Monday, November 15, 2010

Thrilla in Manila: Manny Pacquiao vs Antonio Margarito

After months of anticipation, the moment had finally arrived: the bout between Manny Pacquiao and Antonino Margarito for the WBC super welterweight title at Cowboys Stadium in Texas was underway.

I was ecstatic to be in the Philippines, home of the phenomenal Pinoy professional boxer, Manny 'Pacman' Pacquiao, for the fight. What an opportunity to watch a boxing bout of the sensational Filipino fighter while amongst his fellow native born citizens in Manila. Figuring the experience could be enhanced with the engulfment of fanatic Filipino screaming fans, I decided to watch the fight at Araneta Coliseum, the sports arena which hosted the memorable fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier for the Heavyweight Boxing Championship of the World, known as the 'Thrilla in Manila'. I couldn't believe that I would be watching the fight from the very stands where 35 years ago on 1 October 1975 history was witnessed, where Muhammad Ali defeated Joe Frazier for their third and final fight.

And speaking of history, Manny Pacquiao was attempting to make history himself by winning his eighth world title in eight different weight divisions. It would be an impressive feat if he could pull it off; however, he was facing Antonio 'Tijuana Tornado' Margarito, an admirable adversary, whose career had been tarnished recently after his corner was accused of illegally wrapping his hands, giving him a dangerously unfair advantage. In other words, Margarito had something to prove and was someone not to take too lightly, because beating Pacquiao would be the ultimate redemption.

But despite such warnings it had appeared that Pacquiao wasn't taking the fight as serious as everyone thought he should be. Pacquiao seemed distracted. And for good reason, I guess. Because in May 2010, Manny Pacquiao was elected to the House of Representatives to represent the province of Sarangani on the island of Mindanao. Suddenly Pacquiao had conflicting responsibilities, and it appeared that he was having difficulty balancing the two professions: one as an elite boxer, and the other as an elected congressman.

Since the bout was held in Dallas, Texas, 13 hours behind the Philippines, Sheila and I had to wake up early in order to arrive at the arena on time. Sheila, being fashionable as always, left the apartment wearing a red tank top, red shoes, and with matching red boxing gloves. Luckily we purchased our tickets the week before, so when we approached the arena we were able to bypass the long queue and walk straight in. Much to our delight our seats were located amazingly in the front with an incredible view of the enormous widescreen projector, all for $13 USD. Sweet!

"Let's get ready to rumble!"

[Play while reading below]

The crowd in the arena seemed to increase as the fight was about to be begin. However, the people sitting in the nosebleed section – which appeared to be sold out - had been in the arena for hours, hollering and hooting with anticipation. I loved it. The atmosphere was exactly how I expected it to be. And as the Filipino National Anthem got underway, the thousands in attendance stood to their feet. The people of the Philippines are extremely patriotic. Their National Anthem is even sometimes played in movie theaters before the feature film begins.

I’m not going to lie, I was worried about Manny Pacquiao’s chances. I mean, Antonio Margarito is a deadly fighter and Pacquiao was giving up 4 inches in height and 5.5 lbs in weight going into the fight. That’s a significant difference, especially when fighting someone who’s as lethal as Margarito. So yeah, I was worried. However, from the opening bell Pacquiao was nothing short of spectacular. Every punch Pacquiao delivered to Margarito was followed by roaring cheers by everyone in attendance. For 12 straight rounds Pacquiao dominated Margarito. His speed and flurry of punches were simply too much for his opponent, whose face was left disfigured. Pacquiao could have ended the fight at any time during the 11th and 12th rounds, but chose not to because he obviously didn't want to permanently injure Margarito. Now that's true sportsmanship. He isn't the people's champ for nothing.

It was another historical night for boxing as Many Pacqiuao deservingly won an unanimous decision, and is now an eight time world champion in eight different weight classes. I would say the Philippines have a strong case to claim him as the 8th wonder of the world - unless someone else has something to say about it.

Floyd Mayweather Jr., what say you?


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