This was the fight before the fight.
On July 26, 2003, Manny Pacquiao scored a chilling third-round stoppage of the unheralded Emmanuel Lucero at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles to retain his IBF junior featherweight title. The official time was 0:48.
In what turned out to be his final outing at 122 pounds, Pacquiao turned in a dazzling display.
Mexico’s Lucero spent much of the first round ducking – illegally –below waist level in order to avoid his opponent’s bombs. But by Round 2, Pacquiao was lifting the challenger’s head with uppercuts and hurting him to the body. Early in third, one perfectly delivered left hand shot knocked Lucero out on his feet. Fortunately the referee blocked Pacquiao from following up and waved the bout off immediately.
Even at this stage, Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, was targeting Mexican featherweight star Marco Antonio Barrera. Barrera, The Ring champion at 126 pounds, was viewed as one of the finest pound for pound fighters in the world and he’d already scored wins over future hall of famers Prince Naseem Hamed and Erik Morales.
Pacquiao was a hardcore fan favorite at this stage of his career. But by the time he was through with Barrera, in November 2003, the Filipino sensation was a boxing superstar.