Jan 10, 2008
Following the Countdown to Pacquiao - Morales III : The Grand Finale HBO, this Manny Pacquiao's rubber match with Morales was a spectacular action fight for three rounds. And the atmosphere, with 18,276 deliriously wild fans, was absolutely electrifying and unforgettable. Stick some casual sports fans in the middle of that kind of scene and they will become boxing fans for life.
Pacquiao, 27, was the younger, stronger, fresher and hungrier fighter. He was simply too much for Morales, an old 30 after so many brutal wars and so many years of struggling to make weight. Pacquiao walked through whatever Morales could land and destroyed him, scoring three knockdowns to win their glorious trilogy 2-1.
The final knockdown in the third round resulted in a sight we never thought we would see: Morales conceding a fight. He sat with his arms wrapped around his knees, looked to his corner and shook his head "no" to indicate that he wasn't going to get up as he allowed referee Vic Drakulich to count him out. He knew he was a beaten man and said so afterward. The scene reminded us of the way Alexis Arguello conceded his 1983 rematch with Aaron Pryor -- sitting in the middle of the canvas knowing he just couldn't beat that guy, so why get up just to get pummeled again?
Morales is probably at the end of the road, but what a road it has been. He won titles in three divisions and he's a lock for first-ballot Hall of Famer. He was also one of the never-say-die fighters of this era, one of the reasons he was so popular and generated big money on pay-per-view. He might have lost his epic trilogies with Pacquiao and fierce rival Marco Antonio Barrera, but he's one of the few fighters with the heart to fight them a combined six times.
Pacquiao sealed our vote for fighter of the year honors with the impressive victory. But when he'll fight next is a mystery because of the outside-the-ring storm in which he is at the center. Top Rank and Golden Boy both claim promotional rights to him, and the matter seems headed for a courtroom. If Top Rank prevails, Pacquiao is headed for the Chinese territory of Macau to fight in March, possibly against 130-pound titlist Edwin Valero. If Golden Boy wins, the fighter could face division champion Barrera in March in a rematch of Pacquiao's crushing 11th-round knockout in a 2003 featherweight championship fight.