Two Nights in December

OscarMannyTHThe first eight days of December marked the anniversary of some of the biggest fights in the career of future hall of famer Manny Pacquiao. The first fight taking place on December 6, 2008 against Oscar De La Hoya, changed the landscape of the sport of boxing for the last seven years.  The other bout took place four years later on December 8, 2012 against Juan Manuel Marquez. The four years between those fights  saw many changes in the career in Manny Pacquiao.  These two bouts represent two of the biggest Pay-Per-Views in boxing history with both selling over a million buys.  While the time in between these bouts were mired with politics in what will be considered an era where two fighters milked fans of their money, it’s important to remember these two nights as one of the few that delivered excitement to boxing fans.  Fight videos after the break.

Revisionist history and the cult of Paulie Malignaggi will tell you that Pacquiao forced De La Hoya down in weight to purposely drain him.  They’ll say that this was the only reason that a victory for Pacquiao occurred.  The reality of the situation was much different.

At the time, the bout was seen as a complete cherry pick by De La Hoya.  De la Hoya decided that he wanted to face the current ranked best fighter pound-for-pound rather than a ranked top 10 welterweight.   After De La Hoya’s bout with Floyd Mayweather in May of 2007 he decided that he would attempt to move back down in weight to welterweight where he thought he could give better performances.  In May of 2008 De La Hoya decided to ease down to welterweight by facing Steve Forbes at a catch weight of 150 pounds.  Forbes was a former lightweight who had previously trained under Floyd Mayweather Sr. and had a style similar to Mayweather Jr..  In June of 2008, Mayweather announced his first retirement from the sport.  De la Hoya then turned his attention to Manny Pacquiao.

Pacquiao was coming off  two big victories in March and June of 2008. The first bout was against Juan Manuel Marquez in their highly anticipated rematch. The bout was a close affair that could have gone either way, but Pacquiao was given the decision with a 1 point difference, because of a knockdown scored in the third round.  Simply put – it was a great fight.  In June, Pacquiao decided to move up to the lightweight division to take on WBC champion David Diaz.  Pacquiao put on one of his best performances of his career as he showed his complete arsenal and stopped Diaz in the ninth round.

After Mayweather announced his retirement, Pacquiao was now rated as the best in the world.

De la Hoya turned his attention to Pacquiao. They agreed to meet at welterweight at 147 on December 6, 2008.  De la Hoya decided to switch trainers for the bout and hired Juan Manuel Marquez’s trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain.

Until the first bell rang the bout was thought of as a joke.  Many in the boxing industry thought that De La Hoya was simply too big for Pacquiao and the bout wouldn’t last long. While everyone was criticizing the bout, Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach remained confident that Pacquiao’s speed would be too big of a factor in the bout. Roach had trained De La Hoya for his bout against Floyd Mayweather and remembered a training session with De La Hoya and Ivan Calderon, where De La Hoya was unable to land on Calderon.

The struggle to make 147 pounds turned out to be a much bigger struggle for De La Hoya than anticipated.  De La Hoya had the money to bring in world-renowned nutritionists and coaches to help him make the weight, but at his age it was difficult.  At the weigh in for the bout, De La Hoya looked gaunt and weak while Pacquiao was able to weigh in at his normal walking around weight and had no trouble at all.

The results of the weigh-in made the odds for the bout much closer.  On the night of the fight according to HBO’s unofficial weight scale, Pacquiao weighed more than De La Hoya by two pounds.  Even with all this information De la Hoya was still a 2 to 1 favorite before the first bell.

The next eight rounds of boxing were shocking to most observers.  Not only was Pacquiao out-boxing De la Hoya, but he was beating him up.  Make no mistake, Pacquiao was very careful in the bout and boxed intelligently by constantly using movement to evade any punches by De La Hoya.  By the seventh round, however, Pacquiao was now backing De La Hoya in the corner and unloading combinations to the body and head.  De La Hoya decided that he had enough punishment after the eighth round and the bout was stopped.

The bout over the last few years has been largely forgotten and written off as a mere weight-drained fighter losing.  It must be noted, however, that Pacquiao boxed in this bout and it was only until the seventh round that he really started to punish De La Hoya. The speed difference was the biggest factor in this fight. This was Pacquiao’s biggest fight and the biggest stage that he had fought on at that point in his career. He lived up to the moment and seized the opportunity to put himself in the spotlight as the most exciting fighter in the world.  De La Hoya just like Miguel Cotto and Marco Antonio Barrera was a converted southpaw fighter who had a great left hand, but was lacking with the right.  At any point of their careers Pacquiao would have given De La Hoya fits.

Four years later.  We no longer have a motivated and hungry Pacquiao.  We have one who has gone through the motions in training and fights for years. Fights with Clottey, Margarito, Mosley and the third bout with Marquez were just jobs for Pacquiao.

Now he was meeting his nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez for the fourth time and this time the winner would be definitive. Controversially for the third and fourth bouts with Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez hired strength and conditioning coach, Memo Heredia. Heredia had a long history with steroids and giving athletes methods to defeat drug tests. Nonetheless both men decided to just forego any year-round or extra testing measures and stuck with the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s traditional testing.

Pacquiao was also coming off a controversial loss to Timothy Bradley that most of the public thought Pacquiao won handily. Perhaps this gave Pacquiao more motivation coming into another bout with Marquez who had always cried robbery after their bouts.

pacquiao_marquez_4_posterThe fourth bout took place December 8th, 2012 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.  The face-off was intense before the first bell and if Pacquiao wasn’t motivated for other bouts, he looked motivated on this night.

The first two rounds were intense and Pacquiao looked determined to make an immediate impression on Marquez.  Pacquiao made an adjustment for the bout of using more head movement, many more feints and throwing in combination on the inside much more.  In the first two rounds this appeared to be working for Pacquiao as he landed hard straight lefts on Marquez to clearly take both rounds.  The adjustment that Marquez made was coming in the third.

In the third round Marquez starting throwing more punches to the body.  Pacquiao was anticipating a body punch to be thrown when Marquez came over the top with a huge overhand right to finally put Pacquiao on his backside.  This was the first time in all their fights that Marquez had knocked Pacquiao down.  Pacquiao immediately got up and now the dynamic of the bout had officially changed.

The rest of the third and fourth rounds were highlighted by Pacquiao coming after Marquez in a ferocious manner.  Pacquiao wanted to get back at Marquez and was finally able to in the fifth round when he landed a counter straight left that made Marquez’s glove touch the canvas.  Pacquiao was coming forward throwing combinations to try and finish off Marquez, but Marquez landed some great counter punches to stop Pacquiao’s onslaught.  Pacquiao in one instance seemed to break Marquez’s nose as he threw a straight left and came back with right hand that stunned Marquez badly.  Marquez was lucky to get out of the round after this punch landed.

The sixth round was all Pacquiao as he attempted to finish off Marquez and landed some great counters. Then the ten-second bell rang and Marquez backed up into the ropes. Pacquiao did his double jab feint and walked right into a perfect counter right hand by Marquez that ended the bout with Pacquiao flat on his face.

The image of Marquez with a bloody nose after seemingly on the way to being stopped himself with a flattened Pacquiao on the canvas was one that will never be forgotten.

What followed was an internet onslaught of meme’s and jokes similar to what Ronda Rousey is going through now. Regardless of the memes and jokes this was without question the best PPV main event of the decade.  The bout won fight of the year and knockout of the year.  A night that will never be forgotten not just for the knockout, but also for all that took place before the knockout.

This Friday December 11th, Manny Pacquiao will announce the final fight of his career.  These two bouts that took place in December will forever have their place in boxing history.  Hopefully with the opponent that Pacquiao chooses we can be left with the feeling of those two nights in December.

About the Author

Hector Franco
Graduated from USF. Photographer, boxing writer, comedian. 100% Puerto Rican.

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