ARLINGTON, TX By his own admission, trainer Freddie Roach said it was the worst camp of his fighter’s career.
Beset by a parade of distractions ranging from his congressional duties in the Philippines to campaigning stateside for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, many felt that Manny Pacquiao’s 28-month reign as pound-for-pound champion of the boxing world had finally met its maker.
They were wrong.
Although saddled by an extra three pounds as a result of his latest venture into a new division, the “Pac-Man” overcame the naysayers once more, thrashing a valiant Antonio Margarito on his way to a unanimous decision in front of 41.734 fans at Cowboys Stadium to claim the vacant WBC light middleweight title, his unprecedented eighth title in as many classes.
Margarito, 150, who by trainer Robert Garcia’s account had run four miles in the morning, arrived to the ring in the best shape of his life.
The “Tijuana Tornado” would need every bit of fitness, because he would barely make it to the final bell.
Buoyed by the strength of his blinding speed, elusive footwork, and power punching in spurts, Pacquiao, 144.6, was never in serious harm during the fight, save for a few seconds in the sixth round when he was briefly buckled by a body shot.
“By the third round, I think I had the fight, but I didn’t want to get overconfident…In the sixth round, he got me [with] a good shot, a body shot…I'm lucky to survive the round,” said Pacquiao.
“Margarito’s a great fighter,“ added trainer Freddie Roach. “He showed a lot of heart.”
Jurgen Langos had it 120-108, Glen Crocker 118-110, and Oren Schellenburger 119-109, all in favor of the new WBC light middleweight champion.
In the post-fight press conference, everyone’s favorite topic resurfaced. What about a fight with Floyd Mayweather?
Pacquiao gave his obligatory statement of deference. “I’m a fighter. My promoter is Top Rank and I’m just doing my job. I just want the people to be happy.”
So what does his promoter think?
“Obviously, we like everyone in boxing would like to see him fight Floyd Mayweather next,” said Bob Arum. “And we’re going to see if we can make that happen, and that’s our first priority. It requires Floyd Mayweather’s willingness to do the fight, and some take on the Nevada court system as to when the fight could take place where we wouldn’t be blindsided by a trial, or anything like that. But we’re going to work through those issues in the next couple of weeks.”
Asked about a third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, Roach replied, “We would do it at 147. I’d like Manny to be able to eat again and not skip meals.”
HBO and Top Rank expected to do a million pay-per-view buys. Now the waiting game begins.
“We just saw one of the great performances by one of the great fighters, and anytime you see that, the fight fans got their money’s worth,” said HBO senior vice president of sports Mark Taffet.
But, by all accounts, this was Pacquiao’s day. Just don’t ask the humble superstar to write a soliloquy about himself.
“Without the people, I’m not here,” he stated, matter-of-factly. “Everything is because of God for giving me the strength and the support of the people.”
Margarito was unable to make the postfight press conference, as he was sent to the hospital due to medical precautions. In addition, Pacquiao’s mother had a reported anxiety attack during the fight, but has since recovered, according to Arum.