COTTO VS PACQUIAO: “TRIAL BY FIRE”
MGM Grand Arena, Las Vegas, 14th of November, 2009.
With the end of 2009, closing in on us all, and thoughts of vacations, and time with our friends and families, its also been a time to reflect on the past year, and also, the year ahead. Not so, for Miguel Cotto, and Manny Pacquiao. These two ring warriors are in fierce battles with themselves, preparing to face each other on November 14th. There has been some tremendous match ups this year but this is going to be special. It’s one of those fights, that just thinking about it, gives you butterfly’s in your stomach, and it’s one of those fights that you know, will live up to its name. “Firepower”.
Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao are two very different fighters, with totally different styles of fighting, but both have one thing in common. Power.
With 89 fights between them, and 64 of their opponents being relieved of their senses, with most of their knockouts coming by an accumulation of punches thrown in combinations, could this fight be dubbed as anything else?
Miguel Cotto started his career after the 2000 Olympics, and quickly stormed up the light welterweight division, fighting a mixed bag of hopefuls, and former world champions along the way.
In 2004, he fought Kelson Pinto, for the vacant WBO World title, and battered the man who had beaten him in the amateurs, to win his first world championship belt.
From that time onwards, Cotto has never taken a backwards step, moving forward, stepping up to fight quality opponents, and giving us, the fans, some memorable nights, on his path to glory. One night in particular was when he fought Ricardo Torres, at the “Boardwalk” in Atlantic City. This town gave us some brutal encounters over the years, and Cotto v Torres was another night to remember.
Ricardo Torres had come into the fight as a late replacement, and was a virtual unknown to not just the boxing fans around the world, but to the boxing media. When he entered the ring, many thought this was going to be another lamb to the slaughter, at the hands, of the man from Caguas, Puerto Rico.
Cotto came out fast, sticking the jab, and following with some fast left hooks, all the while, stalking, and targeting Torres' body. All expectations of a good fight went out the window, when Torres went down in the first round, from a left hook from Cotto. Torres got up, with his eyes wide and clear.
In a brilliant, round two, which saw Torres eat more hooks, until, suddenly, catching Cotto on the hop, he landed a thunderbolt punch flush on the jaw of the Puerto Rican, which sent him into panic mode, but also ignited him to feel the need to trade bombs on the inside, which could have cost him the fight. Coming forward, body bent, and head bowed, all the while swinging away wildly, Cotto was nailed again by another left hook haymaker, but got up and went back to his corner, knowing he had taken Torres’s best. What a round.
As the rounds progressed, and with a growing confidence in his ability to visibly shake Cotto up, Torres foolishly left his body and head wide open, and Cotto continued to persevere and punish him, until, finally in the 7th, he let rip, a tremendous, clinical combination, that took all the fight out of Ricardo Torres, to knock him out to retain his world title.
It was now 2006, and Cotto had made his mark in the light welterweight division. After battling with his body, he decided to move up in weight, where huge money fights could be made. At his first fight at 147, it was announced Cotto would be fighting the tough southpaw, Carlos Quintana for the vacant WBA, welterweight world title, back in Atlantic City. Thousands travelled from New York to witness Cotto hammer Quintana’s body over 5 rounds, to take the title back to Puerto Rico. From there on, Cotto was on a destruction and destroy mission, beating Oktay Urkal, Zab Judah, Shane Mosley, and Alfonzo Gomez.
With great performances, better opposition, and clear cut wins, it looked like no one could beat him at the weight.
Antonio Margarito had been around a while, fighting anyone who wanted to fight. He didn’t care, he just wanted to make a better life for himself and his family. He wasn’t great to watch, didn’t speak any English, and just couldn’t get a break on the lucrative PPV primetime circuit, and while struggling through life, winning in the ring, but never taking home a decent paycheck, he was a dangerous, desperate man. Miguel Cotto could change all that for him in one night.
Cotto v Margarito was signed for July, 2008, and it was a tremendous struggle of a proud champion, taking everything from a challenger, willing to do anything to win. In the fight, Cotto, in my mind, was winning on points, until he made the fatal mistake of punching himself out, and allowing his opponent to drive unprotected shots into him, while on the ropes. It was unbelievable to watch. It was like Cotto had nothing left, while Margarito soared.
Cotto was beaten, and battered like never before.
Margarito went on to fight Shane Mosley and lose, not only his title but also his reputation. It was announced later that Margarito and his team would be under scrutiny for using illegal substances, while wrapping the man from Tijuana’s hands. All kinds of questions where asked regarding the Cotto win, and when I asked Cotto what he thought of the latest controversy, he answered, “he had a great night with me, every fighter knows what's happening when the hands are being wrapped, that’s it.”
No doubt, it was an epic fight.
With 2008 behind him, Cotto came back to fight for the vacant WBO title against the likeable Englishman, Micheal Jennings.
Jennings was a tough, hard working boxer who had battled through life overcoming personal tragedies, and had fought in tremendous domestic battles to win the British welterweight title, and then win the WBU crown, to justify fighting for the WBO world title.
He was a fighter and if you get a call to fight for the highest honour, what do you do? You take it, and that’s what he did. In the fight, Cotto was relentless and was too much for Jennings, taking him out in the 5th round.
Less than 4 months later, he was matched to face the “Grand master” from Accra, Ghana, Joshua Cottey. Clottey was a good fighter who, like Margarito, no one wanted to fight him. He had gone the distance with Margarito at the end of 2006, and gave Zab Judah hell, in his last outing in Vegas.
In the fight, Cotto decked Clottey in the first round with a jab, and in the 5th round, he used Clottey as a heavy bag, punching out, well worked combinations, for just over a minute. Clottey to his credit, came back in periods of the fight, finding success with fast combinations, particularly right hands, due to Cotto not being able to see, as his eye was a bloodied mess from a headbutt early on in the fight, but overall, Cotto, was too precise and controlled to win by a split decision at Madison Square Garden.
Manny Pacquiao has been fighting since 1995, and in that time, he has fought his way up the rankings, boxing his first 23 fights in the Philippines, then winning world titles at flyweight, super bantamweight, featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight, super lightweight, and when he fights Miguel Cotto, for his title, he will be fighting for the chance to become the first person to win world titles in 7 weight divisions.
Who would have thought it possible? Manny Pacquiao did.
With huge wins and epic battles over the divisions elite fighters, men like Eric Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya, and Ricky Hatton, Pacquiao has made hundreds of millions of dollars, but still isn’t satisfied. When I spoke to him, he told me he wants everything!! If you read into that, it means he wants his legacy intact, a fistful of dollars more, and Miguel Cotto. I would say, at this point in his life, he will fight Cotto, then win or lose, he will retire. I interviewed him before the Ricky Hatton fight and he told me he wanted one more and he was out.
For me, this is a tremendous match up for the fans, and I believe it will be a very tough fight for both fighters. You have the bigger man in Cotto, and his power, against the smaller, faster Pacquiao. Both have tasted defeat, and both have been down in their fights. Cotto is relentless with controlled pressure, while Pacquiao is relentless. Cotto has had no problems with southpaws, (Corley, TKO 5th, Quintana, 5th, and Judah, TKO 11th round) and Pacquiao hasn’t had many problems.
Pacquiao has been knocked out early on in his career (once to the body, and once to the head). Cotto has been knocked down a couple of times but always got up. [Other than the Margarito fight.]
For Pacquiao to win this fight, he has to stay in the middle of the ring, and double up on his southpaw jab, followed by left hooks, and right hand counters. As the fight goes on, Miguel will gradually try to make himself smaller stooping in, with his back bent over, and his head hanging in. This will allow Manny to catch him with left hooks, and uppercuts at will. Cotto will use his tremendous jab, and throw his usual jab, wide left hook, followed by his signature left hook to the body, and try to take him out early. If that doesn't hit the mark, then watch for the left jab, straight right, wide left hook to the body. Meanwhile, Pacquiao isn’t going to wait around for Cotto to do his best work, so Pacquiao will throw punches from all angles, hard and fast, particularly, right hands. If you watch Cotto, when he gets stunned or hurt, he does not know how to hang on or tie up his opponents arms. He never has. Freddie Roach will have noticed this and that’s what they will be working on in the gym. I feel Cotto knows this is his hardest fight, and he will be his usual “quiet assassin” and train accordingly. Pacquiao will be in the best shape possible as he knows this is for his legacy. A few questions will be asked, and answered, but my only question is ”how much does Cotto have left inside him after the Margarito fight?”
This will be a “Trial by fire” for him. Pacquiao is peaking right now as a fighter and I'm convinced Cotto has already peaked, mid to late 2007. [He was devastating in his fights with Mosley, Judah, and Gomez.]
This fight is a mega fight, with one man achieving a greatness that will never be equaled and another man fighting his demons of the past, and also a chance to fight for his own greatness, next year, fighting the best fighter on the planet, Floyd Mayweather Jnr.
PACQUIAO ON POINTS.