LAS VEGAS — 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 just a few feet away. So did Pacquiao’s wife, who broke down in tears and tried to get in the ring to aid her downed husband.
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 from the opening bell 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.”
Indeed, the case could be made that Pacquiao was on the verge of a big win himself when Marquez landed the punch that sent him falling face first on the canvas. He had come back from a third round knockdown to drop Marquez in the fifth and was landing big left hands that broke and bloodied the Mexican’s nose.
After three fights that all went the distance both fighters had vowed to be more aggressive in their fourth meeting. Pacquiao ended up paying the price for it when he tried to close the sixth round with a flurry, a big mistake against a counterpuncher who drew him into his sights.
Pacquiao, who hadn’t been stopped in a fight since 1999 in Thailand when he was a 112-pounder, took several minutes to come around on the canvas before being led to his ring stool. He blew his nose and stared vacantly ahead as the pro-Marquez crowd of 16,348 screamed in excitement.
He was taken to the hospital for a precautionary brain scan, then went to his hotel suite, where he ate with wife Jinkee and his entourage and watched a replay of the fight to see what went wrong.