When we talk about great upsets and shocking results one thing we need to avoid is to remember what was thought at time, rather than our view looking back on the bout years later. Today's "What a Shock" is one such bout that, on review, doesn't look like an upset, but at the time it was. In fact people were scared about the under-dog going into the bout, thinking he was going to be too small and could, potentially, get badly hurt. In the end however the bigger man was a spent man, and looked beyond shot. In fact the older, bigger, naturally stronger man was the one risking his health.
December 6th 2008
MGM Grand, Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Manny Pacquiao (47-3-2, 35) Vs Oscar De La Hoya (39-5, 30)
For today's bout we are looking at the 2008 clash between Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao and American star Oscar De La Hoya, the Pacman Vs The Golden Boy.
The bout, dubbed the "Dream Match" was, on paper, interesting with so many sub stories and different threads going into it. It was 2 of the biggest in the sport at the time, though it was also two men who were fighting 3 weight classes apart before the bout, and were both legends in the sport.
In the years before the bout Pacquiao had moved through the weights, from winning his first world title at Flyweight to winning a belt at Lightweight just 6 months before this bout. De La Hoya on the other hand had won his first world title at Super Featherweight before going on to win a title at Middleweight. Just over a year and a half before this bout De La Hoya had given Floyd Mayweather a competitive bout at Light Middleweight. With that in mind they had to find a weight class to agree on, and that turned out to be 147lbs, a weight class that, on paper, suited the bigger De La Hoya.
Whilst weight was one issue the two men differed on so to was age. At the time of this bout De La Hoya was 36. He was seen as being past his best, by some way, but few expected him to be completely shot to pieces. He was seen as a faded star, but still expected to have a decent performance in his body. Pacquiao on the other hand was pretty much in his prime, he was 29 years old and had looked near untouchable in his 2008 win over David Diaz.
Despite the fact De La Hoya was the much older man, and was coming down in weight, he was still widely favoured to be too big, too strong and too powerful for Pacquiao.
In the days before the fight De La Hoya was the clear favourite, priced at -180 (around a 1/2 favourite for those using UK odds), whilst Pacquiao was +150 (3/2). The odds don't suggest a massive mismatch, but Pacquiao was the clear under-dog. The bout led some, including an article on Bleacherreport, to suggest it was going to be Pacquiao who would need saving. In fact one article on Bleacherreport states:
"...let De La Hoya knock Pacquiao out like a good old fashion fight. Don't stop the fight because De La Hoya is putting on a “clinic.” Just let him do his thing. Does Pacquiao have a chance? If he does, it is but small."
Many of our good friends over at Boxingscene also predicted a stoppage win for De La Hoya (with their prediction article here). Some were genuinely scared that this would be the end for Pacquiao.
Despite many thinking Pacquiao was in tough he and his trainer, Freddie Roach, were confident that Oscar was beyond his best and Roach, a former De La Hoya trainer, repeatedly stated that the "Golden Boy" couldn't pull the trigger any more. What we ended up seeing was Roach being spot on.
From the opening bell Pacquiao looked so much smaller than De La Hoya, and De La Hoya did throw the first punch of note. Pacquiao used his feet well, maintained plenty of distance and tried to figure out the reach and size of De La Hoya. Within a minute of the fight starting we saw the speed of Pacquiao being a factor as he landed an eye catching short left hand. As the round went on De La Hoya really did look like he couldn't pull the trigger, he was pushing his shots, he looked flat footed, whilst Pacquiao looked razor sharp. By the end of the round De La Hoya was looking marked up and despite trying to press Pacquiao backwards it wasn't a good round for the American who struggled with the speed and movement of Pacquiao, who repeatedly made De La Hoya miss.
Whilst the first round wasn't a complete domination it was a clear Pacquiao round. The second round however saw Pacquiao begin to dominate. He started the round quickly and was landing at will, with the Pacquiao left hand getting through time and time again. Sadly for De La Hoya he was struggling to land anything, and when he did land something he was tagged back almost immediately and his shots had nothing on them.
As the rounds went on the beating Pacquiao began to hand out was increasing. Rounds 3 and 4 saw De La Hoya take a number of big shots whilst beginning to wilt, and despite Pacquiao being backed onto the ropes a few times he still looked in total control.
By round 6 De La Hoya was looking like he was getting beaten up, and Pacquiao began to hold his feet more, pressing more, and forcing De La Hoya backwards. It was as if De La Hoya knew he was unable to hold his own. He had nothing to offer and was starting to need a KO to win, despite only being half way through the fight. A KO that didn't just look unlikely, but essentially impossible as he wasn't able to land anything hurtful.
Things went from bad to worse for De La Hoya in round 7 as Pacquiao clearly hurt him, and sent him to the ropes, where he unloaded. Were it not for De La Hoya's solid chin and reputation there's a good chance the bout would have been stopped as Pacquiao took shot after shot in the final 90 seconds of the round. His left eye was swelling, his heart breaking, and his desire being smashed to pieces. Despite that he was sent out for round 8 and, when perhaps his team should have said enough was enough.
Whilst the 7th round was a painful one for De La Hoya the punishment he took in round 8 was just as bad as Pacquiao continued to give him a beating, pinning him against the ropes and in the corner. De La Hoya had absolutely no answer, he was just taking a beating and giving almost nothing in return. He was very much looking like a done fighter and even when he threw shots they look incredibly laboured and tired.
After seeing their man take a beating for 8 rounds De La Hoya was finally saved from himself. Referee Tony Weeks made it clear he was going to stop it if the bout continued , but he never got the chance as De La Hoya's pulled him from the bout.
Following this bout, which was described as a "huge upset" by commentator Colonel Bob Sheridan on the international feed of the fight, De La Hoya would retire. The loss essentially sent him out of the ring, and saw him focus on promoting. As for Pacquiao he would further enhance his legacy, winning titles at Light Welterweight, Welterweight and Light Middleweight and putting on some of his best performance after this bout, including wins over Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton Keith Thurman, Timothy Bradley and Antonio Margarito. He proved, after this bout, that he was a world class Welterweight and would continue to do so over the following.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).