The idea of Manny Pacquiao being knocked out cold was shocking enough. The sight of him face down on the canvas, unresponsive even as bedlam broke out all around him, was positively frightening.
Mitt Romney saw it up close from his ringside seat. So did Pacquiao’s wife, who broke down in tears and tried to get in the ring.
Juan Manuel Marquez didn’t even bother to look. He was already busy celebrating the knockout of a lifetime.
This was boxing at its brutal best, a toe-to-toe slugfest Saturday night that was destined to be decided by fists instead of judges. Both fighters had been down, and both fighters were hurting when Marquez threw a right hand off the ropes with a second left in the sixth round that could be felt all the way in the rafters of the MGM Grand arena.
It will go down among the great fights of their era. But it was barely over when the cry arose for the two ever-so-willing warriors to do it again.
When it comes to Pacquiao and Marquez, four fights may not be enough.
“If you give us a chance, we’ll fight again,” Pacquiao said. “I was just starting to feel confident and then I got careless.”
After three fights went the distance, both vowed to be more aggressive. Pacquiao ended up paying the price when he tried to close the sixth round with a flurry, a big mistake.
“I knew Manny could knock me out at any time,” Marquez said. “I threw the perfect punch.”
It was a career-defining moment for Marquez, who believes he was robbed by the judges in his first three fights with Pacquiao.
It was clear there would be no need for the judges on this night.
The only question was which fighter would end the night on the canvas.
It turned out to be Pacquiao, who lost a controversial decision in his last fight to Timothy Bradley. Pacquiao showed no sign afterward that he was willing to call it quits.
Trainer Freddie Roach said the decision won’t be an easy one.
“I said if he is back in the gym and I see signs of him declining I’ll tell him to retire, but if I don’t see that I won’t tell him to retire,” Roach said. “I’d love to get a rematch, but is that the best move right away? Should we try him out in a softer fight first? There is a lot of things we have to think about. It’s very complicated, and it’s not going to be overnight.”
One thing the stunning loss did do was scuttle, perhaps forever, what would have been the richest fight in boxing history. With Pacquiao now damaged goods, any fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. would be fought for a lot less money and generate a lot less interest than if it had happened with Pacquiao still on his winning streak and still in his prime.
Pacquiao’s career may not be over. If postfight comments from both fighters and promoter Bob Arum were any indication, he and Marquez will more than likely fight for a fifth time. There’s too much money to be had and the fighter in Pacquiao will surely want a chance at redemption.
That will be a hot topic of discussion in the months ahead. For now, though, one thing is for sure.
On this night, one huge right hand from Marquez changed everything.