Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao may be a platinum-selling singer and a Philippine politician, but Saturday night he was too much of a boxer for Mexico's Antonio "Tornado" Margarito.
Pacquiao pounded Margarito for 12 rounds, answering every challenge and seeming to gain strength in the late rounds to win his eighth title, the World Boxing Council Super Welterweight belt.
The judges had it 120-108, 118-110 and 119-109.
Pacquiao was dominant early, but got in trouble in the middle rounds, when Margarito was able to drive him against the ropes.
"I never expected him to be that strong," Pacquiao said. "I got hurt to the body and the face when he had me against the ropes."
But "Pacman" was able to fight back, and in the 10th round he stunned Margarito with a combination, and appeared ready to finish him off in the 11th.
By the 12th round, he said, he knew he had it won.
"In the 12th round, I was not looking for the knockout," he said. "I take it easy."
Pacquiao, 31, is a bona fide megastar in the Philippines: In May he was elected to the country's House of Representatives, he has two platinum albums under his belt and has acted in eight feature films.
He proved Saturday night to any of his boxing fans that he hasn't spread himself to thin, and he still has the fire in the ring.
Abandoned by this father, Pacquiao left home as a teenager because his mother didn't have enough money to feed him. At first boxing was just a way to eat. Now he is the biggest star in a sport badly in need of new big stars.
By 2008, Pacquiao had already raked in $40 million and added $35 million the following year. In 2009, Forbes magazine ranked Pacquiao as the sixth-highest-paid athlete in the world.
For Saturday night's fight he was guaranteed $15 million, his biggest payday ever, and could make up to $25 million depending on how well the fight sold on pay-per-view.
As his fame grew, so did his ambitions. In 2007, Pacquiao announced his bid for a congressional seat in the District of South Cotabato, where he lost to a well-established incumbent.
He ran again in 2010, this time in the Sarangani province, the hometown of his wife, Jinkee, with the Nacionalista Party. He won in a landslide victory, ousting the wealthy Chiongbian clan, who had been in power for more than 30 years.
"In the Philippines, we need a leader that really wants to help the poor people," Pacquiao said before his election. "I have experience being nothing, and I know how they feel."
"Manny is a multi-tasker. He loves to stay busy," said Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach.
In the Philippines, Pacquiao's popularity is god-like. They say the crime rate drops when he fights because everyone is watching him on TV.
The 5-foot-7, 150-pound southpaw, trains nearly every day at the Wildcard Boxing Gym in Los Angeles, where fans wait outside the gym just for a glimpse of the champ and perhaps an autograph or picture.
Inside the gym, Pacquiao's entourage and a crowd of onlookers, often including a few celebrities, watch the "Pacman" power through his grueling training sessions. Recent drop-ins include actors Jeremy Piven, Mark Wahlberg, Robert Duvall and Mickey Rourke, a former professional boxer himself.
Roach, 50, also a former professional fighter, has trained 26 world champions, including the likes of Mike Tyson and Oscar de la Hoya. He said Pacquiao is his best.
"His work ethic is way above anybody else. He's like a machine," Roach said. "It took us, like, eight to nine years to get to this point. The thing is, he knows the game now. He knows how to study opponents. He's well-rounded, not just a one-punch knockout artist like he was at the beginning."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.