LAS VEGAS, USA Dec 7 – Manny Pacquiao punished Oscar de la Hoya for eight rounds, his technical knockout triumph over the US superstar underscoring the Filipino icon’s status as best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
Pacquiao’s speed and precision were too much for De la Hoya, whose left eye was swelling shut in his battered face as he declined to come out for the ninth round.
The Mexican-American sat quietly on his stool as his corner decided he had taken enough punishment, and referee Tony Weeks officially stopped the fight.
With the technical knockout, Pacquiao improved to 48-3 with two drawn and 36 wins inside the distance.
Pacquiao, the reigning World Boxing Council lightweight champion, moved up two weight classes to take the lucrative bout with De la Hoya, a 10-time world champion in six different weight classes who fell to 39-6 with 30 knockouts.
The disparity in size, most obvious in De la Hoya’s four-inch height advantage, proved no handicap for the 29-year-old Pacquiao, who was ahead on all three judges’ scorecards when the fight was halted.
Pacquiao was all eagerness from the opening bell, when he raced to the center of the ring buoyed by chants of "Manny! Manny!" from a sizeable contingent of Filipino fans at the MGM Grand.
But the famously aggressive Pacquiao also showed shrewd judgment, darting in to land blows while eluding the sluggish-looking De la Hoya.
"That’s what we were working on every day in the gym – speed," Pacquiao said. "Speed was going to be the key to this fight."
"I’m not surprised by the result, because I prepared well to control the fight from the beginning," he said. "I’m happy that I could give this victory to my country."
Pacquiao peppered De la Hoya with punches from the first round, landing quick lefts up the middle as he moved in and out at will.
By the seventh round it was all Pacquiao, as he backed De la Hoya into a corner and landed a series of damaging combinations.
De la Hoya seemed unable to launch a punch and merely tried to cover up.
The eighth was more of the same as Pacquiao handed De la Hoya one of the worst defeats of his career.
Two of the judges gave every round to Pacquiao, while a third gave De la Hoya one round.
De la Hoya, who was at his lightest since 2001, may have been adversely affected by the drop in weight.
"I felt empty, without power," he said. "I tried to go forward but Pacquiao’s leg speed and movement didn’t allow me to connect with anything."
But De la Hoya was full of praise for his tenacious rival.
"Manny Pacquiao is a great fighter," De la Hoya said. "He deserves all the credit. He fought a great fight. He was the better man."
At 35, De la Hoya was left pondering his future.
"My heart still wants to fight that’s for sure," De la Hoya said in a television interview from the ring. "But when your physical doesn’t respond, what can you do?"
Pacquiao, meanwhile, had nothing to ponder but his next opponent, perhaps 140-pound light-welterweight draw Ricky Hatton of Britain.
Pacquiao said he would fight whoever promoter Bob Arum put in front of him.
"My job is to train hard and to fight in the ring," he said. "It’s my promoter’s job to decide who I fight – and I will fight."