This weekend boxing will get its biggest fight in years when you combine the skills own by bothed pugilists involved. Manny Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KOs) and Miguel Cotto (34-1, 27 KOs) will square off Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, pitting two of the best fighters in the world against each other in a dream matchup.
Now I know boxing has disappointed us many times in the past with so-called “SuperFights” not living up to their enormous billing (see: Mayweather-Marquez), but I know this one will be everything the public wants when it thinks about big-time boxing.
Since I can tell some of you are still skeptical, I’ve decided to give you a bunch of reasons why you should care about this weekend’s mega-fight, and why it will certainly be worth shelling out the $54.99 to watch it.
Manny Pacquiao is the best fighter in the world
With apologies to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and his mouth, Manny Pacquiao is currently the best fighter on the planet. He has speed, power with both hands, throws every punch in the book and has continued to improve with every fight over the past five years. His defense, head movement and counter-punching have even become fantastic, which is impressive when you consider that he was pegged as a one-punch, all offense guy just a few years ago.
Pacquiao is also the most exciting fighter in the world, which is where he leaves Mayweather in the dust. Pacquiao doesn’t fight tentatively and he doesn’t carefully choose his opponents. Manny has the attitude that he’ll fight any one, any time, anywhere at any weight (within reason). On top of that, where Mayweather fights slow, calculated, defensive fights, Manny aims to end every match emphatically. Of his last 26 fights 20 have ended with a Pacquiao knockout.
Since March of 2005, Pacquiao is 10-0 with seven KOs. Included in those fights are knockouts of Erik Morales (twice), Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya, a unanimous decision over Marco Antonio Barerra and a split decision over Juan Manuel Marquez (in which Marquez was knocked down). In short, Pacquiao has fought the best fighters at each weight he’s been at and has come out on top.
Freddie Roach is the world’s best trainer
Currently there is no better trainer in the world than Manny Pacquiao’s corner man, Freddie Roach. He has diagrammed perfect game plans for Pacquiao to beat bigger fighters, stronger fighters, better boxers and tough brawlers. In a few short years he has turned Pacquiao from a guy who could only throw token jabs with his right hand to set up his powerful straight left, into a guy with knockout power in his right hand. Manny’s straight left is still his money punch, but his right can be used to jab effectively and he can also unleash a devastating right hook. In fact, when Pacquiao fought De La Hoya, the most damage he did was to Oscar’s left eye, all the result of quick, accurate left hooks. His first knockdown against Ricky Hatton also came via a perfectly placed right hook. Pacquiao’s defense, balance and head movement have all become incredibly effective thanks to Roach’s tutelage.
In this weekend’s fight, Miguel Cotto will be in his second fight with new trainer Joe Santiago. Santiago owes most of his knowledge to being the understudy of Evangelista Cotto, Miguel’s uncle and former trainer. Santiago relies less on actual ring experience and more on analysis and a background in sports nutrition that includes a Ph.D in sports science. Basically he’s trying to do for Cotto what “Moneyball” did for the Oakland A’s.
The matchup between Santiago and Roach’s clashing styles should be interesting.
Cotto is no slouch himself
While most of this preview has focused on Pacquiao, it’s important to recognize that Miguel Angel Cotto is one of the best fighters in the world. Cotto has a record of 34-1, with 27 KOs. That one loss came at the hands of Antonio Margarito in July of 2008. At the time it’s likely that Margarito was illegally using plaster in his hand wraps, in the same manner he did (and was caught doing) against Shane Mosley. So for all intents and purposes, Cotto should be undefeated right now. Before falling to Margarito, Cotto was widely considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
That crushing knockout loss to Margarito put Cotto’s career in a bit of a lull as he took time to regroup. He fired his uncle as his trainer and moved on with the aforementioned Santiago in the corner. Since his only loss, Cotto has registered a knockout win over Michael Jennings and won a split decision against Joshua Clottey in June of this year.
There will be blood
It has been said that Miguel Cotto often starts bleeding during the national anthem. Translation: The guy cuts easily. Cotto also uses an orthodox stance, while Pacquiao is a southpaw. That means we’ll certainly see a few accidental headbutts early in the fight as the two try to figure out each other’s movements. Cotto will almost certainly get cut at some point and Pacquiao has had issues with cuts a few times. Expect there to be lots of blood in the ring on Saturday.
These two styles will make a great fight
Styles make fights and on Saturday the two styles entering the ring should make for a fantastic combination. Pacquiao is a frenetic, high-energy fighter who is always looking to come forward and attack. He throws tons of punches from all different angles and constantly pressures his opponents. He often attacks to the head, neglecting a body assault that could sap the strength of the opposition. But that’s something he has improved in the past few years. Pound-for-pound his punching power may be the best in boxing history and, thus far, it hasn’t diminished as he has gone up in weight.
Cotto on the other hand is the classic bull of a fighter. He’ll throw fewer punches per round than Pacquiao, but they’ll be accurate, deliberate and meant to hurt. He hits hard and his most effective offense is led by his left hook to the body. Pacquiao has faced some of the best body punchers in the sport (Morales, Marquez, Barrera, De La Hoya, Hatton, etc.) and has never appeared hurt by them. Cotto is another of the best, can he be the one to get to Manny?
Cotto doesn’t back down from anyone, so we should see he and Pacquiao go toe-to-toe in some explosive exchanges. I also expect Cotto to use the same type of offensive strategy he used against Shane Mosley, when he became a jabber and worked as a boxer – not a brawler – for long stretches of the fight. But his size advantage and Pacquiao’s relentless offense will bring out the brawler in Cotto eventually and we should see some serious fireworks.
Pacquiao is making history
If Pacquiao wins and takes Cotto’s WBO Welterweight title on Saturday, he’ll have won titles in an unprecedented seven different weight classes. Just to add a little fuel to the fire of Manny’s legacy, venerable boxing writer Bert Sugar recently said that Pacquiao might be the best left-handed fighter of all-time.
But there have been so many distractions for Pacquiao this time, as he was forced to hold part of his training camp in the Philippines. The fact that he’s the most famous person in his home country makes training there incredibly difficult.
Cotto presents the biggest challenge yet for Pacquiao because the native Puerto Rican is a natural at 147-pounds. He’ll be solid, well-built and strong at the fight’s catch-weight of 145. Pacquiao will be coming up a long way once again. Though it hasn’t hurt him so far, packing on so much weight could eventually catch up to Manny. Cotto also needs a big win in a bad way after not dominating in his last three big fights. He beat Mosley by a close unanimous decision in a great fight, was KO’d by Margarito, and won a close split decision against Clottey. This win would put him back on top.
Catch Pacquiao while you can
Freddie Roach has pugilistic Parkinson’s syndrome and he doesn’t want to see anyone else afflicted with the same disease. Pacquiao looks at Roach like a father, and he won’t fight any longer than Roach thinks he should. Roach has claimed that he wants Pacquiao to fight two more fights (including Saturday night) and then be done. Pacquiao may actually follow that advice, fight two more times and then go run for, and get elected President of the Philippines. As the most popular man in his native country, it’s likely he’ll easily win election when he does decided to finally enter politics full-time.
No bad blood here
For one of the few times in boxing history, both fighters are actually good guys who seem to have immense respect for each other. There is none of that contrived, good guy vs. bad guy crap. These are two supremely talented individuals who want to beat the other guy for the sake of their own legacies and for the love of the sport. Not because there’s some fake vendetta between them created by the fight’s promoters.
The only time Cotto has been beaten up by anyone was against a guy who was all but assuredly cheating. That said, Pacquiao is so fast, so powerful and so good that I just don’t see him losing at this point in his career. I think this fight will be exciting, with plenty of fireworks but goes the distance with Pacquiao winning. Some of the early rounds should be difficult to score but I think the volume of punches Pacquiao throws will win out in the end.
Phillips’ Prediction: Pacquiao wins by unanimous decision