Mismatch indeed: Pacquiao dominates De La Hoya

LAS VEGAS -- The legions who criticized the Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao fight as a mismatch were right.

But it didn't go the way they banked on it going.

No, De La Hoya, the naturally bigger man, a man who had fought from 130 to 160 pounds and won titles in the six divisions along the way, didn't score the easy victory.

No, he didn't score even a tough victory.

Instead, he got his rear end kicked all over the ring for eight wickedly lopsided rounds.

In the end, it was the shell of De La Hoya, with his left eye swollen, who retired on his stool at the end of the eighth round when trainer Nacho Beristain threw in the towel Saturday night before a packed MGM Grand Garden Arena crowd of 15,001.

David, er, Pacquiao, had slayed De La Hoya, who we might never see in the ring again (or at least shouldn't see in the ring again) after a massive destruction that landed him in the hospital as a precaution afterward.

Is there any doubt that Pacquiao, the Filipino whirlwind, is the best pound-for-pound fighter? Certainly not after that performance.

Here was a man, the hero of his country, who had turned professional as a teenager at 106 pounds and won titles at 112, 122, 126, 130 and 135 pounds before leaping up two divisions to face De La Hoya in the 147-pound welterweight division.

The critics of the welterweight fight, an idea conceived last year by HBO broadcaster Larry Merchant, called it a joke. They said Pacquiao, who had only fought one bout at 135 pounds earlier this year, was way too small for De La Hoya.

Let's hear from them now.

Pacquiao was a master, strafing De La Hoya with brutal straight lefts all night. His speed was impressive against the statue-like De La Hoya, the 35-year-old Golden Boy whose pretty face was bruised and battered when the carnage was over.

It got so bad for De La Hoya that in the seventh round, Pacquiao connected on 45 of his power shots, the most ever recorded by CompuBox in the 31 De La Hoya fights it has tracked.

"I hit him with a lot of punches in the last few rounds," said Pacquiao, 29. "I didn't think he could last long."

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer who had trained De La Hoya for his loss to Floyd Mayweather last year, taunted the Golden Boy during the buildup to the fight by saying he could no longer pull the trigger.

He was right.

After the fight, the trainer and his former pupil shared a moment in the ring. They embraced and De La Hoya said, "Freddie, you are right. I don't have it anymore."

De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs) was unable to throw his punches like he used to and the speed difference between the combatants was stark -- Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs) ripped off four- and five-punch combinations and De La Hoya was able to only muster a shot at a time.

"The dream came true tonight," an ecstatic Roach said. "This victory was no surprise. In Round 1, I knew we had him. He had no legs, he was hesitant, he was shot. My guy was just too fresh for him. Oscar is a great champion, he's had a great career. I hope there are no hard feelings."

De La Hoya's legacy was sealed long before this defeat, but it was sad to see him take such a beating. But he gave Pacquiao credit for his victory.

"Pacquiao is a great fighter and he was the better fighter," he said. "Pacquiao deserves all the credit. I just couldn't figure out his style."

The style was the same we've seen for years from Pacquiao -- a swarming, relentless wave of motion.

"I was able to defend against his jab and he wasn't able to connect and I was able to connect with everything," Pacquiao understated. "Speed was the answer to this fight. The only thing I was surprised by was that my trainer picked the round we would win in."

Pacquiao may go on to fight junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton, who was ringside, next spring.

Wouldn't you love to see that? What a fight. Pacquiao seemed to agree.

"I can fight him, no problem," Pacquiao said. "If it's a good deal we can fight him anywhere he wants."

After what Pacquiao has done this year, he can do just about anything he wants. He won his third fight of the year in his third weight division, winning two titles in the process. He edged rival Juan Manuel Marquez via split decision to win the recognized junior lightweight (130 pounds) world championship in March. In June, he moved up to lightweight (135) and crushed David Diaz to win an alphabet belt, setting the stage for the pinnacle of his career on Saturday.

The victory makes Pacquiao something of a modern-day Henry Armstrong, the pound-for-pound legend who over the course of 10 months from October 1937 to August 1938 claimed, in order, the world featherweight, welterweight and lightweight championships -- when there were only eight total divisions.

So while Pacquiao thinks about his next bout and more history, De La Hoya shouldn't be thinking about another fight.

He should think about his family, his business interests and his health.

"Obviously, we'll see what happens," he said, "but tonight wasn't a good night."

De La Hoya almost seemed to be in shock afterward.

"At this stage when you face someone like Pacquiao, it's going to be a hard fight," he said. "I worked hard and trained really hard to get ready for this fight, but it's a lot different story when you're training than when you are actually in the ring. I just felt flat, like I didn't have it.

"My heart still wants to fight, but when you physically don't respond, you have to be smart."

Hopefully, De La Hoya will be smart.

That means retirement.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.