There really is something almost unfair, unnatural about seeing a great, great fighter – indeed, an all-time great fighter – laid out, flat on his face unconscious. Sure, any fighter can get tagged and be taken out, at any time. It happened to Joe Louis, to George Foreman, to Sugar Ray Leonard, to Roy Jones Jr, to Lennox Lewis.
And on this day in 2012, in what ranks for many as the KO of the decade, it happened to Manny Pacquiao.
In the fourth and as it turned out final fight between intense rivals Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez (Pacquiao’s name goes first as he won the series), “Dinamita” struck. The first fight between the two modern day legends took place in May of 2004, and Pacquiao’s blend of speed and power saw to it that Marquez went down three times in the opening round. At this point in time, nobody felt they were witnessing the first slice of a torrid rivalry.
But as close as Marquez was to being taken out in one ignominious round, the Mexican came back, he fought back, and the fight was scored a draw. Fights two and three were nip and tuck stuff, both exciting and debatable, at least in terms of the scoring. Pac-Man won the rematch and the third fight via closer than close decision, split and then majority. All three fights had taken place in Las Vegas, and they really could have gone either way.
Fight IV would also be hosted by Sin City and its Strip.
December 8, 2012: The WBO Champion of the Decade belt at stake. The most definitive win scored by either man. A great, close fight was again shaping up, with Marquez decking Pacquiao in the third round, and with Pacquiao sending Marquez to the mat in the fifth round. It was thrilling stuff once again…..and then……it happened.
With Pacquiao on the attack in round six, Marquez landed the perfect punch just as the final seconds of the round arrived. Marquez fired off a perfect counter right that flew over Manny’s jab, and the bomb landed flush on Pacquiao’s jaw. Down, hard and on his face, and remaining there for some time, Pacquiao had been brutally KO’d. The moment shook many of us, the knockout stirring up a ton of emotions: shock, anger, disbelief, fear. It was, no doubt about it, one of the most memorable knockouts of the last twenty years.
There was no fifth fight, even though these two giants were now almost even at 2-1-1 in favour of Pacquiao. Pacquiao wanted a fifth fight, Marquez said he would not do anything to risk tarnishing the perfect way he had won his most important fight, this against his most important career opponent.
11 years on, and Marquez KO6 Pacquiao still sends a shiver down the spine.