Here's something to think about until Saturday night.
In the Spring of 2008, several major moves were being made by some of the industry's biggest fighters. Famed boxer Oscar De La Hoya announced that he was looking for one or maybe two final big paydays. The Golden Boy was looking at a possible rematch with Floyd Mayweather for the Summer followed by his last big fight at the end of the year (around December) to finish his career.
There was one person who everyone had in mind for that fight. Writers, bloggers, enthusiasts, and fans alike were filling up their webpages, blogs, and comment sections with chatter of one fighter in particular to fill the ring in De La Hoya's finale. That Spring, it was not Pacquiao who everyone, including Oscar, had in mind.
It was Miguel Cotto.
"You can never, you know, scratch anybody off the list," De La Hoya said. "I mean, if you beat the best in the world against Floyd Jr., you have to continue that streak, and obviously there's Miguel Cotto."
But first, Cotto had to take care of a little business. And why wouldn't he? After completing four title defenses at 147 lbs., Cotto and his enormous fan base had momentum that all fighters only hope they sniff. So, he had a scheduled fifth title defense coming up in a few months (July of 2008) against a determined Antonio Margarito.
Cotto was a rising star. Many people believed that Cotto would defend his title and carry his momentum to Oscar that December—ultimately catapulting him into superstardom and pound-for-pound arguments. De La Hoya versus Cotto would be the next big superfight...if Cotto won.
But...it never happened.
As we all know, July of 2008 saw a bloodied Cotto take several knees before Margarito would be crowned the weight class new king. Cotto's career was halted.
Cotto lost his perfect record. Cotto lost his belt. Cotto lost some credibility. Cotto lost his megafight with Oscar.
Regardless of whether De La Hoya was to get that rematch with Floyd (which Floyd cancelled when he announced his retirement that June), Cotto's loss opened the door for Golden Boy Promotions to look at other viable options. They needed another rising star—someone who could give the fight credibility while still gaining the viewership a fight with Cotto would have brought.
Pacquiao was a decorated option for De La Hoya as a five-time world champion in four different weight classes. Still, many thought that the fight was too much of a stretch considering the weights were so far off. Yet talks began and after weight and monetary negotiations were finalized between the two fighters, the "Dream Match" was set. Pacquiao would get the shot that Cotto would not.
On Dec. 6, 2008, Pacquiao ended the Golden Boy's career with a TKO.
Although Pacman was already a credible big name from his battles with Juan Manuel Marquez, the win over De La Hoya threw Manny into the international limelight and legitimized his pound-for-pound supremacy.
The win over De La Hoya also allowed Pacquiao to move on to a big fight against Ricky Hatton. He won that one too. Relatively easily. And despite Mayweather's return, Pacquiao's pound-for-pound crown still holds firm.
These past events make this next fight between Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto so interesting. Questions loom: Would Pacquiao still have had the success he garnered after Cotto's loss...if Cotto had beaten Margarito?
I believe so. Pacquiao would still be around the top of the hill with millions of fans at his back and a ton of belts on his waist. No doubt. But to deny that his route to where he is today would not have been so glamorous had Cotto beaten Margarito is too absurd.
He would be around the top, but I am not so sure he would at the top. In reality, would he be so iconic and rich as he is today?
Pacquiao deserves all of his success. His hard work and skill come through brightly in the ring. But facts are facts: had Cotto won that fateful summer evening, it would undoubtedly been him who would have moved on to face De La Hoya at the end of the year. It also would have been Cotto crowned the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world following Floyd Mayweather's departure.
But again, that never happened. Would'a, could'a, should'a.
Still, Pacman owes his final months of 2008 and whole 2009 to Cotto's 2008 summer. That's just real.
Who knows if Margarito cheated? Who knows if Cotto would have beaten De La Hoya anyway? Who knows who Pacman would have fought next and subsequently where he'd be today?
We'll never know.
But come this weekend, Cotto will have the opportunity to show the world that perhaps it should have been him, his name, and his fans standing at the top of the boxing world. Regardless, Cotto has stated that he isn't interested in gaining the pound-for-pound title.
"I understand that many people believe that the title of the best fighter in the world, pound-for-pound, is on the line in this fight. But I am not interested in the pound-for-pound title at all. Just knowing that I will be involved in a fight that will be remembered for such a long time, for many years to come, is already satisfying enough, and that's what matters most for me—more than any other title," Cotto said in his training diary for ESPN.com.
On the other end, Pacman can show that all those past events don't matter. The current pound-for-pound champion can legitimize his crown—and route to that crown—once again.
It's going to be a heck of a fight, with this added background to give you something to think about. It's funny how things work out. Thankfully for us, many debates can end with just one swing.
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