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Next step for Manny Pacquiao uncertain after being floored by Marquez

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Steve Marcus

Juan Manuel Marquez is directed to a neutral corner after knocking out Manny Pacquiao during the sixth round of their welterweight fight at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012.

Marquez Knocks Out Pacquiao

Juan Manuel Marquez (R) of Mexico steps away after knocking out Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines in the 6th round during their welterweight fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada December 8, 2012. Launch slideshow »

The first reporter to ask a question at a Manny Pacquiao post-fight press conference never had to search for a topic.

Pacquiao was undefeated for a seven-year stretch until last June and arguably was one of the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighters. Like clockwork following each of his dominating victories, one of the first questions asked of promoter Bob Arum always involved a potential mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

After Saturday night, however, the window to create that fight — a showdown several fans have long said is the only one they’d be interested in seeing — has soundly closed.

Pacquiao’s future in boxing is uncertain after being knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez in the sixth round of their welterweight fight. As he lay on the canvas at the MGM Grand Garden Arena following a knockout — a powerful right hand from the Mexican Marquez with one second left in the round — everything quickly changed when talking about Pacquiao’s next match.

His future, you see, might not include another fight.

The 32-year-old has repeatedly said his career would only last a few more fights, and considering how his performances have gradually declined in recent outings, you can easily assume it’s time for Pacquiao to call it a career. He’s just not the same fighter who enjoyed the seven-year winning streak in placing his name among the all-time best. He lacks punching power and hasn't enjoyed the same dominance as his glory years. The streak was snapped in June when he dropped a controversial decision to Timothy Bradley despite dominating the fight.

Saturday, there was no question: Pacquiao was out cold after a solid right, giving Marquez the victory he long desired. It was the fourth meeting between the rivals.

Not only did the blow by Marquez, whose knockout capped an exciting back-and-forth fight where Pacquiao led 3-2 entering the decisive sixth round, end Pacquiao’s night; he may have also closed the books on Pacquiao's career. Pacquiao was transported to UMC for precautionary observation following the fight and was released early Sunday in good condition, according to reports. He wasn’t able to attend the press conference

His only communication with the media came through his handlers. He said he wanted to fight again but first planned on a break to recover.

“I will take some time off and come back and fight,” Pacquiao said, relayed to media by his team.

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, said he wouldn’t hesitate telling Pacquiao to call it a career if he wasn’t in top form when they return to the gym. Pacquiao, who reportedly earned $26 million for the fight, likely is financially set for life. His plate has become overly crowed in recent years with being a Congressman in his native Philippines, among other distractions, which several say led to his decline.

Despite all this, Pacquiao was beating Marquez in the early rounds.

He won the first two rounds on all three judges’ scorecards but was knocked down by Marquez in the third round to even the score at 28-all entering the fourth. It was the first time Pacquiao was knocked down by Marquez in 39 rounds of their rivalry.

Pacquiao returned the favor in the fourth round by knocking Marquez down. Marquez caught his fall by placing his hand to the canvas to limit the damage.

After a back-and-forth fifth and sixth round, it appeared the momentum was on Pacquiao’s side as he pressured Marquez near the ropes toward the end of the sixth. Then, with one punch, Marquez got the victory he so desperately wanted.

After the disappointment of what he believed were poor scoring decisions in the previous fights with Pacquiao, this one wasn’t going to the judges. Marquez got the closure he wanted with a punch that took several by surprise. Pacquiao was that close to ending the fight.

“He just walked into one, you know,” Roach said. “I didn’t think (the fight) would last much longer on our side.”

The event was sold out, with more than 16,000 fans in attendance, including several pro-Marquez supporters who chanted his name throughout the fight. Notables in the crowd included Magic Johnson, reality show personality Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi from the “Jersey Shore,” basketball player Metta World Peace, talk show host Montel Williams, rapper/newbie boxing promoter 50 Cent and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Romney met Pacquiao prior to the fight in the locker room. He and his wife, Ann, sat ringside and were feet away from where Pacquiao was knocked out.

“Everyone was shocked, including the guy running for president,” Arum said. “Manny went down almost in front of him.”

Marquez clearly added more bulk to his frame for this fight, leading some — especially Roach — to speculate this week the newfound muscles were reportedly the result of performance-enhancing drugs. Whatever the case, Marquez’s punches were clearly more effective.

“I didn’t think he would be as heavy-handed as he was,” Roach said. “He hurt Manny more than in past fights.”

Questions were also asked about Marquez’s future. The 39-year-old considered retirement in November 2011 after dropping a majority decision to Pacquiao, saying the disappointment of losing on the scorecards left him lacking motivation to continue. He soon was rejuvenated and took the fourth fight, knowing it would be one last chance to get redemption for past defeats.

But what about a fifth fight?

“A fifth fight: Why not?” Arum said minutes after Saturday’s fight ended. “Have you seen a more exciting fight in years?”

Marquez, who some speculate could retire (can’t get much better than Saturday, after all), said his immediate plans include celebrating with family and friends in Mexico. He’d address his future later — much later.

For now, there’s a party to attend where he’s the guest of honor. The streets in his hometown of Mexico City were crowded with supporters wildly celebrating a victory Marquez said also was for the people in his country.

“It’s better to celebrate late than not at all,” Marquez said referring to the past close calls with Pacquiao. “So, I’ll do it late.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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  1. Manny should retire. He has nothing left to prove in boxing. Freddie Roach's brain is semi-mush, as evidenced every time he speaks. He should be the last person to decide if Manny is ready to fight again. Mayweather/Pacquiao will not happen now, and if it did, I'd bet the farm on Mayweather. Perhaps Mayweather/Marquez will show up on the radar?

  2. How can anyone cheer such a brutal spectacle as a man being pounded into submission by receiving a concussion? Isn't the NFL trying to avoid just such a circumstance? Yet, with the brutal and violent "sport" of boxing, that is the objective. It does not speak well for our "humanity." Further, I condemn newspapers such as the R/J and the Sun for glorifying the brutality and actually supporting the mayhem in order to pad their bottom lines. The revenue they seek from boosting circulation to sell advertising and papers is "blood money" from a "blood sport."

  3. Definitely looked like steroids to me....Marquez got older but looked ripped better than any other time I've seen him fight.