Juan Manuel Marquez lands the blow that knocked out Manny Pacquiao. (Eric Jamison / Associated…)
LAS VEGAS — When it was over, it was like the most unexpected bolt of lightning imaginable. There was no way to fully or properly describe it.
You expected one fighter or the other to excel in this grudge match Saturday night at MGM's Grand Garden Arena. But few saw this coming. Most notably, Manny Pacquiao.
Juan Manuel Marquez hit Pacquiao with a right-handed bomb with one second remaining in the sixth round of their much-hyped, much-anticipated fourth fight. Pacquiao, ahead on all three judges' cards, went down face first and stayed down long enough to not only lose the fight, but cause temporary concern for his health.
Pacquiao was out cold for perhaps a minute. His wife Jinkee was frantically trying to climb into the ring.
To that point, it had been a battle for the ages. Each had been knocked down once, Pacquiao the recipient of a roundhouse right in the third round and Marquez receiving a short hook that staggered him in the fifth.
That knockdown of Marquez precipitated one of the wildest rounds in the history of the fight game. All the talk about going toe-to-toe became reality. Pacquiao caught Marquez more than once and Marquez returned the favors . It was brutally entertaining.
The result of that was that Marquez entered the sixth round with a face cut and bleeding from at least two places. Pacquiao smelled blood and fairly well dominated the round.
Both tried to steal the round after the clacker signaled ten seconds to go. Pacquiao actually had Marquez in trouble against the ropes with five seconds to go, but Marquez landed the right-handed bomb right on the nose with one tick left on the clock and Pacquiao went down in a heap under the ropes near his corner.
And so, Marquez finally got his measure of revenge, after three previous fights, each of which he claimed he won and had to settle for a 0-2-1 record.
Now, depending on who is a fan of whom, history will either say that Marquez was, in the end, the better fighter, or that these were two of the most closely matched, in skill and desire, boxers of all time.
Or, as promoter Bob Arum said afterward, "A fifth fight? Why not?"
Pacquiao literally sprinted from his corner toward Marquez to start the fight. And then, the feel-out beginning round looked like the previous 36 between the two.
But then, it got wild and woolly and memorable.
Pacquiao said of the final knockout: "I got hit by a punch I never saw."
Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said, "After he got knocked down in the third, he was fine, in charge. But then he got careless."
Marquez said, "I knew, after I knocked him down in the third, that he would be going for the knockout. I knew I could get knocked out any time.
"But I also knew, when I knocked him down in the third, that I could knock him out."
The sellout crowd of 16,000-plus was warmed up for Pacquiao-Marquez Cuatro by a semi-main event match between Filipino Michael Farenas and highly touted Floridian, by way of Cuban defection, Yuriorkis Gamboa.
They fought at 130 pounds for one of the alphabet-soup sanctioning body interim titles, which mean nothing to anybody outside of the guys collecting sanction fees for the alphabet soups.
Farenas was mostly supposed to be an opponent for the unbeaten Gamboa, who is managed and promoted by rap star 50 Cent. They introduced the match by lowering 50 Cent from the ceiling into the ring on a wire while rapping.
It was quite an extravaganza, but the opponent took some of the sizzle out of the razzle-dazzle Gamboa show by giving the 21-0 prodigy all he could handle in a 12-rounder that wasn't expected to go the distance. He even caught Gamboa with a short hook and dropped him in the ninth.
But Gamboa, built like an Adonis, got the impressive unanimous decision, with all three judges agreeing that Farenas had won a handful of rounds, at the most.
By the time they got to the real reason for all this hype and noise, including three national anthems and a big-screen shot of attendee and apparent boxing fan, Mitt Romney (who knew?), it was well into Sunday morning in the Eastern time zone.
No sport strings out its actual competition like boxing. By the time they actually fight, half the crowd may have forgotten why they were there.
But then Pacquiao and Marquez went at it like never before, and it was more than worth the wait.
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MARQUEZ-PACQUIAO ROUND BY ROUND
After a thrilling buildup in a sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena, referee Kenny Bayless gives the fighters their final instructions and the fight begins. Manny Pacquiao's ready to charge. A Juan Manuel Marquez counter-right lands. A nice Pacquiao left answers. They position. This isn't the three minutes of action Pacquiao promised, but he did press the action, and did enough to take the round, another close one.