As the boxing community waits in anxious anticipation of a Mayweather – Pacquiao superfight come early 2010, it is worth noting that those who count their chickens prematurely must often settle for scrambled eggs. Gamblers’ glib dismissal of Miguel Cotto’s chances against the Filipino legend notwithstanding, notions of the bout as a mere formality or pit stop along the Pacman’s inevitable road to welterweight supremacy could stand some serious reevaluation. Because for all his valor and speed and celebrity, come November 14th, Manny Pacquiao is in for the fight of his life.
In Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, he faces the biggest, strongest, most durable man he has ever competed against; a mega bodypuncher with an almost mechanical resolve. Unlike his welterweight debut versus Oscar de la Hoya, Pacquiao will find no rust or hesitance or readily exploitable weakness, despite recent suggestions of Cotto’s deterioration since his defeat at the hands of the disgraced Antonio Margarito.
Experts contend that Cotto has slipped, citing his difficulty with the formidable Joshua Clottey as evidence, but might be hard pressed to provide example of an opponent who has not struggled against the powerful Ghanaian. This is likely more a testament to Clottey’s prowess as a top contender than any inadequacy in Cotto since for all the post-fight criticism, a one-eyed Cotto still outworked and outpointed one of the best welterweights in the world.
Academically, this fight appears the classic contest between speed and power; mobility versus durability. Pacquiao must rely on the speed and combination punching which have characterized his conquests in the lower divisions. He must punch in bunches, move his head, and refuse to be trapped along the ropes. As Cotto aims to impose his size and strength on the smaller man, Pacquiao will find opportunities to demonstrate, definitively, that as he traverses that hazy terrain between the welter and junior welterweight divisions, he has packed his power with him.
Size will be a factor because it will behoove Cotto to make it one. And while traditional wisdom says that speed kills the beast, Cotto has, on several occasions, demonstrated the ability to neutralize faster fighters with a sledgehammer jab, higher output, and generally underrated versatility. Against such top competition as Demarcus Corley, Zab Judah and Shane Mosley, Cotto overcame an early speed deficit to turn the tide with effective aggression. Whether or not Pacquiao can withstand such aggression could prove to be a 25 or 30 million dollar question come next spring.
If there is a discernable chink in his armor on which Freddie Roach will aim to capitalize, it is Cotto’s tendency to allow his pressure to be exploited by punches up the middle between a peekaboo stance. Just as Judah and Margarito were able to disrupt Cotto, thusly, with several well-placed uppercuts between the gloves, Pacman should direct his fast hands accordingly. If so, he affords himself a puncher’s chance to check a sometimes apocryphal chin. Still, he must be wary not to linger within Cotto's range lest he finally taste the wrath of a true welterweight. The gamble might be more than he bargained for.
Round one begins with Pacquiao on the aggressive. Cotto is cautious early, eager not end up on a Pacquiao highlight reel. He appears flustered by his opponent’s quickness as the famed Pacquiao handspeed is on display much to the delight of a packed house. A few punches land clean, but most are picked off by Cotto’s high guard. Well placed Cotto body shots punctuate the round at the bell.
Cotto begins the second or third determined to force a brawl. He lunges at Pacquiao with left hooks to the body. The punches find their mark and it isn’t long before Pacquiao begins to sit down on his shots. Almost imperceptibly, Cotto has closed the distance, finally trapping Pacquiao against the ropes. No stranger to contact, Pacquiao obliges much to Freddie Roaches chagrin.
Against Roaches advisement, Pacquiao resumes the fifth in warrior mode. He finds success with several hard uppercuts that put Cotto on his pants. But the knockdown only serves to awaken the Boricua beast and it’s suddenly an all out war. They trade for a round or two, until Pacquiao begins to get the worst of it. Valiant until the end, his body begins to succumb.
A left hook to the body sends him down in the eighth. He gets up at eight but is clearly the worse for wear. A ringing bell sounds to pardon the Philippines, for now.
In the ninth, Cotto goes in for the kill ripping Pacquiao from pillar to post until Freddie Roach is left no choice but to concede that he has finally asked too much of his prized pupil.
Cotto by TKO in 9.