Whoever still thinks that size matters obviously hasn’t seen the Filipino phenomenon Manny “Pac-man” Pacquiao at work. On Saturday, the 5’6”, 147-pound Filipino slugger turned congressman shocked his critics in yet another annihilation of a naturally bigger man.
This time, Pac-man pounded the controversial power-puncher Antonio Margarito, who had a five inch height and 17-pound weight advantage, in front of a crowd of 41,700 roaring fans in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, as well as 1.4 million pay-per-view buys. The 12 round beating was so severe that Margarito needed to undergo reconstructive eye surgery for a broken orbital-bone on Tuesday — a potentially career-altering injury for any athlete. Meanwhile, Pac-man spent his Tuesday performing at a concert at Lake Tahoe, Nev. for his adoring fans. The victory improved Pac-man’s record to 52-3-2, while Margarito fell to 38-7.
While Pac-man’s victory was about as lopsided as a kindergartner’s first drawing (one judge gave him all 12 rounds, 120-108, while the other gave him all but the sixth round, 119-109, and the other 10 rounds, 118-110), the commentary leading up to the fight suggested otherwise.
Throughout “Pacquiao-Margarito 24/7,” a four-week documentary of the fighters’ training camps leading up to fight night, Pac-man’s camp looked far less intense then the trademark Wildcard Gym workouts that he made famous. Legendary trainer Freddie Roach constantly complained about his fighter spending more time on his political career than boxing. Roach had every reason to be concerned — in the second episode, Pac-man flies in from a congress meeting in the Philippines, to Roach’s gym in California, to a political showing with Nevada Democratic Senior Senator Harry Reid all in one week. On the contrary, Margarito was destroying his heavy bag and boasting about how he was going to embarrass the smaller man.
Fans also had every reason to worry that Pac-man, who started boxing at the age of 14 at the minimum weight of 104 pounds, and won nine different belts in seven different weight classes (the most in boxing history followed by Oscar De La Hoya’s old record of six weight classes), had finally moved up too much in his quest to conquer the Junior Middleweight Division (154).
On top of all the distractions and physical disadvantages, Margarito had a lot to prove to the boxing world, as well as to himself. Saturday’s matchup was Margarito’s first match in America since having his license suspended two years ago for attempting to use plaster-soaked hand wraps in his mega-fight against “Sugar” Shane Mosley (Mosley knocked him out him in the ninth round — the only man who has been able to stop Margarito to date). For him, a victory over the greatest fighter of our generation, and possibly of all time, would be the sweetest redemption in front of his large following of Mexican fans.
But Pac-man proved that heart defies nature. The scariest part of it all was his continued demonstration of humbleness. For the man that called him “punto” throughout his training camp and mocked the pride of the Philippines, Pac-man admitted to holding off on him in the later rounds. In the 11th round, Pac-man even asked the referee to stop the fight amidst another one of his seven-punch combos. Indeed, the Cowboys Stadium wasn’t too far from a Roman spectacle that night — I even found myself screaming for more blood to be pounded out of the already red and swallowed carcass of Margarito.
“Boxing is not for killing,” Pacquiao said in the post-fight interview. “I did not want to damage him permanently. That’s not what boxing is about.”
On an ESPN poll following the fight, 90 percent of viewers complained that the fight should have been stopped early. But as Margarito proclaimed, mirroring many of the Mexican legendary fighters who fought before him, “We fight to the death.”
As usual, the next question that every boxing and non-boxing fan alike asked is “What would happen if he fought Floyd “Money” Mayweather?” At this point, I’d like to turn the question over: Why does it still matter? Clearly, Pac-man has proven that his career far outshines that of Money. At this point, Money needs Pac-man more than Pac-man needs Money. Pacquiao will certainly go on the list of pound-for-pound greats like Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard — even exceeding them on some lists.
On the contrary, Money’s impressive career will forever be stigmatized by his avoidance of a fight with a naturally smaller man who he’s already publically insulted, called a “steroid user” and poked fun at for being Filipino and allegedly having dog on his menu. Whether or not the fight happens won’t take anything away from Pacquiao.
My only concern is if it is fair to put a freak of nature in a hall of fame with ordinary men. No matter how small he is, no matter how he is always an underdog in every single fight, my father has solved the riddle of Pac-man in the frankest terms possible. Simply put, he’s just extraordinary.
Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.