If this question was brought up when the fight was first announced, I may have said, "of course", depending on what day of the week it was. I listened to most boxing experts that were still high off of Pacquiao's destructions of Ricky Hatton on Oscar DeLa Hoya. Most said Cotto would not last 6 rounds with Pacquiao and his unique blend of speed and strength.
We are now merely a month away from the biggest fight of the year (with all due respect to Floyd Mayweather), and my outlook on the fight has changed slightly. Cotto may be nearing the end of his days as a top-five pound-for-pound contender. I highlighted some of the big names on his resume last week. What I didn't mention, was the wars he has been involved in as he's taken down those names. Despite the fact that he has had so much taken out of him in the last few years, I think he has a puncher's chance in the fight. Despite what I think of Cotto, I still think Manny will dominate the fight, but I would be less than shocked if Miguel Cotto won a close decision, or even knocked out the "Pacman". Can you tell I'm undecided on this fight?
Manny Pacquiao still holds the mythical "Pound-For-Pound King" championship, despite the successful return of Floyd Mayweather Jr. I won't argue against him here - I'll save that for another article. I would like to point out what makes Manny Pacquiao head-and-shoulders above (almost) everyone he fights, and what he needs to correct if he doesn't want to end up on the wrong end of a left-hand exchange.
Manny Pacquiao was already a puzzle for anyone in the opposing corner before trainer Freddie Roach taught him to throw a right hook. His foot speed, one-two punching, and relentless will proved too much for many great fighters to handle. He beat Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez with two punches. He won the WBC Flyweight and IBF Super Bantamweight (Jr. Featherweight) titles before he knew how to throw a serious right-handed power punch. Then he came across Erik Morales - the one man he couldn't beat with only two punches.
Since that fight Pacquiao has steadily improved his right hook with every fight. Now it would appear that Pacquiao can beat almost anyone - including the naturally bigger, stronger Miguel Cotto. So despite Cotto's past success and proven track record, why is everybody picking Pacquiao to end his night early? Pacquiao has tremendous stamina and speed, both in his feet and his hands. Pacquiao keeps his opponents off their rhythm with his body movement. He bounces side-to-side, and in-and-out at different angles. His punches come from odd angles as well. The left hook that put Ricky Hatton flat on his back was a surprise to Hatton.
In addition Pacquiao has been using has jab to inflict damage. Early in his career it was more of a distance finder, as he loaded up his straight left hand. The problem with his one-two combo (for his opponents) is that both punches arrive only a split second apart. He's that fast. As I said in my write up on Miguel Cotto, Pacquiao should have little-to-no trouble finding a home for his straight left. Cotto holds his hands high next to his ears. Manny should be able to bring Cotto's hands down with jabs and straight lefts to his body in the opening rounds. When Cotto's hands start to come down, Manny should jab downstairs and shoot the straight left into Cotto's mouth. Have I forgotten anything? Oh yes, the vaunted right hook. Manny doesn't throw short, tight punches. He tends to loop his hooks, which could help him get them around Cotto's guard, if and when Cotto adjusts his defensive weak spot.
The punch that could prove to be a wild card for Pacquiao is a punch he hasn't thrown much in his career - the counter left uppercut. As I stated in my write up on Cotto, he is wide open for that punch. If Pacquiao finds himself in the counter-punching role, the left uppercut could end Cotto's night. Just ask Zab Judah how effective that punch could have been had he not been hit in the groin after he wobbled Cotto with it. I'm certain Freddie Roach's boxing IQ is three times mine, so it's a safe bet he's teaching this punch to Manny as we speak.
Despite everything that Pacquiao does right, he still does a few things wrong. He tends to fall in love with simple back-and-forth bouncing and getting into a predictable rhythm. Miguel Cotto has shown a knack for timing his quicker opponents coming in and getting his punches to his target before theirs reach him. To make matters worse, Manny doesn't move his head enough when it counts. Most of his head movement is on the outside before he engages. With Cotto throwing hands at you, you need constant head movement to stay out of trouble.
One last major flaw in Manny's game is his tendency to fall off balance when he throws his straight left. If Cotto is able to slip the left hand, Manny will be wide open to punishment. Manny needs to use that left hand often, but keep it under control. That may be like asking a rock to produce water, but it should be pointed out.
If Pacquiao is able to overcome Cotto's size and (assumed) strength advantage, I see him pulling out a late-round stoppage victory. I'm from the school of thought that thinks Cotto has what it takes to make this a tough fight, and even claim victory should Manny get careless. Regardless of what I, or anyone think, the fighters fight the fights for a reason - we can't predict the outcome on paper. Tune in to "Firepower" on November 14 to see how things actually play out.
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