Some predicted that Manny Pacquiao and David Diaz’ styles, and similar levels of competitive zeal, would mesh so well that we might be viewing a fight of the year candidate at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Saturday night. No, the bout will not receive fight of the year votes at the end of the year, but that is mostly because Manny Pacquiao, attempting to secure a title in a fourth weight class, showed such overwhelming technical excellence in his debut at 135 pounds.
The Filipino icon owned Diaz, and owned every round, as he looked completely comfortable, strong and energized at this weight class, and forced a stoppage in the ninth round, finally putting Diaz away with a short left to the chin.
The end came at 2:24 of the ninth, and Pacquiao became the holder of the WBC lightweight title, and laid claim to the title of world’s top pound for pound boxer, as he made it look easy against the game but outclassed Diaz, who had no answer for his foe’s hand speed, power, or foot movement. It was a stellar showing, but no fight of the year, as there was an absence of drama, as Pacquiao dominated so decisively, a Pacman victory seemed a certainty from minute one.
Pacquiao enjoyed a conclusive edge in all areas of skill, and statistically, too. He outlanded Diaz, 230-90, and outthrew him as well, 788-463.
After the bout, Pacquiao talked to Jim Lampley. He said he felt very comfortable at 135. Pacman said Diaz is the “toughest opponent that I had,” and was surprised he lasted as long as he did. On a monitor, Manny viewed his KO combo, a right jab-left hand, and said those shots were the plan coming in. Lampley asked him about a fight with JMM Marquez, or maybe Hatton. Pacman said he’d leave a foe up to promoter Bob Arum, and would like to roll again in November. Is he the top pound for pounder, Lampley asked him? Here the ultra-humble hitter demurred, choosing to let others determine if this honor fits.
Diaz, a cool, easy to root for dude, then told Lampley that Pacman was too fast for him. “I thought Freddie was in there (bleeping) hittin’ me too,” he said, as Lampley laughed. “I thought he had a knife with him though,” said Diaz, when asked if the cuts bothered him. (Hey Diaz, enjoy that AC; you deserve it, kid.)
Steward, after the fight, said he didn’t think Pacman would offer so spectacular a showing. Lampley said Pacman made a strong claim on topdog P4P status with the win.
In the first round, Pac man came out strong, and Diaz wasted no time either. The Chicagoan landed some body shots, and Manny responded by moving his feet more. With 20 seconds to go, Pacquiao put together a stellar combo that gave him the round, easily. Diaz smiled and nodded at Pacquiao after the round closed.
Manny worked uppercuts nicely in the second, a wise selection as Diaz tends to bend at the torso. A straight left landed for Diaz, but Manny didn’t blink hard. A sweeping left hook by Manny worked, and he looked so comfortable banging away on the outside, it was as if he enjoyed a 12 inch reach advantage. A cut appeared on the bridge of Diaz’ nose.
In the third round, Pacquiao whacked away with a right hook. He looked like this weight class fit him to a T, as his accuracy was spot on, and there was zero sluggishness that comes from cutting too much weight. Manny threw, and then moved his feet enough to get out of range of return fire. He led with hooks sometimes, and jabs other times, and Diaz’ hands looked to be in super slo mo in comparison.
In the fourth round, at 2:03, ref Vic Drakulich halted the bout to let the doctor look at the cut on Diaz’ nose. Action continued, and Pacman dissected his man from the outside. Diaz covered his face with a tight guard, and there was a wash of blood on the right side of his face, as a gash appeared over his right eye. Diaz hung tough, though, and looked to make some noise on the ropes at the end of the round. Pacquiao threw 100 punches, to 54 for Diaz. That eye slice probably came from an accidental clash of heads in that round.
In the fifth round, Diaz needed to take more chances, as he had yet to win a round, and Pacman’s cardio looked to be superlative. But Manny was so busy, Diaz was mostly busy defending himself. Pacman mixed speeds well, but his hand speed, even on his lighter shots, was superb. The blood streamed from the cut, and Manny used it for target practice.
In the sixth round, that cut on the eye still dripped. It didn’t seem to bother Diaz, who continued to press forward. Drakulich had the doc check the cut with 17 seconds left. Trainer/cutman Jim Strickland applied coagulant again, and this time took extra time to get the cut to stop flowing.
In the seventh round, Diaz loaded up, but his slow hands were no match for Pacquiao’s head movement. We had one of the first clinches midway through the round, but Manny’s energy didn’t noticeably lag. The bout had the looks of a sparring match, to be honest, by this point. Pacman was the champ, getting some work on a willing, but less talented hired hand.
Diaz’ eye still dripped in the eighth, and his legs looked less sturdy when he ate tosses. Manny pressed more, and closed the gap, smelling a stoppage. Diaz looked winded, his hands were low, and nobody would have been miffed if his corner threw in the towel.
In round nine, Diaz perked up early, perhaps knowing that he needed to land a miracle bomb to turn the tide. His head snapped back upon absorbing a right, however, and we wondered if the ref would call a halt. He did hit the deck, face first, and the ref did indeed wave his hands, ending the evening for David Diaz. A short left to the chin sent Diaz to the floor, and he rolled onto his back, spent. He lay on his back, a big mouse ballooning over his left eye, and we happily noted he was conscious.
Pacquiao was attempting to secure a title in a fourth weight division; he did, and one has to wonder if he is only now hitting his peak, that cutting weight the last few years may have been sapping much of his crispness.
Pacquiao, at age 29, weighed 134 ½ at weigh in, and 147 Saturday night. Diaz, at age 32, weighed 135 pounds at weigh in, and 148 pounds on Saturday. He was accompanied to the ring by Fernando Vargas but Vargas didn’t turn out to be a good luck charm.
Humberto Soto (44-7) faced off with Francisco Lorenzo (34-4), in a bout that had the WBC interim super featherweight title up for grabs.
A 28-year-old Mexican hitter, Soto’s best win prior to this outing came against Rocky Juarez (close UD in 2005), while his most disappointing loss came against Joan Guzman (not a close UD) in Nov. 2007. Lorenzo is a Dominican native, but at 36, his best days are far behind him. He holds a 2005 win over Nate Campbell on his resume.
Lorenzo hit the deck in the fourth. His nose was bloody, and when he arose, he grabbed for dear life. Soto went back to work, and basted Lorenzo in a corner. Ref Joe Cortez stepped in to stop the fight, broke the fighters, and then thought the better of it, and let the action continue. Lorenzo took a knee, as he had a gushing gash on his right eye, another one on the other eye, and his nose continued to leak. There may have been other cuts, it was hard to discern through all that blood. Cortez then called time, saying Lorenzo had absorbed an illegal shot behind the head. Cortez conferred with NSAC chairman Keith Kizer, and the ring doc, as Lorenzo lay on his back on the canvas. Ten minutes elapsed as the officials tried to figure out what was what, and finally, Michael Buffer announced that Cortez stopped the bout, because Lorenzo was hit while he was down, and said Lorenzo was the winner, by DQ. The HBO crew did not agree, at all. On replay, we saw that Soto threw punches that DID NOT LAND, as Lorenzo was bending down low, or, possibly, on a knee. Soto could not tell if his foe was down, because Lorenzo is quite short, at 5-5, and he was busy punching, not staring at his feet. Bottom line, rough outing for Cortez. Hatton fans are saying “I told you sos” all over the place. The record book will say that Soto was the loser, but basically anyone that watched the scrap knows better. Soto postbout said in a rematch he would “knock Lorenzo’s head off.” Manny Steward, in seriously heated mode, called Cortez’ decision “disgusting.” Jim Lampley tried to defend Cortez, saying he has a long history of solid work. He seemed miffed that Kizer would not allow Cortez to be interviewed. Kizer spoke to Lampley, and said that Lorenzo had a possible concussion from a blow to the back of the head. On the replay, I could not see what blow to the back of the head he was referring to. I did see that Soto landed what looked like a GLANCING blow, but Kizer maintained that one of his doctors deemed that blow to be significant. Judgment call, probably not the right call, perhaps the outcome can be reversed upon further examination.
In a heavyweight scrap, 6-8 Tye Fields, age 33, weighing in at 265 pounds, tried to prove he is more than a novelty, as he matched up with 37-year-old Monte Barrett (6-3, 220 pounds).
The New Yorker Barrett came in 2-3 in his last five, with the wins coming over Cliff Couser (Dec. 2007) and Damon Reed (Feb. 2008), two sub-journeyman. He avenged a loss to Couser (July 2007), a bout which had him contemplating hanging ‘em up.
Fields is a lefty whose lack of coordination, his promoter Top Rank hoped, would be overcome by his thumping power. Barrett, however, showed his thump, knocking Fields to the mat with a five punch combo, started by a right counter. Fields could not beat the count, and Barrett did a backflip to celebrate. This was an embarrassment for Fields (41-2), and we now know if Tye is ready for big league pitching. He ate four flush rights, and it’s back to the minors for Fields. Barrett is 34-6, with 20 KOs. The official time: 57 seconds into the first.
In the PPV opener, 27-year-old southpaw Californian Steven Luevano was almost upset by 29-year-old Puerto Rican southpaw Mario Santiago while attempting his third WBO featherweight crown defense, which was secured with a victory over Nicky Cook last July.
Three times the relatively untested Santiago smacked Luevano’s mouthpiece out of his mouth, for the record, and was buzzed about four times, compared to the one or two times Santiago was compromised.
Statistically, Luevano (35-1-1) had the slimmest of edges in the punches thrown department (215-214), but Santiago (19-1-1) had a wide edge in punches thrown (835-641).
After 12 rounds, we went to the cards: Harry Davis saw 117-111 (L), Duane Ford , 115-113 (S) and Dave Moretti, 114-114.
Harold Lederman saw a 114-114 draw, with Luevano sharper early, Santiago taking over midway, and the home stretch a mixed bag.