LAS VEGAS -- The end for Oscar De La Hoya on this night came as he sat in the corner after the eighth round, his left eye swollen shut and his face bruised by punches Manny Pacquiao seemed able to land almost at will.
The decision to call it a night was easy. The decision to call it a career may be a lot tougher.
"My heart still wants to fight, that's for sure," De La Hoya said. "But when your physical doesn't respond, what can you do? I have to be smart and make sure I think about my future plans."
Pacquiao gave De La Hoya a lot to think about by beating and battering him around the ring for eight rounds Saturday night before De La Hoya declined to answer the bell for the ninth round. The domination was shocking enough, but the fact that it came at the hands of a fighter who just nine months earlier had been fighting at 129 pounds had to be even more troubling for De La Hoya and his legions of fans.
De La Hoya absorbed such a beating that he was taken to a hospital afterwards for what was described as a precautionary examination. The most popular fighter of his generation won just one round on one ringside scorecard and none on the other two against a smaller opponent who fought bigger than him from the opening bell on.
"We knew we had him after the first round," Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said. "He had no legs, he was hesitant and he was shot."
Roach trained De La Hoya in his last big fight a year ago and said then that De La Hoya simply couldn't throw punches when he needed to anymore. That was magnified even more against Pacquiao, who not only was as elusive as Floyd Mayweather Jr. but threw punches back that kept De La Hoya off pace.
"Freddie, you're right," De La Hoya told the trainer after the fight. "I just don't have it anymore."
If De La Hoya's career is over, it will be the end of a remarkable story that began when he won the Olympic gold medal in Barcelona in 1992 and went on to become the biggest box office attraction in the sport. But while he sold tickets, De La Hoya hadn't won a big fight in six years, and there were whispers long before the fight that he had nothing left.
He certainly had nothing against Pacquiao, who fought a lot bigger than he looked and who proved that speed was a lot more important than size against a fighter who at the age of 35 has seen his better days.
"That's what we were focused on every day in the gym, speed, speed would be the key to this fight," Pacquiao said. "I trained hard for this fight, and that's why I deserve tonight."
De La Hoya's left eye was swollen shut as he sat on his stool after the eighth round and the ring doctor, referee and his cornermen discussed his condition. De La Hoya offered no complaints when his corner decided he had enough, getting up from his stool and walking to the center of the ring to congratulate the victor.
"You're still my idol," Pacquiao told him.
"No, you're my idol," De La Hoya said.
It was lopsided from the beginning, with Pacquiao landing punch after punch while De La Hoya chased after him, trying to catch him with a big blow. Pacquiao was winning big even before the seventh round, when he was pounding De La Hoya against the ropes in his corner and catching him with huge shots that knocked him across the ring.
De La Hoya remained upright, but with one eye closed and his reflexes seemingly gone there was no chance he was going to land the big punches he would have needed to turn the fight around. Ringside statistics showed Pacquiao landed 45 power punches in the seventh round to just four for De La Hoya.
"He's just a great fighter," De La Hoya said. "I have nothing bad to say about him. He prepared like a true champion."
Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 knockouts) came up two weight classes to fight for his biggest purse ever, while De La Hoya dropped down to meet him at 147 pounds. Though De La Hoya (39-6) towered over Pacquiao and had a big reach advantage over him, Pacquiao had no trouble getting inside what few jabs De La Hoya threw to land his shots.
Pacquiao was credited with landing 224 of 585 punches to just 83 of 402 for De La Hoya.
De La Hoya not only dropped down to fight for the first time at 147 pounds in seven years, but actually came into the ring unofficially weighing less than Pacquiao. Both fighters got on scales in their dressing rooms and De La Hoya was 147 while Pacquiao was 148 and a half.
Pacquiao will earn a guaranteed $11 million, while De La Hoya was expected to make at least twice that by the time all the pay-per-view revenues are totaled up.