KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Buboy Fernandez crashed onto the middle rope in tears after Manny Pacquiao ended his knockout drought with a seventh round stoppage victory against Lucas Matthysse to claim the WBA welterweight title.
Never the type who'd shy away from expressing his emotions, Fernandez openly wept as the ring filled with more and more people, including Haplas Fernandez who went in to place an ice-pack on his brother's nape.
At any point of the preparation for the fight, Fernandez could have collapsed like this. He could have given up. He could have crumpled. He could have broken down amidst the heavy weight on his shoulders after he was tasked to replace Freddie Roach as the main man in Pacquiao's camp.
For the longest time, Roach was a constant in Pacquiao's corner. He was largely credited for transforming a scrawny puncher from the Philippines to one of the best to ever step into the ring. Now he was gone and it was up to Fernandez to keep Pacquiao's career going.
Fernandez worked tirelessly to break down Matthysse's tendencies and devised a way to capitalize on these. He knew that the defending champion liked moving straight back when attacked. He also knew Matthysse kept his guard high. This finally paid off in the third round when Pacquiao landed a concussive left uppercut that send Matthysse down for the first time in the fight.
The same punched finished off Matthysse as he was down again in the seventh round, this time referee Kenny Bayless stopped the fight to protect the champion for more beating.
During the post-fight press conference, Pacquiao raved about this friend.
"Buboy just told me to look for openings. I followed his instruction and it resulted to a knockout win," the new WBA champion said. "I'm not saying that Freddie Roach is not a good trainer. He's a legend. I'm thinking about getting him to train me again but Buboy handled our training camp and the fight really well and I appreciate it."
Pacquiao knew he had it from the opening round. He could have gone in for the kill early to finally end his knockout drought but he listened to his friend instead of his own killer instinct.
"From the beginning, I hurt him with my punches. He's was scared of my power and that's what changed his style. From the beginning of the first round, I already thought I could control the fight," said Pacquiao.
The Filipino fighter even psyched Matthysse out by staying in front of him and absorbing some of the Argentinean's power punches like what he did in the match against Miguel Cotto, the last fighter Pacquiao stopped.
"In boxing it's not just physical, it's also mental. I wanted to break him mentally. I wanted him to hit me and I wanted to show him I felt nothing," Pacquiao added. "But our strategy was to be patient, take time, and not rush. We didn't want to be careless like what we did before. Matthysse has power also, he's an opponent that you cannot underestimate. He throws a wild right hand and a strong uppercut. What we did was take our time. Even if we knocked him down a couple of times, we did not hurry."
A calmer Fernadez sat beside Pacquiao during the press conference. People from the crowd cheered every time the fighter mentioned his trainer's name, in appreciation of his work.
"I told Manny thanks for the trust that he gave me," Fernandez said. "And before the fight, I reminded him that only we two could really understand each other inside the ring. In the third round, I asked Manny to still be careful because it could just be Matthysse's strategy to get hit and wait for the right time to throw a strong counterpunch. We didn't want to fall for a trap. Everything I said, he followed and I think him for the opportunity."
After those few words, he was done. Fernandez heaved a sigh with the job already completed, the pressure is gone, at least for now.
In hindsight it was so easy to understand why Fernandez cried atop the ring. If Pacquiao lost, then the popular reason would most likely be the absence of Roach and therefore the inability of Fernandez to handle Pacquiao's training camp and fight. He was carrying that weight on his shoulders for the past few months and it must have felt good to prove himself right.
The win against Matthysse was big not just for Pacquiao. It's also huge for MP Promotions as they were able to stage a world-class event. It's big for Fenandez as well as it served as validation. He was a huge part of what made Pacquiao successful all those years and it may be up to him to make sure that the legend keeps growing.