Can Miguel Cotto Weather "Hurricane Pacquiao"?

Tim HarrisonContributor IOctober 6, 2009

Miguel Cotto is a beast, plain and simple. Joshua Clottey, Shane Mosely, Zab Judah, Carlos Quintana, and Ricardo Torres are a few of the big names Cotto has on his resumé. The lone blemish on his record came at the (possibly loaded) fists of Antonio Margarito. Depending on whether or not you believe in "innocent until proven guilty", you may choose to put an asterisk next to Cotto's TKO loss to Margarito.

As we count down the days until Cotto steps into the ring with Manny Pacquiao, we can distract ourselves with the Super Middleweight World Tournament, the Chad Dawson - Glenn Johnson fight, the Kelly Pavlik - Paul Williams fight, or Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa co-headlining next week to set up a possible showdown. On the other hand, we can occupy our time breaking down each man's strengths and weaknesses and try our best to predict the outcome.  Today I'll be breaking down Miguel Cotto - how he wins, what makes him beatable, and what he has to do to win.

What makes Cotto so good is his ability to put his punches together in bunches. Cotto throws vicious combinations that range from the head to the body. His body attack is what wears his opponents down and drops their hands down, allowing him to focus on his opponent's head. Cotto has an above-average jab, when he puts it to work. His stronger hand is his left, as he is a natural left-handed fighter converted to a conventional stance. His jab is most often used as a range-finder and to keep faster fighter off their rhythm. Once he has his opponent off his rhythm he let's his hands go.

Cotto's weaknesses have gradually been exposed throughout his career. The main hole I see in his game is his inability to box while moving backwards. Early on we saw this in his Junior Welterweight fight with DeMarcus Corley. Cotto was hurt several times in the fight. When he backpedaled to get away from Corley his punches were inaccurate and weak and he absorbed more punishment than necessary. Shane Mosely and Antonio Margarito showed us this weakness as well.

One potentially fatal flaw in Cotto's game that is harder to notice is his stance. Cotto holds his hands high next to his ears, making a perfect runway for Pacquiao to launch his straight left hand. His body lean and shoulder angles are all wrong as well. He offers too much of his chest, not enough front shoulder. Too often he leans in and let's his head get in front of his front foot. Zab Judah caught Cotto leaning in a few times and wobbled him with left uppercuts in the mouth, making him stable forward. Pacquiao has never shown much of an uppercut, but I would bet my bottom dollar that Freddie Roach is currently making that punch a staple of his attack.

If Cotto wants to silence the critics that say he is a ruined fighter he needs to outsmart Pacquiao. Pacquiao bounces side to side and back and forth and throws his punches when he hits his front foot. Pacquiao's rhythm of movement and punching is his substitute for legitimate head movement.

As I said before, Cotto has shown quite the knack for throwing off the timing of faster fighters. The main problem I see here is the absence of a trainer in Cotto's camp. Pacquiao has arguably the best in his corner, in Freddie Roach. Cotto recently split with his uncle Evangelista and I haven't yet heard of a new hire. I don't think I'm alone in thinking Cotto's jab could nullify Pacquiao's movement, so I may not be alone in thinking Cotto should hire Emmanuel Steward as his trainer for this fight. Steward trained Lennox Lewis and helped him develop one of the best jabs in the Heavyweight division, is it crazy to think he would be able to make Cotto's jab the "Pacquiao Stopper"?

For Cotto to make this fight more competitive, or give himself a chance to win, he needs to correct the quirks in his stance and use his exceptional skill of timing to catch Pacquiao diving in. Will he be able to avoid what some are calling the inevitable? Will he be able to weather "Hurricane Pacquiao"? We have to watch on November 14 to find out.