Dubai: An epic rivalry that stretched over seven years and four rematches ended on Saturday (Sunday in the UAE) when Juan Manuel Marquez knocked out Manny Pacquiao in the sixth round of their non-title welterweight bout.
The fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena was watched by thousands of fans, including failed presidential contender Mitt Romney and his wife. Thousands more fans watched live footage on pay-per-view around the world.
The early rounds looked like the fight could go either way for Pacquiao, seen by many as the greatest offensive fighter of his generation, or for Marquez, one of the best counter-punchers in recent memory.
Pacquiao went down in the third round, but knocked down Marquez in the fifth round. It was a hard punch to the chin that finally sent Pacquiao crashing face first to the canvas just before the bell; the first time in their four fights that Pacquiao was knocked out cold by Marquez.
"I threw a perfect punch," Marquez told reporters after the fight. "I knew Manny could knock me out at any time."
There was an outpouring of disbelief over Pacquiao's latest defeat, with fans in the UAE saying it could be the end of the Filipino southpaw's career in boxing. Six months ago, Pacquiao suffered a controversial split decision loss to Timothy Bradley, ending a winning streak of a record eight titles in eight weight divisions.
"Manny appeared well prepared for this match, but he just got hit with a lucky punch during what could have been the winning seconds. He got too aggressive, but his timing was off," Dubai resident Raul Gabat told Gulf News. "He should think about hanging his gloves."
Fan Mary Anne Relano said Manny appeared "complacent". "I half expected him to lose. They were both strong fighters, but clearly Marquez was the better one this time."
There is talk of a possible rematch, but Relano said she's not interested. "Pacquiao has lost the ferocity of his earlier years in boxing. This match answers all the doubts from their previous matches."
Pacquiao fan Elsie Dionisio said she felt "sad about the outcome of the game... but I believe no boxer can survive that solid right punch of Juan Manuel Marquez."
Ringside punching stats showed Pacquiao landing 94 of 256 punches to 52 of 246 for Marquez.
Marquez improved his record to 55-6-1, 40 KOs, while Pacquiao slid to 54-5-2, 38 KOs. Marquez had vowed to beat Pacquiao, believing he was "robbed" in the last three fights with Pacquiao because of judges' verdict.
"He's not an easy opponent," Pacquiao told reporters after the match. "I did my best. I know that I got him in the last couple of rounds but I started to be over-confident and I got hit by a solid punch. I did not expect that punch."
Pacquiao is expected to take home more than $20 million, while Marquez will earn as much as $6 million in the welterweight fight.
Asked if he would like to fight Marquez for a fifth time, Pacquiao replied: "Yes, why not? It's a good fight."
Blow by blow:
Round 6: Pacquiao falls. He is knocked out cold on the floor just before the bell.
Round 5: Pacquiao lands a punch that sends Marquez down. A visibly dazed Marquez gets a standing 8-count. Pacquiao wins the round.
Round 4: Marquez shows some counter punches. He continues a patient pace, then lands a straight right punch. The round goes to Marquez.
Round 3: Manny falls on the floor at 1:19 after a straight right punch from Marquez. The first time in their four matches. Marquez wins the round.
Round 2: Pacquiao lands a hard left to Marquez's forehead. No surprising moves so far. Pacquiao dominates the round. Pacquiao wins the round.
Round 1: Marquez is definitely getting the most cheers at the MGM Grand. Marquez, in black shorts and black gloves, concentrates on body punches. Pacquiao lands a straight left. Both guys missing most shots in this early round. Pacquiao wins the round.
9:29pm: Our photographer on the field tells us the Filipino restaurants in Dubai that are offering live screening of the match are packed with boxing fans, as usual. Check out the photo above.
9:24am: Pacquiao makes his way to the boxing ring. He is wearing gray shorts and red Cleto Reyes gloves. Boos in the arena as he enters the ring.
9:20am: Juan Manuel Marquez has stepped into the ring, where he will face Manny Pacquiao in their fourth match since 2004.
8:50am (UAE time): Defeated US presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife attend the Pacquiao-Marquez fight. Romney visits Pacquiao in his dressing room, wishing him well in the bout.
With input from agencies