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BILL DWYRE

Pacquiao takes care of business

June 29, 2008|Bill Dwyre

LAS VEGAS -- It was a bloody night at the Mandalay Events Center on Saturday, and as expected, none of it belonged to Manny Pacquiao.

If you like your fights brutal, this one was for you.

If you are the kind of person who likes to watch defensive tackles crush quarterbacks or basketball teams keep their starters in with 50-point leads, this was for you.

David left his slingshot at home this time, David Diaz being the 135-pound opponent of the seasoned, mushrooming star Pacquiao, whose performance was yet another step in projecting him to the top of the sport's elite. Matter of fact, this David would have needed much more than a slingshot -- maybe a crowbar -- on a night when Pacquiao hit him with everything and left his face looking like a selection at your supermarket meat counter.

They fought eight-and-a-fraction rounds and Pacquiao won all eight. And certainly the fraction. All three judges had it that way and the toughest decision writers at ringside had in scoring the fight was whether or not to make several rounds 10-8, rather than the usual 10-9.

Pacquiao ended it in the ninth, with a right that staggered Diaz and a left that sent the rugged and game Chicagoan to the mat face first. Pacquiao went to a neutral corner and, the moment referee Vic Drakulich signaled the obvious by waving his hands, Pacquiao sprinted from the corner, bent over Diaz and then tried to help him up.

"My first concern was for Diaz," Pacquiao. "I prayed he was all right. I tried to pick him up."

Which was, as it can be only in boxing, after an hour of trying to knock him down.

Diaz actually held the title, only because Pacquiao hadn't fought at that weight. Pacquiao has now won five titles at lower weights, four of them recognized by sanctioning bodies, and has quickly vaulted himself to that place in boxing that commands the most money and the biggest star on the dressing-room door.

That the fight was so one-sided and so brutal was not Pacquiao's fault. To put it bluntly, this was a match made in hope, not in heaven. Diaz is 32, three years older than Pacquiao, and has been mostly a journeyman since he lost in the 1996 Olympics to the eventual silver medalist. His 34-1-1 record is deceiving because it was achieved mostly against a collection of competition you never heard of and never will.

Diaz got the benefit of the doubt from Top Rank partly because of his personality. He is friendly, accommodating, easy to promote. He also is tough, with a chin that resembles Jay Leno's and a willingness to have it pummeled repeatedly. Diaz's nose was cut late in the first round, then his right eye in the next round, then his lip. His left eye was bruised and battered.

After a while, the only question was when, not if, they would stop the fight. Diaz kept the doctors busier -- between rounds and even during, when Drakulich stopped the action for a medical check -- than the night Tyson snacked on Holyfield's ear.

If Diaz excelled in anything, it was courage. Drakulich appeared on the verge of stopping this one, and correctly so, several times, but Diaz kept fighting back.

Eventually, they carted him off to Valley Hospital for stitches and ice and maybe some surgical removal of leather from Pacquiao's gloves. But before that, Diaz also excelled in reality.

"It was his speed, all his speed," he said. "I looked at films and I thought I could handle that, but I couldn't."

Pacquiao, the pride of the Philippines, said he will fight again in November. The opponent most talked about is England's Ricky Hatton, whose huge and vocal fan base took over Las Vegas in his last trip and danced and celebrated and sang and drank every beer on the Strip, until Floyd Mayweather spoiled all the fun by knocking him out. That memory, and films of Pacquiao's destruction Saturday night, are two reasons Hatton might pause. Another possibility is Edwin Valero.

The blood-night theme actually started in the undercard, when Humberto Soto lost a 130- pound match to Francisco Lorenzo on a disqualification. In the fourth round, Soto, well ahead in the fight, had Lorenzo pinned in the corner. Lorenzo took a knee, and in the judgment of referee Joe Cortez, was hit by Soto when he was down.

There was a long, painful delay while Cortez conferred with other officials and Soto walked around in the ring, assuming he had won. All that time, Lorenzo sat or lay in the corner, blood streaming from a huge cut over his eye and another on the back of his head.

Eventually, Cortez ruled that Lorenzo was the winner because he had been felled by an illegal punch. The crowd, announced as 8,362, booed for several minutes.

In another undercard fight, a former San Diego State basketball player, 6-foot-9 Tye Fields, lasted one minute into the first round. Journeyman Monte Barrett caught him so hard that Fields hit the back of his head on the mat. Quick knockout.

David Diaz should have been so lucky.

--

Bill Dwyre can be reached at bill.dwyre@latimes. For previous columns by Dwyre, go to latimes.com/dwyre.

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