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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Manny Pacquiao stops 'empty' De la Hoya

Manny Pacquiao dominated Oscar de la Hoya from the start to win Saturday's welterweight super-fight in Las Vegas.

The Filipino gave his bigger, more famous opponent such a beating that De la Hoya declined to come out of his corner after the eighth round.

The technical knockout marked only the second time De la Hoya had been stopped in a fight in his 16-year pro career.

"He's just a great fighter," said De La Hoya. "I have nothing bad to say about him. He prepared like a true champion."

Defeat for the 35-year-old came at the hands of a fighter who fought at just 129lb months earlier.

"Speed was going to be the key to this fight," said the victorious Pacquiao, 29, who picked up an $11m (£7.5m) purse.

"I'm not surprised by the result, because I prepared well to control the fight from the beginning. I'm happy that I could give this victory to my country."

De la Hoya seemed well beyond his prime, unable to offer any answer to the punches Pacquiao landed almost at will.

His left eye was closed shut as he sat on his stool after the eighth round and the ring doctor, referee and his cornermen discussed his condition.

He offered no complaints when his corner decided he had had enough, getting up from his stool and walking to the centre of the ring to congratulate Pacquiao.

"I felt empty, without power," said De la Hoya. "I tried to go forward but Pacquiao's leg speed and movement didn't allow me to connect with anything."

Two of the three ringside judges scored all eight rounds for Pacquiao, while a third gave De La Hoya - who was taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons after the fight - only the first round.

Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 knockouts) came up two weight classes to fight for his biggest purse ever, while De La Hoya dropped down to meet him at 147lb.

Though De la Hoya (39-6) towered over Pacquiao and had a big reach advantage over him, Pacquiao had no trouble getting inside what few jabs De La Hoya threw to land his shots.

"We knew we had him after the first round," said Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach.

"He had no legs, he was hesitant and he was shot."

Roach trained De la Hoya in his last big fight a year ago and said De La Hoya could no longer throw punches when he needed them.

"Freddie, you're right," De la Hoya told his former trainer after the fight.

"I just don't have it any more. My heart still wants to fight, that's for sure.

"But when your physical doesn't respond, what can you do? I have to be smart and make sure I think about my future plans."

Pacquiao, meanwhile, who may find British light-welterweight Ricky Hatton lined up as his next opponent, 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."

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