[PHOTO AT LEFT - Manny Pacquiao walks to a neutral corner after knocking out David Diaz in the ninth round of their World Boxing Council lightweight title match at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada yesterday. Photo by AP]

LAS VEGAS, JUNE 30, 2008 (STAR) By Abac Cordero – Manny Pacquiao rewrote Philippine boxing history Saturday with a sensational ninth-round knockout of David Diaz as he wrested the World Boxing Council lightweight crown at the Events Center of Mandalay Bay here.

Pacquiao took his fourth world title in four different weight divisions with a short, jarring left cross to the jaw of Diaz, who displayed a heart as big as his gloves against the Filipino punching machine.

The end came at the 2:24 mark of the ninth round of the scheduled 12-rounder.

Pacquiao rained punches on Diaz early, and by the second round, the 1994 Olympian had a cut on the bridge of his nose.

By the end of the fourth another cut, a bigger one, opened up above the American’s right eye. A couple of times the ring doctor checked on the cuts.

Diaz’ face was a bloody mess and looked more like a Halloween mask. During breaks in between rounds, as he sat on his stool, the hands of his trainers were all over his face trying to contain and control the bleeding.

They had very little success though as Diaz took more hits.

The dethroned champion found no answer to Pacquaio’s power and speed, and the 8,362 fans in attendance and the millions watching from around the globe surely knew it was bound to be a one-sided contest in favor of the 29-year-old Filipino, the No. 1 pound-for-pound boxer today.

Powerful punches to the side of the body, most of them inflicted by Pacquiao’s right hand, helped soften up Diaz by the minute.

The southpaw from Mindanao was leading on all scorecards, never allowing Diaz to win any round, when the fight was stopped.

A number of times, from start to finish, Diaz looked on the verge of going down. But he gamely fought as he promised, landing some punches as the rounds went by until Pacquiao went for the kill.

A stinging jab that jolted Diaz’s head back set up the left cross that cut the fight short.

Referee Vic Drakulich waved his hands, signaling the end of the match, even before he could attend to Diaz who fell on his knees and planted his face on the canvass.

The referee did not even bother to count, and motioned to Diaz’s cornermen to step into the ring.

Pacquiao stepped out of the neutral corner and approached Diaz who was on his back. The Filipino even tried to pick his opponent up. He held Diaz’s right arm with his two hands, but he was eventually pulled back and lifted by his trainer Buboy Fernandez, and then the celebration began.

Pinoy fight fans, who outnumbered their counterparts from the US and Mexico, exploded in joy after the stoppage.

They chanted “Ma-nny! Ma-nny! Ma-nny!” and one female fan even flashed a placard saying, “Manny, marry me!”

“My first concern was for Diaz. I was praying he was all right. Did you see I tried to pull him up? I was so concerned,” Pacquiao was quoted as saying.

He said he felt that the bout should have been stopped earlier because of too much blood coming out of Diaz’s cuts.

“I thought the fight was going to be stopped sooner because of the very bad cut (on the eye). There was one round when I talked to the referee and asked him to look at the cut but he told me, ‘Go ahead, continue to fight,’” said Pacquiao, practically unscathed after the fight.

“It was his speed. It was all about his speed. He boxed more than I thought he would,” said Diaz. Before commentators Jim Lampley and Emmanuel Steward interviewed him, Diaz approached Pacquiao. They smiled at each other, hugged and whispered a few words to each other.

“He’s a great champion, a good fighter and a clean fighter at that. My respect and my hat’s off to him. We have to live to fight another day, that’s for sure. You got to win, you got to lose, and today we lost. Today was the day that we lost. No excuses. His speed was the thing that got me,” Diaz added.

With the sensational victory that improved his ring record to 47 wins, three losses and two draws (35 knockouts) Pacquiao became the first Asian to win four world titles (in addition to his flyweight, super-bantamweight and super-featherweight titles), and the first Filipino lightweight champion.

Diaz, who represented the US in the 1994 Atlanta Olympics, took the second loss of his career and dropped to 34-2-1. He got $800,000, his biggest paycheck ever, for fighting Pacquiao, who stands to receive probably close to $5 million once everything comes in.

“I’m so happy to make history being the first Asian to capture four belts,” he said during the post-fight interview. “This fight I dedicate to all my countrymen who suffered from the typhoon (and maritime disaster). I’m eager to come home and see you, be with you, visit you and help you.”

Gabriel “Flash” Elorde was the world super-featherweight champion when he twice tried but failed to win the 135-pound crown then held by Carlos Ortiz. Twice Ortiz knocked out Elorde – the first at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in 1964 and second at Madison Square Garden in New York in 1966.

Other Pinoy boxers who failed in their bids for the world lightweight title were Bert Somodio (outpointed by Joe Brown in Manila in 1961), Dindo Canoy (decisioned by Orzubek Nazarov in Iwaki City, Japan, in 1995) and Randy Suico (stopped by Juan Diaz in Las Vegas in 2006).

Pacquiao, who moved up in weight after taking the WBC super-featherweight champion from Juan Manuel Marquez last March, said he feels more comfortable, and much stronger, at 135 lbs.

“I feel much stronger and powerful at 135. Coach Freddie told me I didn’t need to fight toe-to-toe with him. But I controlled the fight. I think I’m very comfortable in this weight. I feel a lot stronger here than at 130 pounds,” said Pacquiao admitted that Diaz did hurt him too during the fight.

“He hurt me one time. He is strong. But I think I am going to stay at 135 pounds or I can fight at 140. Whatever Bob’s (his promoter Bob Arum) decision is. I’m just a fighter,” added the new lightweight champion of the world.

Roach was simply impressed with his ward, who trained six weeks in Los Angeles for this fight.

“That was beautiful. The game plan was not to stand and trade. It would have been dangerous to do that. The plan was to go in and out. He did what he does best. We trained to outbox him. He did everything I asked him to do,” he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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