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MANNY Pacquiao fought a perfect and splendid fight en route to a lopsided ninth round stoppage of boxing's ageing Oscar de la Hoya, showing the world that the sports of sweet science has found a new superstar.

The General Santos City boxing hero executed his fight plan to perfection baffling de la Hoya with his swarming speed and stunning him with well delivered combinations.

For eight action-packed rounds, Pacquiao reduced his more illustrious foe to a punching bag unable to hit back at its attacker. De la Hoya was throwing punches through thin air most of the time, unable to unload his vaunted left hooks and right straights and validating his coach's statement that Golden Boy could no longer pull the trigger. In fact, Roach may as well have said Oscar did not have the guns anymore.

With the stunning upset win, Pacquiao cemented his rarefied place in the short list of boxing all time greats.

Although no title was at stake, his victory was worth ten folds the belt and even bigger than all the world titles he held at four different weight categories.

Thing of beauty

Only a handful paid attention to Top Rank's Bob Arum warnings that the adage "speed kills" will prevail over the all time boxing cliche that "a good big man will always prevail over a good little man."

Although Manny was only three pounds below Oscar's official weight record, the disparity in bulk and height was so glaring one wonders if the fight itself was not only a sparring session for the Filipino southpaw.

But when the bell sounded, all the disadvantages of Manny were thrown to the garbage bin.

What unfurled before the stunned audience composed of boxing gliteratis and veritable Who's Who in Hollywood and in the US, was a masterful display of polished aggression and cunning offensive defense from Manny who was given little if no chance at all at stopping de la Hoya.

Control of tempo

Right from the opening bell, Manny showed he was not there just to collect his money but, rather, he was there to chase history and even overtake it.

He teed off to immediately and made Oscar looked like a lost child (and a boy again) in the jungle dotted only by three men ? him, Oscar and the referee and where the forest (read audience) was outside looking in.

Manny made Oscar fought the Filipno's fight.

Throwing left leads and making Oscar looked silly in missing his target, Manny established the tempo of the fight early. He beat Oscar to the punch.

By the second round, Manny had already willed himself to dominate Golden Boy. With 55 seconds left in the second stanza, Pacquiao unleashed a combination of punches that had the pro-de la Hoya crowd roaring in awe.

In the third round, Manny dug several left and right hooks to the body of Oscar who visibly grunt in pain. Before Oscar could counter, Manny was already gone. Oscar could only stare bewildered at Manny's defiance against a taller and bigger man while aiming but not able to pull his punches at the quickly disappearing Filipino buzzaw. Several times, Manny shook Oscar's head with left straights.

Oscar was able to land several power shots in the fourth round, alright. But these did not even make Manny blinked. At the end of the round, Oscar was already sporting a small cut on the nose bridge and welts were already appearing around his left eye from the pounding he is getting from Manny ? courtesy of the Filipino's left straigths and right crosses.

At that point, Manny made his statement for the night. Oscar was in for the long haul and a long night.

The most exciting round before the fateful surrender of Oscar after eight rounds was at the closing seconds of Round 5. Manny drove Oscar to the corner and uncorked a blistering attack after he was earlier tagged by de la Hoya with left hooks near the ropes. Oscar was reduced into covering himself up during that counterattack.

At the break, Roach again admonished Manny to stay away from the ropes which he did.

From there on, Manny was connecting at will. In Round 6, Manny traded heavy punches to the body with Oscar and came out unscathed. By then, Oscar's left eye was almost shut.

Manny's most dominating round was in the seventh when he chased Oscar with power bombs across the ring and into the corner. Filipino fans watching the fight at MGM Grand Hotel were lustily cheering their hearts out, drowning the pitiful pro-Oscar crowd.

In the last round of the evening, Manny showed some bravado by allowing Oscar to hit him in the body. Oscar obliged by throwing five to six shots ? none of them hurting Manny. Those were the only meaningful punches of Oscar for the night and that fleeting success was monetary. Before the end of the round, Pacquiao again drove Oscar near the ropes and let go some of his best punches for the night. Oscar mercifully ducked and almost came close to dropping to the canvass before the bell sounded.

It was the last clang for the night.

Before the timekeeper could ring the bell for the ninth round, Oscar shook his head in surrender.

He just gave Manny a technical knockout victory.

It was only the second stoppage in Oscar's illustrious career and what a way to end it.

Pandemonium

All hell broke loose, so to speak, at Manny's residence in General Santos City when Oscar failed to answer the bell for the ninth round. Her two-year old daughter, who clapped her hands when her father was introduced atop the ring, was dancing when she realized her father won. Why, she could even give her father a run of his money ? simulating the punches of Manny atop a table placed in the middle of their spacious lanai.

A crowd of 100 close relatives and friends left behind glued to the TV set stood in silence before erupting into cheers.

As I raced down to the house to file this story, few people were spilling out from the various pay-per-view sites that dotted the city.

They, too, were savoring the biggest and most complete victory of Manny Pacquiao to date.

Her mother Dionisa, as usual, was not in the lanai to watch her son register the biggest win of his career. She was locked up inside a small cubicle that served as an altar in Manny's mansion, praying the rosary, the second for the day.

She earlier called Manny to remind him to pray doubly hard.

And like her mother, Manny offered prayers twice too ? before he left his locker room and again upon entering the ring. He would add another one after the fight, though.

Next stop

Manny's victory Sunday (Philippine time) is a passing of the torch - from one of boxing's greatest figures and superstars to another.

Without doubt, there is nothing left in Oscar. And in Manny, the sport has found a new superstar. Already acclaimed as the best pound for pound, he is poised to inherit de la Hoya's mantle as boxing's next biggest draw.

Forget about the whining Juan Manuel Marquez. There is Ricky Hatton waiting in the wings who just got his wish. Hatton said he would fight the winner between de la Hoya and Pacquiao but preferred the latter. He got both wishes.

For sure, Floyd Mayweather Jr. watched the fight. Do we hear news of his comeback and un-retiring already?

But first, Manny deserves a long Christmas vacation. Who would not?

PHOTO BY DR ED DE LA VEGA.




Click here to view a list of other articles written by Edwin G. Espejo.


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