OutBoxer of the Year.

Manny outfoxing Pacquiao, not David Diaz: A masterpiece

It was Saturday Night Alive! June 28, 2008, Mandalay Events Center, Las Vegas, Nevada. ‘Lethal Combination’ the event was called, the WBC Lightweight championship. David Diaz came, believing he could beat Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao came – was it really Pac-Man?

The crowd of 8,362 didn’t realize it but it was somebody else who showed up that Saturday night who looked like Manny Pacquiao, but it wasn’t Manny Pacquiao – the resemblance was only in the human form, not the human being. And to be sure, this one didn’t fight like Manny Pacquiao – for instance, where Manny had only one deadly hand, his left, this man’s hands were both devastating – and they did deal the lethal combination that fell the timber. It was as Tom Dickey had predicted (braggingrightscorner.com): a 9th-round TKO by the challenger.

The man who outfought Dangerous David Diaz for the WBC lightweight crown on June 29 Manila time was a Manny Pacquiao who had outfought himself first. Before he conquered David Diaz, Manny Pacquiao had to conquer himself. The daredevil had to tame himself and become a sly fox. You see:

The old Manny Pacquiao was bad at training. He wanted to stay longer in the Philippines to train, he said, but he wasn’t focusing. He had many extra-curricular activities. So, Bob Arum, promoter of the ‘Lethal Combination’ fight card headlining Pacquiao and Diaz, and chief trainer Freddie Roach imposed a strict regimen (abs-cbnnews.com). So, they kept Pacquiao ‘in jail’ (Bob Arum’s words in the TV interview), in the gym in Los Angeles and trained him for almost 8 weeks. ‘We beat the hell out of him,’ Arum said. And that was when purgatory began for Diaz. ‘Look at the punches he threw,’ Arum said in the TV interview. ‘He didn’t get tired.’

The old Manny Pacquiao was bad at defense. Don Leopoldo says (‘Pac-Man’s complete evolution,’ boxingherald.com), ‘defense has always been regarded as his main weakness.’ So Freddie Roach trained him, and the new Manny Pacquiao was now perfect at defense: ‘good head movement, excellent defensive reflexes, and perfectly blocked or parried the shots of his opponent.’ In this fight, he was unscathed.

The old Manny Pacquiao was bad at offense too. He was hunting heads nonstop. So Freddie Roach tamed him, and today, Don Leopoldo says, Pac-Man ‘has evolved into a thinking fighter and picks his spots in the fight.’ Pacquiao is now thinking out of the box he had imprisoned himself in.

The old Manny Pacquiao was Excellent with his left but Poor to Middling with his right. This time, Freddie Roach said, not recognizing the new Pac-Man, ‘Diaz was looking for the left hand and the right hand was there all night long’ (Albert Jimenez Howell, secondsout.com). Nancy Gay (sfgate.com) quotes Roach as saying, ‘I’m so proud of Manny’s right hand. It’s come a long way and is the reason we won tonight.’

A one-handed victory? Actually no, you don’t win with a lucky punch, not even if you were the new Manny Pacquiao. You win with all you’ve got. Kieran Mulvaney explains it well (ca.reuters.com):

The Filipino was dominant throughout, landing right hooks, uppercuts and straight left hands while frustrating the defending champion with his deft footwork and constant movement.

And David Diaz was wrong about how he got beaten. ‘It was not so much his power, just that he was really quick,’ Diaz said after the bout (setantasports.com). ‘I couldn’t catch him. His speed was incredible. (The cut) doesn’t affect me. I get cut so many times it’s just second nature. It was just he was so fast.’

No, it wasn’t speed either. ‘Speed kills,’ Mark De Sisto reminds us (foxsports.com), and then he goes ahead and explains and I see that it wasn’t speed that killed Diaz:

Pac-Man would step in and rip off three- and four-punch combinations at a time, before quickly stepping out to reset with a befuddled Diaz looking on. The southpaw was dominant with his right hand, throwing fast and accurate jabs, uppercuts and right hooks that couldn’t seem to miss Diaz the whole fight, while seemingly walking Diaz into hard left crosses.

The Challenger’s speed (body movement) plus punch combinations (handwork) plus tactical retreat (footwork) plus timing (mindwork) equals the downfall of the Champion. David Diaz had stood dangerously and fallen like a log.

Unbelievably, the image above shows Pacquiao's right connecting to Diaz's right side of the face - which shows that Pac-Man was all over the place, boxing his best at will. He was hitting Diaz every which way. So we see in the all in all, as we must, that the Mexican David Diaz was totaled by the Filipino Manny Pacquiao. Diaz fought with everything he got; Pacquiao fought with everything he got – somebody’s got to give.

ANN (abs-cbnnews.com): ‘For a second or two, fight fans were stunned seeing defending champion David Diaz flat on his face and Manny Pacquiao raising his fists in triumph.’ They were incredulous.

Presidential Deputy spokesman Anthony Golez rejoiced: ‘With our country experiencing tough times brought about by the recent disaster, Manny has given the country hope and pride once again by reminding us that we can be triumphant over any adversary we are facing’ (abs-cbnnews.com). I would add to say that you cannot be triumphant without others supporting you, and that is why there is a Team Pacquiao. You cannot win a fight with only a powerful left jab; you cannot win a fight either with only the genius of your trainer behind you.

Pac-Man’s boxing arsenal was complete. Now he had an uppercut that was ‘freaking beautiful’ where he didn’t have one before in his 14-year career: Where the hell did that come from? (Tim Starks, mvn.com): ‘Oh, and as bewildering as his offensive arsenal was, Pacquiao’s defense was tighter than ever. Diaz was whiffing all night long.’

‘We trained to outbox him,’ Roach said (Nancy Gay (sfgate.com):

It was beautiful. We told him not to stand and trade with this guy because he’s too dangerous, but rather, go with your in-and-out boxing – do what you do best. We trained to outbox him. Manny did everything we asked.

On his part, Diaz trained to be boxed by Pacquiao. Roy Luarca (sports.inquirer.net) reports that Diaz sparred with 150- to 160-lb fighters ‘to get used to being hit heavily.’ On his part, Pacquiao trained not only to outbox Diaz but also to outfox him.

From where I sat in our living room, I saw a deadly combination of Immovable Object (David Diaz) and Irresistible Force (Manny Pacquiao). It was an Object Lesson for Diaz; the Force was with Pacquiao.

It was also a hazardous combination of Boxer and Ethnic Pride: David Diaz, White; Manny Pacquiao, Color. Color won, and White became Red: red in the face, red in the shorts. It was a night of blood, Bill Dwyre said ‘and as expected, none of it belonged to Manny Pacquiao’ (latimes.com). Greg Beacham said, ‘Diaz’s face was dripping blood by then, and both fighters’ trunks were shaded pink by the eighth, when Pacquiao battered Diaz relentlessly’ (ap.google.com).

As the fight progressed, the crowd, mostly Filipinos, didn’t realize it but they were witness to history being made 3 times:

History Once. Manny Pacquiao is dead! Long live Manny Pacquiao! It is Cassius Clay transforming himself into Muhammad Ali once again; it is 1964 again, it is as if Muhammad Ali is saying, silently this time, that he will ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.’ The new Pacquiao would strike like a knife, then shuffle out of harm’s way. Knife? Diaz said the cut on his face didn’t bother him, ‘But I thought he had a knife. It’s like he was hitting me with a blade.’ Pacquiao was sharp, very sharp. Shuffle out? Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach said, ‘We wanted him to go in and out, outbox him and do what Manny does best.’

History Twice. Manny becomes the first Filipino (and first Asian) to win 4 boxing crowns (for his head) or 4 boxing belts (for his waist): WBC flyweight (112 pounds) in 1998, IBF bantamweight (122 pounds) in 2001, WBC super-featherweight (130 pounds) in March 2008, and WBC lightweight (135 pounds) in June 2008.

History Thrice. Pacquiao becomes the first Filipino (and first Asian, and first in the world?) to win 2 boxing crowns in the same year (2008) and within 3 months and 13 days of each other: March 15 and June 28. One for the Guinness Book of World Records, I would say.

So, going up to lightweight was an excellent decision for Pacquiao. ‘I feel much, much stronger and more powerful at 135,’ he declared. ‘This is where I plan to stay. I did real well. I was really surprised it wasn’t stopped sooner.’

Yes, about stopping the fight: Late in the 4th round, Diaz’s face was already ‘a bloody mask and, Pacquiao said, ‘I was praying he was all right.’ So, Pacquiao asked referee Vic Drakulich to stop the fight but he wouldn’t (Steve Carp, lvrj.com). After the fight, Diaz was taken to the Valley Hospital for stitches – he had a deep cut on his right eyelid and another cut on the bridge of his nose, and blood all over him.

Stop the fight! Pacquiao was pleading. The day after the fight (Manila time), I decided to look and found a sneak video in YouTube of Round 9; after the first viewing, I put on a headphone and watched 5 more times trying to catch the exact words, because there was this announcer wishing not ever so loudly for someone to stop the fight (his concern and excitement shows, and there is absolutely no time to edit himself, so excuse the grammar):

If the idea here is that there is some honor in allowing Diaz to finish the fight, that will be a very misplaced instinct. (Pause while the carnage continues.) There’s plenty of honor for Diaz tonight (already). I won’t be a villain in some way to let him go.

Just then, Diaz dropped to the canvas with a thud, face first. The voice continued, and then another voice got in:

Welcome to the lightweight division.
Incomparable.
He did it all.
A flame of pure fury.

That’s beautiful!

The YouTube voices were subdued all the time. That was all unscripted, I’m sure. Note the shift of focus from Diaz to Pacquiao right after the knockout – I couldn’t have captured the drama in my own words.

Michael David Smith (sports.aol.com) says Pacquiao knocked out Diaz with ‘a sensational showing, one that electrified the crowd and solidified the Filipino’s spot atop the boxing world.’ He is Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound king. ‘He’s the best boxer in the world.’

After the fight, Diaz conceded he was beaten by the better man. ‘He boxed me more than I thought he was going to box,’ Cotto V Margarito quotes David Diaz as saying (skysports.com). Diaz said to Pacquiao’s chief trainer Freddie Roach, ‘It’s the best I’ve ever seen him box.’ Freddie said, ‘Me too.’

Bob Arum was quoted by East Side Boxing (eastsideboxing.com) as saying, ‘I think (it) will be one of the classic matches in boxing, certainly one of the best fights of the year.’ But not ‘Fight of the Year,’ says Michael Woods (thesweetscience.com), ‘as there was an absence of drama, as Pacquiao dominated so decisively, a Pac-Man victory seemed a certainty from minute one.’ Well, Michael, all I can say is some people can’t appreciate the fine arts, and this was not simply fine arts: it was a masterpiece. The best description of ‘Lethal Combination’ as it turned out came from the President of my country, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and it was only 3 words: ‘What a masterpiece!’ (pacificnewscenter.com). It was incredible.

I say that the totality of those 9 rounds of ‘Lethal Combination’ was Manny Pacquiao’s masterpiece, a stunning show of speed, strength, skill, smarts. My good friend Dr O has a similar master list: ‘speed, strong hands, sharp mind, super guts!’

A masterpiece is a product of master cunning and execution, and it takes time to prepare. Like: Roman civilization was a masterpiece, and Rome wasn’t built in a day, was it? The painted ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was a masterpiece of Michelangelo; it took him 5 years from start of painting to finish (godweb.org). Manny Pacquiao had 8 weeks to transform himself with the renewing of his mind.

For him to win in ‘Lethal Combination,’ it had to be creative for Manny Pacquiao, also scientific. So Bob Arum and Freddie Roach created the conditions for a new Manny Pacquiao to emerge, and that’s who you saw bludgeon David Diaz. A masterpiece. Count one.

ANN (seattlepic.nwsource.com) says Pacquiao ‘displayed devastating punching power and blistering speed in capturing the WBC lightweight belt’ – he was electric. Michael Woods (cited) wonders aloud if Pac-Man is ‘only now hitting his peak.’ Don Leopoldo (cited) says with finality, ‘The Pac-Man has evolved into the consummate boxer.’ More to the point, Leopoldo says, ‘Manny Pacquiao showed his absolute best in this violent but stunning destruction of David Diaz.’ And no, as Bob Arum points out, ‘he didn’t get tired.’ No, Pac-Man won’t get tired being The Biggest Little Boxer in the World.

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