A Boxing Memory: Oscar De La Hoya vs Manny Pacquiao
They say speed kills. If ever a fight proved that point it was the night Manny Pacquiao defied many theories of imminent doom to bamboozle Oscar De La Hoya to a painful and career ending defeat. Labelled by some a gold plated mismatch, but we saw that size doesn’t always matter.
Pacquiao was masterful in his systematic destruction of a fighter who went to the well of his physical powers once too often. But it had been coming. Bit by bit, De La Hoya was fading into that irreversible decline. The last thing he needed on that pivotal night in 2008 was a fighter with the blistering hand speed that Pacquiao possessed.
It was a fight with size the supposed defining narrative. Pacquiao deemed too small, a career spent in the lower weights. He started out in the light-flyweight ranks. A recent trip to the lightweight division and yet another world title his only entry into deeper waters. In a career that largely consisted of 130lbs and below and despite winning world titles at five different weights, stepping up to welterweight looked like several steps too far. Despite everything, De La Hoya was bigger. Many said, that was all he needed. In truth, he needed his prime. Even that might not have been enough. Pacquiao defied the odds. At times, he defied belief.
There always seemed a smell of an upset in the air. De La Hoya, the former Olympic Champion and another fighter who seemingly moved up the weights with relative ease. His collection of world titles more than matched his Filipino opponent. But the ageing process was evident, 3-3 in his last six fights. An uninspiring points win over Steve Forbes leading up to the Pacquiao fight. The memories of the near miss against Floyd Mayweather in 2007 were fading fast. The signs were very much there.
There was bad blood simmering below the surface between Roach and De La Hoya. Roach had trained the former Olympic champion for his fight with Mayweather and Roach was cited as the reason for De La Hoya losing to Mayweather. Roach added a little more to the flames when he questioned whether his old charge could still pull the trigger. The motivation for his words might be questioned. But Roach was right.
“We knew we had him after the first round. He had no legs, he was hesitant and he was shot. He is a great fighter, I love him, but I hope this is last fight and that he will retire.” Roach gracious and brutally honest in victory.
It was a one-sided slaughter like many had predicted. But it was Goliath who was slayed. De La Hoya was never in it. Boiling his body back down to welterweight at 35 didn’t help. Dead at the weight in many ways.
But Pacquiao more than played his part in the demise of his decorated opponent with his scintillating pugilistic wizardry. One judge gave De La Hoya the opening round, a sign of many things. Reality wasn’t one of them. De La Hoya had nothing. Pacquiao had everything.
De La Hoya was incredibly brave. His corner were braver. The six-weight world kept hoping for one punch to turn it around. He needed a miracle. It didn’t come. It never looked like coming.
Pacquiao elevated himself to a different stratosphere with his performance against De La Hoya. Mayweather was in a retirement mode, it would have been the perfect time to have ended it. The perfect time for Mayweather Pacquiao. For many reasons it never came until it was too late.
Ricky Hatton wanted the winner of De La Hoya Pacquiao. Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. He got what he wanted. It didn’t end well.
The 1992 Barcelona Olympic Champion conceded he just didn’t have it anymore. He never fought again. Retirement wasn’t always kind, and thankfully, an ill advised comeback in 2021 came to nothing. Covid saved him.
In Las Vegas, De La Hoya got old. Pacquiao became a superstar.
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