Boxing: Pacquiao seals place among legends after 'hardest fight'
Manny Pacquiao cemented his place in the pantheon of boxing greats by recording an unanimous points victory over Antonio Margarito on Saturday to claim the vacant WBC super-welterweight title.
The 31-year-old dominated all 12 rounds against his bigger Mexican opponent at the Cowboys Stadium in Texas to land an eighth world title in an unprecedented eighth weight class.
Having already established himself as one of the best offensive fighters of all time, Pacquiao outclassed Margarito with his lightning hand speed and precise power punching to improve his pro career record to 52-3-2, with 38 knockouts.
"It was a really hard fight, the hardest fight in my career," said Pacquiao after winning his 13th consecutive bout since losing to Erik Morales in March 2005.
"He's a very tough fighter. I can't believe he took all those punches."
The Filipino, a heavily odds-on favourite, pummelled the Mexican's head virtually at will for much of the bout, leaving his opponent with a puffed left eye and a cut under a badly swollen right eye.
Despite being outweighed by 17lb and being four and a half inches shorter, Pacquiao blended raw power with speed in front of a crowd of 41,734 in a spectacular performance.
Pacquiao, who had never fought above welterweight, dominated the official ringside statistics, landing 474 power punches compared to Margarito's 229. At one point during the 11th round, Pacquiao looked across at referee Laurence Cole and asked him to stop the fight.
"I feel for my opponent, his eyes and his bloody face," said the Filipino, who was hurt by Margarito's body shots during the middle rounds when pinned against the ropes. "I wanted the ref to look at that.
"In the 12th round I wasn't looking for a knockout. I take it easy because my trainer told me to take it easy and just be careful."
Pacquiao, fighting for the first time since winning a seat in his country's national congress earlier this year, gained one-sided verdicts from all three judges -- 120-109, 118-110 and 119-109.
Pacquiao's initial concern after the fight was the health of his mother who, according to promoter Bob Arum, had "suffered an anxiety attack" while watching from ringside, but she soon recovered.
Three-times world champion Margarito slipped to 38-7 with 27 knockouts. Asked whether he had considered retiring before the end of the 12th round, the 32-year-old replied: "No, no way. I'm a Mexican and we fight until the end. This time I failed Mexico but we will fight to the end."
The controversial Mexican was welcomed by a mixture of cheers and jeers -- he and trainer Javier Capetillo were banned for a year after plaster-like bandage wraps were found in the fighter's gloves before a fight in January last year.