Giving away both pounds and inches, boxing's little superstar turned Antonio Margarito into a bloody and nearly blind fighter with a dizzying array of punches Saturday night in a lopsided decision victory that wasn't close from the opening rounds on.
In a spectacular performance before a delighted crowd of 41,734 at Cowboys Stadium, Pacquiao cemented his claim to being the best fighter in the world by dominating the bigger but slower Margarito almost from the opening bell. Pacquiao won round after round, opening a cut on Margarito's cheek, closing his right eye, and turning his face into a bloody mess.
The punches came quickly, and they came often. Margarito was plenty game as he tried to stalk Pacquiao around the ring, but every time he got close Pacquiao would land a four- or five-punch combination that snapped his head back and stopped him in his tracks.
The beating was so thorough that the congressman from the Philippines turned to referee Laurence Cole several times in the 11th round, imploring him to stop the fight. It went on, though, even though Margarito had no chance to win.
"I can't believe that I beat someone this big and this strong," Pacquiao said. "It's hard. I really do my best to win the fight."
Pacquiao moved up in weight yet again to take on Margarito, a natural welterweight with a reputation for ruggedness in the ring. And rugged he was, though he took a beating all night long at the hands of a faster and seemingly more powerful opponent.
"There was no way I was gong to quit. I'm a Mexican, we fight until the end," Margarito said.
Pacquiao won every round on one scorecard, 120-108, and was ahead 119-109 and 118-110 on the other two. The Associated Press had it a 120-108 shutout.
"We didn't lose a round," said Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach. "I wish they would have stopped the fight."
That almost happened, but Cole allowed it to go on even as Margarito kept taking such a beating that he went directly to a hospital afterward for treatment of his cuts. There wasn't any way Margarito was going to win the fight, but he could still see out of one eye and wanted to continue.
"I told the referee, `Look at his eyes, look at his cuts,"' Pacquiao said. "I did not want to damage him permanently. That's not what boxing is about."
Ringside punch stats reflected Pacquiao's dominance, showing him landing 474 punches to 229 for Margarito. But it wasn't just the sheer volume of punches, but the power in which they came at almost every angle.
Roach predicted before the fight that Pacquiao would carve Margarito apart because he was simply much too quick for his opponent. He did just that, starting from the first round when he landed an early flurry up the middle that seemed to set the tone for the fight.
It wasn't entirely easy, though. Pacquiao said Margarito hurt him in the middle rounds with shots to the head and the body, though he was unable to land more than one of two punches at a time. When he did manage to land, more often than not Pacquiao was there to fire right back with volleys of his own that found their mark almost every time.
"Manny is the best fighter in the world," said Margarito's trainer, Robert Garcia. "He is just too fast - very, very quick."
While there was no controversy in the ring, there was a dispute in the dressing room before the fight when a member of Pacquiao's camp saw a weight-loss supplement in Margarito's gear and demanded his blood be tested immediately for possible banned substances. Texas boxing officials ruled that would not be necessary, and the fight went on.
Roach also made sure he was in the dressing room to watch the hands of Margarito, who is still banned in California for a hand wrapping scandal, get wrapped. But it was Margarito's corner who demanded Roach also rewrap his fighter's hands in a display of gamemanship.
Once the fight started it didn't matter. Pacquiao landed some big left hands early, cutting Margarito beneath the right eye and causing it to swell. By the middle of the fight he couldn't see out of that eye and his left eye began closing, too.
The fight was for the WBC 154-pound title even though the contract weight was 150 pounds. Margarito weighed 150 at Friday's weigh-in, but was 165 on the unofficial HBO scale before the fight while Pacquiao, who had been 144.6, was 148 pounds.
Pacquiao also gave away 4½ inches in height and was at a six-inch reach disadvantage, but that didn't matter either.
Pacquiao earned a guaranteed $15 million, though he is likely to make millions more on his cut of the television revenues. He planned to give a concert at Lake Tahoe on Tuesday and then return to his political duties in the Philippines.
"I have another job after this," Pacquiao said. "I'm going back to the Philippines to do my other job and be a public servant."