FROM LAS VEGAS — On a stunning Saturday night in Las Vegas, you could almost hear the 90 million people on those Pacific Islands thousands of miles to the West, screaming in delight.
Their guy, Manny Pacquiao, the pride of the Philippines, had just beaten Oscar De La Hoya.
Not just beaten him, destroyed him. Humiliated him. Sent him into retirement. Pacquiao's victory had ended an era in boxing that spanned more than 10 years and was the personal domain of a great boxer known as the Golden Boy.
After eight rounds of taking a barrage of punches from the stocky, supposedly undersized Pacquiao, De La Hoya walked across the ring to Pacquiao. But not to box. To congratulate Pacquiao on being the better man, the better fighter, the new No. 1 kid on the block.
De La Hoya then told Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, who had predicted all this, "You were right, Freddie. I don't have it anymore."
Seldom has a retirement been announced so dramatically, nor correctly, although De La Hoya may fudge for a week or so.
It went down officially as an eighth-round technical knockout. Roach, who had trained De La Hoya a year and a half ago in his split-decision loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in this same MGM Grand ring, had predicted Pacquiao would take out De La Hoya in the ninth round.
"The only surprise in this one," Pacquiao said, "was that my trainer picked the round."
Roach had called a lot more than this. Among other things, he had said that De La Hoya could no longer "pull the trigger." In this one, the Golden Boy seldom even got the gun cocked.
De La Hoya was favored by most boxing experts based on the fact that his body frame was an estimated 20% bigger than Pacquiao's. Those experts apparently didn't factor in the size of Pacquiao's heart, nor the length of De La Hoya's tooth.
Pacquiao weighed in Friday at 142 pounds for the 147-pound fight, and De La Hoya, who has fought all the way up to 160, weighed 145. At fight time, Pacquiao weighed 148 1/2 , De La Hoya 147. The 29-year-old from the Philippines had become the little big man for this one.
Interestingly, De La Hoya himself had made a prediction that, unwittingly, turned out to be true.
"I am training in this one for King Kong," he said, always smiling.
Pacquiao said, "I knew right away in the first round that I had him," adding that once he was able to defend De La Hoya's vaunted jab, he knew there were no other weapons forthcoming.
Both the seventh and eight rounds featured Pacquiao cornering De La Hoya and flailing away at an apparently defenseless opponent. Referee Tony Weeks kept looking longer and closer at De La Hoya, probably a bit surprised that a boxer of this stature was taking such a tremendous beating from a 2-1 underdog and a smaller fighter.
Eventually, it was not Weeks but De La Hoya trainer Nacho Beristan, who called it a night on behalf of his man.
"He was empty," Beristan said. "I stopped the fight."
One of the three judges, Stanley Christodoulou, gave De La Hoya one round, the first. The other two, Adalaide Byrd and Dave Moretti, had it eight rounds to zero for the Philippines' Pacman.
Roach's stock as a boxing genius rose considerably in this one. Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, said he never would have made this fight if Roach hadn't told him there was now something lacking in the 35-year-old De La Hoya in his "fight for the people" last May against Stevie Forbes at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
"Freddie saw something," Arum said, "and so I went with it."
What Roach saw was an aging fighter. And that's what the crowd of 15,001 saw too. Sadly, after the fight, when De La Hoya was being interviewed in the ring and it was flashed up on the big screen, De La Hoya was booed.
Anybody who has been paying attention knows this is the end for De La Hoya. It was his fourth loss in his last seven fights -- he got away with a close decision in that span against Felix Sturm in June 2005, or it would have been worse -- and it was a handful of fights too many.
Afterward, his eyes swollen and his body certainly bruised from a lethal body attack from the Filipino fireplug, De La Hoya was taken to a hospital.
"Just precautionary," said Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Hopefully so. A man who just had a statue of himself unveiled at Staples Center needs to cherish his past now. Because he has no future in the boxing ring and certainly knows it now.
As for Pacquiao, he has been going in the opposite direction the last several years. He gets better and better and deserves all that pound-for-pound hype he gets.
He also deserves another big payday -- he got $11 million for this one to De La Hoya's $20 million -- and that probably will come in the spring or early summer against England's Ricky Hatton.
They can call it King Kong against the Hitman. De La Hoya will be there. At ringside.
Where he belongs.
Round by round,
all eight of them
Lance Pugmire analyzes Pacquiao's victory over De La Hoya. PAGE 17