PACQUIAO DEMOLISHES DIAZ, ASSUMES POUND FOR POUND THRONE
When Floyd Mayweather Jr. retired earlier this month and forfeited his status as the best fighter in the world, pound-for-pound, the logical heir to that mythical throne was Manny Pacquiao. As with the last several pound-for-pound champions, the number two boxer, which Pacquiao has been for some time, moves into first when the number one man is defeated or retires. But just to hammer home the point, Pacquiao proved his worth when he challenged David Diaz for the WBC Lightweight Championship and won a title in his fourth division with a stellar performance.
To be fair, Diaz has long been considered one of the weaker and more vulnerable champions in the lightweight division. He earned the WBC title in a match that should have never been for a belt in the first place with a late round knockout over Jose Armando Santa Cruz after trailing badly on the scorecards. Diaz defended his title against Erik Morales last summer and appeared to lose clearly enough but emerged victorious on the judges’ scorecards. Choosing Diaz was a strategic move by the Pacquiao camp that proved to pay off big time on Saturday night.
There was no question Diaz was not on Pacquiao’s level as an elite fighter; however, the size factor – Diaz being the biggest opponent Pacquiao had yet to face – was a cause for some concern. There was no way of telling whether Pacquiao would carry his speed and power up into the lightweight division to make Diaz respect him. This, along with the historic implications of Pacquiao becoming the first Asian to win titles in four weight classes, was the main selling point for the fight. But by the end of the first round or two, Pacquiao had already provided all the answers.
From the outset, Diaz was in no way prepared to handle the speed of the Filipino fighter and could do little else but cover up as Pacquiao fired an array of punches into and around his gloves. Diaz challenged Pacquiao by asking for more in the first round, and Pacquiao gladly obliged him. That Diaz fought defensively only made it easier for Pacquiao as he was free to blitz the champion with blazing punches from all angles in the second round, and this time Diaz neglected to ask for a second helping. After the round, he returned to his corner, bleeding from both his right ear and the bridge of his nose, courtesy of Pacquiao’s power, which had indeed accompanied him for the ride to the lightweight division.
In addition to his vaunted left hand, Pacquiao was able to mix in his right hook, dubbed “Manila Ice,” given that Diaz is a southpaw like himself. A big right hook across Diaz’ already cut nose landed in the third round. With the largely Filipino crowd chanting him on, Pacquiao continued ripping the hard but now bloody nosed Diaz both to the body and the head, but Diaz refused to do anything but stand in front of the power punching machine. Some brutal combinations to end the round incredibly weren’t enough to deter the champion.
Instead, Diaz tried taking the fight to Pacquiao to begin the fourth round, but he received a nasty cut over his right eye for his efforts. Referee Vic Drakulich decided the cut was so bad that he called a timeout to have it examined by the ringside doctor, who allowed Diaz to continue since the blood was running down the side of the champion’s face rather than into his eye. Just when it seemed Diaz was hurt by a right hook that moved him back, the champion fought back. Pacquiao, of course, met him head on and blasted combinations into and around a covering Diaz’ guard. Pacquiao then put his hands up and looked to Drakulich as if to suggest to him that Diaz was in no condition to continue taking this beating. As it stood, Drakulich ignored the gesture, and the beating continued with a monster of a left across Diaz’ chin. The crowd roared upon hearing the cracking blow reverberate through the arena, but Diaz shook his head, no.
The punishment reached new heights in round five as blood oozed over the entire right side of Diaz’ face. Pacquiao hammered him with hard right hooks and left hands and hit the body whenever Diaz had enough and covered up. Drakulich watched the action closely, but Diaz gave no indication he was ready to pack it in just yet. More convincing than any punches he threw was Diaz’ demeanor. One could hardly tell from his body language that he was even aware that he was bleeding from as many as four different cuts.
After a series of shots that included up to a dozen unanswered punches landing on Diaz, Drakulich again stopped the action to have the cut examined. Diaz again got the green light once more and returned to soldier on. The champion did manage to land some good punches in round seven, but Pacquiao had an answer for him – usually a better one – every time. Other than seeing his title slip away, Diaz wasn’t being given any incentive to continue throwing punches. In the eighth round, Pacquiao was regularly moving the wilting Diaz back with hard right hooks and twice opened up on the champion with flurries against the ropes, but Diaz fought out of it to keep the bout from being stopped on him.
The bout finally came to a crashing halt in round nine, ending as violently as it had begun in Pacquiao’s favor. Pacquiao stood Diaz up with a hard straight left to the face midway through the round. A right hook and a straight left followed to the head of Diaz. A straight right knocked the normally robust Diaz’ head back. Diaz bravely tried to answer with a left hand, but Pacquiao beat him to the punch with a left of his own. In a highlight reel type moment, the life seemed to be sucked from Diaz as his body went limp and he collapsed face first onto the canvas in a heap. Drakulich didn’t even bother counting. It was that good of a shot.
And it was a pound-for-pound performance.
In an act of sportsmanship, Pacquiao walked to Diaz and attempted to pull him back to his feet, but the ringside doctor thought it best to keep the ex-champion down for examination. Diaz answered the doctor’s questions, shaking his head at the right times and demonstrating that he was defeated but thankfully not seriously injured.
With the win, Pacquiao became a champion in his fourth division officially, though unofficially, he was also considered the champion in the featherweight division after ambushing Marco Antonio Barrera in 2003. The ridiculous draw with Juan Manuel Marquez in his next fight was for two of the title belts, but thanks to a scoring error and some poor judging in general, Pacquiao was denied a belt at 126 pounds.
Title belts aside, Pacquiao now carries the distinction of being the pound-for-pound champion, an accolade more cherished than any championship. He appears to have all the tools of a complete fighter, having added variety to his offense and developed a sufficient defense. It will be interesting and exciting to see how Pacquiao fares in the lightweight division, which is arguably the deepest, most talented division in the sport since Mayweather’s departure has hurt the welterweight ranks. Fortunately for Pacquiao, he won’t come across too many men substantially bigger than he is since Joan Guzman and Juan Manuel Marquez could be the top two names (other than Pacquiao of course) come September when they match up against Nate Campbell and Joel Casamayor respectively.
Some great fights are on the horizon for the pound-for-pound champion should he choose to remain in the lightweight division. But the way this man has been steamrolling through his entire career, no one can say when and where Pacquiao will stop.
Tags: Boxing, Lightweight, Manny Pacquiao, WBC