June 28, 2008: When Manny Pacquiao Broke Through A Historic Barrier at Lightweight (Part 3/3)
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Wed, 24 Jun 2020
Part Three: The Breakthrough at 135
Heading to the fight that evening of June 28, 2008 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, questions still lingered in the minds of many Filipinos about the ability of Manny Pacquiao to break through the physical as well as psychological barriers of the lightweights.
This despite Manny being billed as pre-fight favorite by the Vegas oddsters.
Somehow, the thought of a string of fine junior featherweight champion fighters including Bobby Chacon and Azumah Nelson in the 90s and more recently, Erik Morales losing in their bids at lightweights did not serve to shore up confidence.
Though already in a distant past at that point, the violent fate of Flash Elorde at the hands of Carlos Ortiz was still fresh in the minds of many Filipinos.
And Ortiz and David Diaz shared many things in common as both were tough, big lightweights who have even fought and won as light welterweights.
David Diaz was even earlier compared to Argentine heavyweight great Oscar Bonavena for his well built upper body and bulldozing style of fighting.
He certainly fitted the comparison especially during his successful defense against Erik Morales who was then coming off an earlier masterful win over Manny Pacquiao, the Pinoy icon's only loss in nearly ten years ( Manny though avenged that loss by two successive knockouts but still at junior lightweight limit).
Pacquiao Surprises, Demolishes Diaz
But Diaz and his corner never reckoned that the Pacquiao he would face that evening of June 28, 2008 in Las Vegas would be a lightweight incarnation of Muhammad Ali, the man to first floor and knock out the teak tough Bonavena back in the 70s.
With a hint of brutality and desire for mayhem of a Joe Frazier, another Bonavena tormentor back in those days.
Hence the result and moral lessons of their fight could be expressed in the themes of speed kills, talent tops grit and one man was too tough and too proud for his own good.
Pacquiao drops Diaz in the 9th round.
Finally floored and stopped in the ninth round after amazingly staying on his feet through eight rounds of relentless punishments, David Diaz said the speed of Manny Pacquiao was much too much for him.
Manny Pacquiao was much too much for any lightweights with the possible exception of the Panamanian great Roberto Duran that night, experts said.
CompuBox numbers were decidedly in Pacquiao's favor as Manny landed 230 of his 788 punches, while Diaz connected on just 90 of 463.
Manny outworked, outlanded, and simply beat up Diaz. He opened up several cuts on Diaz's face, and finally forced the stoppage in the ninth with a short, precise shot that was perfectly timed felling the outclassed Mexican-American defending champion face first to the canvas.
One official account of the fight said:
"The Filipino icon was sensational in his dominant win over Diaz, virtually hitting at will the hard-working WBC lightweight titleholder and utterly shutting him down offensively. Diaz's only saving grace was that his defense was sound enough to keep him standing as long as he did, because had it been any worse, the fight could have been over in four or five rounds.
"Diaz never had a single shining moment. Pacquiao moved around the ring beautifully, punching the whole time, and Diaz had no choice but to chase after him, eating shot after shot along the way.
The fight in many ways was similar to the 1951 encounter between Sugar Ray Robinson, who stepped up to fight Jake LaMotta, but that fight took nine rounds to turn into a massacre. This one was a blatant mismatch from the opening bell."
Manny Lays Stakes to No.1 P4P, Superstardom
With this victory at lightweight, Pacquiao's growing legend was further enhanced, and any lingering doubts about his fitness at 135 before this fight, were effectively dispelled.
As the first Pinoy to win a major world lightweight championship, he also banished the sad memories of Elorde's two painful title defeats at the hands of Ortiz from the minds of many Filipinos.
More than that, his being not only a potential Hall of Fame fighter had been secured but at that time, it had become really hard to argue against him as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport.
His nearest competitor was then super middleweight king Joe Calzaghe of the UK who toted a fine resume, but Pacquiao's was simply better. Titles at 112, 122, 126, 130 and now 135 with wins over the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera twice and Erik Morales also twice in back to back fashion, both by knockouts in avenging his only defeat in nearly a decade.
And drubbing Juan Manuel Marquez and David Diaz in just a span of six months, both with world titles on the line.
Commentators agreed that It was indeed hard to find an argument against Manny as the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter and emerging superstar out there after the retirement of Floyd Mayweather.
And the impending exit of Oscar de la Hoya who before the end of that same year, would challenge Manny to an all important fight at a catchweight of 147 lbs, the welterweight limit, to determine who's who.
But that's a different story for another day.
The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone 09215309477.
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