SWEET REVENGE BY MANNY: MORALES TKO'd IN 10th ROUND
LAS VEGAS, January 23, 2006 (MALAYA) Throwing punches at every angle, Manny Pacquiao handed Erik Morales the worst fight of his career Saturday, avenging his defeat to the Mexican 10 months ago by knocking him out in the 10th round Thomas and Mack Center here.
Pacquiao, 27, went into the fight vowing to get back at Morales who won their first battle via unanimous decision. He lived up to his promise, becoming the first boxer to stop Morales in his spectacular career while keeping his stature as a national hero in the Philippines.
"I know everyone in the Philippines is happy," said Pacquiao, who received $2million for the fight. Morales, who absorbed his fourth loss in 48 fights, earned $3 million.
Morales’ end came at the 2:33 mark of the 10th round. After barely beating the count from a first knockdown earlier, he absorbed a flurry of punches delivered by Pacquiao and hit the deck anew, forcing referee Kenny Bayles to stop the fight.
"I hurt him every time I hit him in the body," said Pacquiao, who went after the Mexican’s body early in the fight as he stuck to his fight plan throughout the 12-round, 130-pound match.
Pacquiao, who improved his record to 41-3-1 with 32 knockouts, relentlessly went on the attack, to the cheers of the big Filipino crowd that competed for premium seats with Mexican fans.
When the fight ended, Morales’ face was a mess of welts and he had lumps on his forehead and head after taking the worst beating of his career. He also had a slight cut above his right eye.
Morales, who had held titles in three different weight divisions, absorbed his third loss in his last four fights. Pacquiao admitted after the fight his left hand hurt from all punches he threw.
"I was tired because of making (the) weight and I was tired because of all the tough fights I’ve had," said Morales, who had to shed extra poundage on the eve of the fight to make the weight limit.
Morales beat Pacquiao in 12 rounds last March, a loss the Filipino blamed on problems with his promoter, the taxman and his gloves. He went into the fight claiming he was 100 percent fit and that there would be no excuses, win or lose.
While the first fight was a 12-round brawl, the rematch promised to live up to expectations early with both fighters trading freely and landing clean shots to the head. Pacquiao was the busier boxer, however, and apparently won the early rounds through sheer volume of punches.
Aside from serving as an eliminator for the super featherweight crown held by Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera, the fight carried a lot of national pride, especially for the 14,618 fans who cheered for their countrymen.
As the fight progressed, Pacquiao’s supporters ended up doing the most cheering as the Filipino wore down Morales and landed shot after shot to the head and body.
"I could see he was having problems taking my punches," Pacquiao said. "I had no problem taking his."
Morales seemed to have the upper hand in the first round but Pacquiao landed a big punch in the second round, a left hand that sent Morales backwards and forced him to grab onto the top rope to stay on his feet.
In the sixth, Morales also absorbed a series of punches near Pacquiao’s corner and appeared ready to go down, but bounced off referee Kenny Bayles and stayed on his feet as the bell ended the round.
Pacquiao increased the pressure after that and Morales looked increasingly weary. Between rounds, he complained that his legs hurt and his corner men rubbed them.
Morales’ corner tried to get their fighter to keep the pressure on, saying Pacquiao didn’t know how to fight backwards. But Pacquiao didn’t have to because he stayed in front of Morales, bouncing back and forth and throwing punches at every angle.
"The tide turned in the sixth round," Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, said. "I could see Morales was fading from all the body punches and Manny’s right hook was beautiful."
Known as a big puncher throughout his career, Morales never backed up. But for the last 20 seconds of the ninth round he ran away from Pacquiao, obviously eluding more punishment.
"He’s all gone," Roach told Pacquiao after the ninth round.
Sensing the end was near, Pacquiao kept the pressure in the 10th, attacking Morales whose face was marked by the sheer volume of punches he absorbed. Midway through the round, Pacquiao landed a combination, including a huge left hand that put Morales on the canvas.
Morales stayed there with his arm over a ring rope, with Bayles making the count in his face. He finally got up at the count of nine but Pacquiao moved in for the kill, landing a flurry that put Morales, defenseless at that point, down.
"He hit me with a lot of real good hard shots," Morales said. "I got hit in the head a lot."
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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