It was gruesome to watch in the end as Manny Pacquiao's punches distorted Miguel Angel Cotto's bloody and bloated face for far too long on Saturday night in the MGM ring, Las Vegas.
The referee, Kenny Bayless, finally stepped in after just 55 seconds of the 12th and last round to end a fight that Cotto's cornermen should have stopped a few rounds earlier. The endgame was a savage reminder of just how brutal boxing can be, and also a gentle reminder that behind Pacquiao's expert soundbites, smiles and political ambitions he is a vicious little fighter.
Pacquiao won the World Boxing Organisation welterweight title and collected something called the World Boxing Council's Diamond belt. In reality fighters with Pacquiao's brilliance make a mockery of the men with VIP passes, slick suits and fake smiles who leap into the ring to wrap their baubles across the chests of champions at the end of fights.
The fight was always going to be memorable and it had nothing to do with the tacky leather belt that Cotto entered the ring to defend and everything to do with both his bravery and Pacquiao's extraordinary talents. Pacquiao has now picked up belts in six different weight categories of varying quality from the multitude of sanctioning bodies. Right now Pacquiao is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and probably the people's champion and both mythical titles carry more respect than any belt.
There is thankfully a true super-fight for Pacquiao on the horizon in the shape of unbeaten Floyd Mayweather, a fighter of undoubted excellence inside the ropes but questionable ability to maintain a respectable lifestyle away from boxing. Little Floyd, as he is known, is 40 and zero in fights, not a champion at the moment, but he has held belts at five weights and beaten the best in the business during the last decade. The pair share several opponents including Oscar De La Hoya, who Pacquiao forced to quit and Mayweather narrowly beat on points, and Ricky Hatton, who was stopped in 10 by Mayweather and left unconscious in two by Pacquiao.
Making a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight happen will be extremely difficult for Pacquiao's promoter Bob Arum and Richard Schaeffer, who appears to have been given the task by Mayweather, because of the huge sums that both boxers will demand. It will take skill and patience to put in place a fight that will break all existing financial records.
However, Pacquiao will now concentrate on winning a seat in the Philippines congress for General Santos City next May and in theory he may take his eye off the fight to begin another career that many expect to end in a run for the presidency. "I don't like Mayweather and he doesn't like me, but I can do a deal with Richard," claimed Arum. "Richard and I can negotiate tough and fight hard, but he is a good businessman and I trust him."
The thinking before Saturday's fight was that May next year would suit everybody, but with Pacquiao pursuing his political ambitions it now looks far more likely that September will become the date. Mayweather, who has only fought once since beating Hatton in December 2007, is considering a 10-round fight in January.
There were still some bold whispers in secret chambers late in the Las Vegas night that a March date, instead of May, could be found for a showdown. Boxing is a slow business when a big fight is on the agenda of the stubborn men that run the sport and March seems far too optimistic, even though Schaeffer announced that he would fly in late this week to begin talking. A March fight would have to be announced by the end of the month to allow the full marketing process to gloriously unfold, and traditionally nothing ever tries to fight Father Christmas, not even Pacquiao.
It is a pity really that so many people are understandably looking to the future and the Mayweather fight, because Saturday's performance by Pacquiao was breathtaking. He firmly established his credentials as a modern great, a fighter who has risen through the weights from world champion at flyweight 10 years ago, to the finest boxer in the world eight weights above and two stone heavier.
It was not as one-sided as Cotto's battered face suggests and Pacquiao needed to have the blood drained from his swollen right ear and was clearly exhausted at the end. Cotto, meanwhile, accepted the intervention and in many ways firmly closed the book on those in the business that questioned his heart after Antonio Margarito stopped him last year. Cotto will consider his future, but beatings like this ruin careers and it would not be a surprise if he walked away.
Cotto was dropped for the first time in round three and went down heavily in round four, just at a point when he had decided that playing safe was not going to help him. Pacquiao takes tremendous risks in fights by standing close to fearsome punches, but his speed gives him an edge and that is exactly what happened against Cotto.
It was a joy to watch it unfold, to watch Cotto run out of ideas and slowly take a career-ending beating from a master. That might sound cold, but that is what makes boxing work and there were moments when both fighters were at the very edge of their own abilities; they are rare in prizefights and demand to be cherished.
The end came too late, but then it is often said that the bravest men in the boxing ring are the cornermen and Cotto's posse certainly qualified for that dubious title on Saturday night.
It was over after a moment of mercy from Pacquiao, who looked at referee Kenny Bayliss and appeared to say something, and just a few seconds later, after one more left crunched into the side of Cotto's jaw, it was stopped. Boxing has a new modern master in Pacquiao, a tiny man in many ways who can now walk with the giants of the ring.
Kings of the ring: Bunce's legends
1 Muhammad Ali Won Olympic gold, had 25 world title fights, regained the heavyweight title three times and took part in some of sport's biggest events. He was a pro from 1960-1981 and won 56 of his 61 fights.
2 Sugar Ray Robinson Had 25 world title fights, held titles at two weights and would have held more in the modern era because there are more divisions. Pro from 1940-65 and won 175 of 202 bouts.
3 Sugar Ray Leonard Won Olympic gold, had 13 world title fights and held titles at five different weights. Was involved in major wins in great fights. A pro from 1977-1997 and won 36 of 40 fights.
4 Roberto Duran Had 22 world title fights, he is adored by the old school, held genuine titles at four different weights and once knocked out a horse! A pro from 1968-2001, he won 103 of 109 fights.
5 Manny Pacquiao Held a version of the world title at six weights from flyweight to welterweight and had 13 world title fights. A pro since 1995, he has won 50 of 55 fights.
Ferocious Filipino: Pacquiao's titles
*WBC World Flyweight Champion Beat Chatchai Sasakul, 4 Dec 1998.
*IBF World Super-Bantamweight Champion Beat Lehlohonolo Ledwaba by TKO, 23 June 2001.
*WBC World Super-Featherweight Champion Beat Juan Manuel Marquez by decision, 15 March 2008.
*WBC World Lightweight Champion Beat David Diaz by TKO, 28 June 2008.
*IBO World Light-Welterweight Champion Beat Ricky Hatton by KO, 2 May 2009.
*WBO World Welterweight Champion Defeated Miguel Angel Cotto by TKO on Saturday.
The new WBO world welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao's quickest knockout victory occurred on the 24 April 1997 in Makati City, Philippines, where the Filipino boxer demolished Wook-Ki Lee just 64 seconds into the first round.Reuse content