a welterweight for the first time, will easily win.
And in mere eight rounds, the then 29-year-old showed prizefighting’s Golden Boy himself and the entire boxing world that his partner for seven years’ statement was correct and not made only to sell the expected 12-round classic.
Oscar realized that while sitting on the stool in his corner following less than half-an-hour punishment the fleet-footed Filipino dealt him, rendering his left eye swollen, his face bruised, bloodied and all that led his handlers throw the towel to stop the carnage and save him from more serious injury.
“My heart still wants to fight, that’s for sure,” De La Hoya told television interviewer after his technical knockout loss in a clear indication that he intended to end his decade and-a-half fighting career highlighted by a gold medal victory in the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
“When your physical (attribute) doesn’t respond anymore, what can I do? he asked. I hve to be smart and make sure I think about my future plans.”
Paquiao’s domination of De La Hoya came was shocking and humiliating coming from the hands of a smaller and shorter fighter who, only nine months earlier had been fighting at 130 pounds and 13 years back at 109 pounds.
The beating he received was so severe, De La Hoya had to be taken to the hospital after the smoke of battle had cleared. The most popular fighter of his generation was so dominated he won just one round on one ringside scorecard and none on the other two.
“We knew we had him right after the first round.” Roach, who a one time also trained DLH, to this writer . “He had no legs, he was hesitant and was short.”
De La Hoya who had a bitter exchanges of harsh words with Roach during the pre-fight media conference, admitted the trainer’s statement himself when he approached Roach after the verdict was announced, saying, “Freddie, you’re right, I just don’t have It anymore.”
Making the move from lightweight to welterweight, Pacquiao completed his “Fighter of the Year” campaign, in a spectacular manner. The win was his third in 2008, two of them for world titles in his third of what turned eight-division championship conquests.
That, too, made him s of the modern day Henry Armstrong, the pound-for-pound legend who, 70 years earlier who simultaneously held plums in three weight divisions.
Manny kept Oscar off-balance with movements consistently outworking him and rocking him with hard left hands in every round. He led by nearly shot out scores of 80-71, 80-71, 79-72.
De La Hoya’s career was a remarkable story that started with his Olympic medal-winning stint as an amateur. He emerged as the biggest box office attraction in the sweet science sport. His fights almost always sold tickets.
Pacquiao attributed his victory to his speed, which he said he and Roach concentrated during training. “That’s where we focused on everyday in the gym. Speed, speed was the key to this fight. I focused on speed in training, that’s why I won.”
Pacquiao was magnanimous in triumph telling De La Hoya after the bout: ”You’re still my idol, ” by way of paying tribute to his nemesis.
To which DLH retorted: “No. You’re my idol now. “
De La Hoya confessed Pacquiao was too powerful and fast, “ I didn’t know where his punches were coming and when they would come.”
The post-fight statistics revealed Pacquiao landed 224 of his 585 thrown shots to to just 83 of 402 for his The Filipino icon, likewise, had the upper hand in the power punches department, connecting 1955 of 333 to Oscar’s 51 of 164.