IT'S A GOOD thing

Manny Pacquiao

was able to easily handle those additional pounds he put on for Saturday night's bravura performance against

Oscar De La Hoya

, because by winning so convincingly the Filipino superstar assumed the "Golden Boy's" burden of carrying boxing on his back.

Pacquiao, a 106-pound slip of a lad when he turned pro at 16 in 1995, has won world titles at 112, 122, 130 and 135 pounds, but he was jumping up two weight classes to take on De La Hoya, a six-division champion who moved down from junior middleweight and was fighting as a welterweight for the first time since 2001.

The prevailing wisdom was that the 35-year-old De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs), even if a bit past his prime, was too big and strong for Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KOs), who couldn't possibly be as fast and as sharp as he'd been when he was the world's most dominant super bantamweight and super featherweight.

But the little southpaw quickly showed he had no problem in his 147-pound debut, dominating

De La Hoya from the outset with lateral movement and crisp combinations that found the target with regularity. By the end of the eighth round, when De La Hoya's new trainer, Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain, signaled referee Tony Weeks that his man had had enough, Oscar's reddened face looked like an overripe tomato.

De La Hoya, boxing's most bankable attraction, almost certainly will take this buttwhipping as a signal that his best option is immediate retirement as an active fighter. If so, he heads toward the same exit that Floyd Mayweather Jr., Roy Jones Jr., Evander Holyfield and Joe Calzaghe have already taken or soon will.

Even Bernard Hopkins, 43, whose Oct. 10 rout of the previously undefeated Kelly Pavlik proved that he has more than a little fire in his furnace, might not have the luxury of choosing to continue his career. Jones' recent beatdown by Calzaghe probably eliminated him as a viable opponent for B-Hop, and Calzaghe is leaning toward hanging up the gloves himself.

With all the old standbys gone or nearly so, can a 29-year-old little guy from the Pacific Rim become The Man? Will Americans accept $50 pay-per-view hits to their cable bills for Pacquiao as regularly as they did for fights involving De La Hoya?

Something for Joey

About 50 people gathered at the triangle of East Passyunk Avenue, South 13th Street and Mifflin Street Sunday morning for a ceremony commemorating the 45th anniversary of Joey Giardello winning the world middleweight championship, and to officially announce that a statue of Giardello would be placed at the site, probably within the next 18 months.

Giardello, whose real name was Carmine Tilelli, wrested the middleweight title from Dick Tiger on a 15-round decision in Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall on Dec. 7, 1963. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native, who was 78 when he passed away on Sept. 4, fought out of South Philadelphia throughout his 19-year pro career, during which he posted a 101-25-7 record that included 33 victories inside the distance.

Renowned local sculptor Carl LeVotch has been commissioned to create the statue, which will be funded through the joint efforts of Ring One of the Veterans Boxers Association, and the Harrowgate Boxing Club. City Councilman Frank DiCicco, who is backing the project, cleared the way for Giardello's supporters to use the location.

Somewhat surprisingly, a statue of Giardello would be the first to honor the career of a real-life Philadelphia fighter. The statue of movie icon Rocky Balboa, which was produced for use in 1982's "Rocky III," now is permanently displayed at the Art Museum steps and is a popular photo-op with tourists.

I just have to believe there is a place somewhere in this town for a statue of former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier.

Short shots

* Steve "USS" Cunningham (21-1, 11 KOs), the IBF cruiserweight champion and Navy veteran from Southwest Philadelphia, puts his title on the line against Poland's Tomasz Adamek (35-1, 24 KOs) Thursday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The scheduled 12-rounder will be televised by Versus.

* North Philly's Demetrius Hopkins (28-1, 11 KOs), nephew of Bernard Hopkins, is the new opponent for WBO lightweight champion Kendall Holt (24-2, 13 KOs) in the Showtime-televised main event Saturday night in Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall. The younger Hopkins is a fill-in for Ricardo Torres (32-2, 28 KOs), who had split two previous bouts with Holt but was forced to drop out due to illness.

* Philly welterweight prospect Danny Garcia (10-0, 7 KOs) scored a unanimous, eight-round decision over Mexico's Alfredo Lugo (10-6-1, 5 KOs) on the undercard of De La Hoya-Pacquiao. *

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