16/11/2009 12:00

That Manny Pacquiao is, beyond any doubt, the greatest boxer in this era, the Filipino ring hero proved yesterday by wresting the World Boxing Organization welterweight championship from Puerto Rican titleholder Miguel Cotto.

It needed Pacquiao, the International Boxing Organization junior-welterweight belt-owner, 11 rounds and five seconds to dispose off the game but outclassed Cotto, but it was enough for him to earn his seventh world title in seven weight divisions, a feat no other fighter before him had accomplished.

It was a night when sports and entertainment superstars showed up to witness the smaller but wilier Paquiao sending Cotto twice to the canvas as he punished the bigger, heavier opponent in all but one round to the delight of the predominantly pro-Filipino sellout crowd of 16,000 that filled the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.

To prove his points, Pacquiao, wowed everybody in the arena with In a brilliant display of speed, precision punching, slick movement and grim determination in controlling the tempo from the second round on, never giving Cotto room to rob him of his stature earned from the time he beat many greatest fighters, including Marco Antonio Barrera and Oscar De La Hoya but doubted by non-believers.

The end came going into the final 55 seconds of the 12th round when referee Kenny Bayless stopped the carnage to prevent any further injury on the Boricua fighter, whose only round won was the first when Pacquiao was still unsetttled.

At that time, Pacquiao was ahead on all the three officials’ scorecards - 109-99, 108-99 and 108-100 – testament to his leading in punches thrown, 780 to Cotto’s 597. The Filipino southpaw landed 335 of those with his rival finding target only 172 times.

The bout ended with Cotto’s face in a mess, seeing his old cut in his left eye suffered in previous bouts opened and both his cheeks planted with mouse as a result of Pacquiao’s 49 percent power punches to his merely 31 percent. He came down the ring spitting blood.

Cotto was in the fight only at the sound of the three-minute opening bell, but after that it was all Pacquiao’s show.

The Filipino spitfire dominated from the second round on and although he was hit with some solid punches by Cotto, there was never a point in the fight that Pacquiao appeared to be in any sort of danger.

Cotto fell in the third and fourth rounds of the fight and as the bout progressed he was gradually broken down as he appeared merely attempting to end the encounter standing as he backed and moved away from the attacking Filipino from the seventh round on.

As the fight wore on, he often refused to engage Pacquiao in meaningful exchanges even to the prodding of the new champ for him to come and fight.

All throughout the fight, Pacquiao was more consistent, busier and who came beating Cotto to the punch in the rare times Puerto Rican decided to mix it up. Pacquiao fired right jabs from his southpaw stance and kept the deposed titlist in the defensive with combination of uppercuts and hooks.

While Pacquiao was marked slightly after the fight, Cotto was taken to University Medical Center for a complete body scan. The Nevada State Athletic Commission erred on the side of caution in demanding that he be fully checked out before being given the all clear.

Pacquiao, who improves to 50-3-2, 38 KOs and adds the WBO welterweight title to his list of championships said, “I was looking for a knockout shot.”

“I'm cut, I'm swollen, but that's what I'm supposed to do. I did my best. I fought the best fighter I have ever fought. I hope the fans enjoyed a great fight, Cotto, who dropped to (34-2-27 KOs, fr his part, was quoted as saying.

Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach, who was outspoken for his man in the weeks and months leading up to the fight said, “I thought we had to break him down, which we did. I was worried. He fought a great fight. But Manny was fighting very smart and once he started getting into his rhythm it was no problem.”

Bob Arum indicated that negotiations will begin immediately for a 2010 bout between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.

What is clear is that after this win, Pacquiao should be cemented as the pound-for-pound best fighter in the sport. Without question - in any potential negotiations in a fight with Mayweather – it is Pacquiao that will have the upper hand in the talks.

Pacquiao was delayed in making it to the post-fight press conference because he had to have his right ear drained of blood. He had a large bandage wrapped around his ear..

“Another great night,” said Roach. “After the first couple of rounds he had me worried because he wasn't sticking to the game plan. But after that he settled down and you all saw what happened.”