IT is the sign of a great fighter who can struggle yet fight through his frustration to achieve the desired result.
That is exactly what Manny Pacquiao did in his eighth-round knockout of Mexico’s Jorge Solis in San Antonio, Texas on April 14, 2007.
Pacquiao (9st 2 3/4lbs), now 44-3-2 (35), missed continuously against his elusive fellow-southpaw yet never stopped punching.
Not until the nature of the contest changed did he finally break through. And if Floyd Mayweather should stumble against Oscar De La Hoya next month, losing or performing unimpressively, Pacquiao might ascend to the top of the public’s pound-for-pound list.
The choice of undefeated but unheralded Solis, now 32-1-2 (23), as opponent had been questioned in some quarters by those hoping to see the Pac Man box a higher-profile opponent.
Jorge, however, showed he belonged in the same ring with the Philippines superstar. Arguably Solis could have beaten most super-feathers on this night, but Pacquiao was an altogether different proposition.Solis’ conservative approach enabled him to survive and have moments of success, but it didn’t win him rounds.
When Jorge finally stood up to Pacquiao and exchanged punches, he lacked the firepower to compete for a sustained period. Judging by the way he came tearing out at the start of this 12-rounder, Pacquiao had no thoughts of letting this one go a few rounds to give the 14,793 fans inside the Alamodome a show.
But Solis (9st 4lbs) backed off, made Manny miss, and countered with a strong straight right with 45 seconds left.
When Pacquiao got back to the corner, he was lectured by Freddie Roach, who had come in specifically for the fight from Puerto Rico, where he was training De La Hoya.
Roach had not trained Pacquiao for this match, leaving those duties to his assistant Justin Fortune.
Roach had received Pacquiao’s blessing to work with Oscar in what is said to be a one-fight deal. Realistically, though, if De La Hoya continues his career after Mayweather, there is a good possibility he would want Roach to train him.
What happens then if Pacquiao and De La Hoya have fights scheduled in close proximity to the other?
It would not be reasonable to expect a boxer of Pacquiao’s stature to accept this arrangement again. Freddie and Pacquiao are close, but training De La Hoya is a plum job that would be difficult to walk away from, both financially and prestige-wise.
Additionally, Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum (Top Rank) has had negative things to say about Roach, no doubt fuelled by the trainer’s allegiance to Oscar, who Arum now despises. This could be a developing story worth watching.
Back to the fight, and Pacquiao loosened up in the second, bringing his jab into play. He showed good upper-body movement.
Manny is a brilliant combination puncher, but he was able to put together only one punch at a time in the early rounds. In the third he landed a big left hook, but could not follow up. The champion missed continuously, but ‘ kept busy and was imposing his will on Solis.
Jorge made his move in the fourth. He backed Pacquiao up and nailed him with a good right against the ropes. Manny came back with a booming left hook that made the taller Solis hold.
The challenger established a pattern of trying to steal rounds at the warning buzzer that signified the round was about to end.
His best session was the fifth, when he backed Pacquiao to the ropes and landed three straight rights. If the punches didn’t shake Pacquiao, they definitely got his attention.
He gestured to Solis defiantly and then awkwardly tried to attack, but the Mexican avoided some looping blows and tagged Manny with another solid right late in the session. Solis had got back into the fight, but was also energising Pacquiao.
Heads collided in the sixth and Pacquiao’s left eye bled. Time was called by Nevada referee Vic Drakulich to check it, but the cut did not look too bad.
Solis, however, was spurred on by it and went on the attack, landing a right. He tried to trade but was overpowered.
Pacquiao had been waiting for Solis to come out of his shell, and this was it. Suddenly the Mexican was hurt and Pacquiao poured it on, trying desperately to end it. Solis caught him with a left hook and did a good job of holding Pacquiao off.
Manny outworked Solis in the seventh but, outside one left hook that buckled Jorge’s knees, was not punching with the same intensity. Solis put together a flurry of straight blows late in the round, but Pacquiao was unfazed.
It all fell apart quickly for the Solis in the eighth, and it was more the ferocity of Pacquiao’s attack than any one punch that did him in.
A double left hook, followed by a right and another left, put Solis down. He seemed reluctant to get up, but did so as referee Drakulich reached nine.
When the action resumed, Pacquiao tore in, landing a left to the chin and right to the body. Solis went down again and was counted out at 1-16.
At 28, Pacquiao is in his prime and has shown a desire to clear up his 12-round draw with Juan Manuel Marquez. Considering Marquez’s recent success against Marco Antonio Barrera, a rematch with Pacquiao would be one of the most intriguing fights that could be made.
However, Marquez is promoted by “Golden Boy”, whom Arum is loath to do business with but will. Arum mentioned Joan Guzman as a possibility.
Guzman is extremely talented and would present a greater threat to Pacquiao than Solis. So would knockout artist Edwin Valero, who might find himself in the mix.
Pacquiao plans to run for public office in the Philippines next month. Given his popularity in his country, it is hard to imagine him not getting elected.
Manny says this would not take his focus off boxing, but you have to wonder if that really would be the case.
Interestingly, no major title was on the line. This one was for Pacquiao’s WBC International title.