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Monday, July 27, 2009

Cotto-Pacquiao already creating buzz

Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto will meet on Nov. 14 in Las Vegas, it was announced last week, a legitimate superfight that has divided opinion among boxing fans.

Yes, online polls are unscientific, but the degree to which Pacquiao seems to be a favourite is a bit of a surprise. Cotto's troubles in two of his last three fights have many believing that Pacquiao will be able to land without too much difficulty and, after some tough spots, eventually add a 38th KO win to his record.

But the fight will be contested at 145 pounds, and it's the first time Pacquiao will face a legitimately strong welterweight. The only time the Filipino has fought above 140, he faced an enervated Oscar De La Hoya.

Cotto never steamrolls his foes, but he can both box and slug and has beaten men a lot bigger than Pacquiao.

The fight also shows how one of the traditional criticisms that UFC supporters have directed at boxing — too many tuneups and not enough matchups of elite fighters — is largely a thing of the past in the sport (see also the 168-pound tournament, subject of last week's blog).

Check out Pacquiao's five most recent opponents:

* Cotto
* Ricky Hatton
* De La Hoya
* David Diaz
* Juan Manuel Marquez

Nary a tuneup to be found. Each of those fights involved a legitimate test, and arguably a bolder challenge than the previous bout. Sure, Diaz isn't in the same class as the other four, but that was Pacquiao's first fight at 135 pounds.

Hatton is no match for Marquez in talent, it's true, but that was a fight against a truly strong 140-pound junior welterweight. We all know how it ended, with Hatton's head still bouncing off the canvas in sports highlight reels.

Cotto's ledger in recent years is only slightly less impressive. The Puerto Rican took on easy touches Alfonso Gomez and Michael Jennings among his last six opponents, but the other four comprise some of the best the welterweight division has to offer: Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley and Zab Judah.

Cotto suffered a brutal stoppage loss to Margarito, but a taint has been cast on that result after the Mexican subsequently was found to possess illegal hand wraps prior to his loss to Mosley.

Cotto of course beat Mosley — now on the outside looking in on the superfight game — by close but uncontroversial decision.

Forrest the 3rd, but not the least

An unspeakably awful month for fighters outside of the ring continued on the weekend with the shooting death of Vernon Forrest, 38, in an apparent robbery.

Forrest follows Alexis Arguello and Arturo Gatti, champions who died violently this month (with the circumstances not yet clear with Arguello and Gatti).

In nearly 30 years of following boxing closely, I've never seen so many tragic incidents in such a short time span.

Beyond the cumulative effect, the death of Forrest might be the most depressing.

That seems strange to say given that Gatti was raised in Canada and Forrest wasn't the most exciting fighter (Gatti, on the other hand, engaged in about a dozen memorable slugfests).

But in an age when sports commentators deem an athlete a stand-up guy simply if he has no DUI or "make it rain" incidents to his name, Forrest was exemplary. He went to college, always had time for fans, and donated significant time and money to an Atlanta facility for the mentally disadvantaged.

Not all the circumstances are known, but it appears that Forrest may have been targeted by criminals because he was a black man driving a Jaguar late at night.

Forrest's death is sobering because it comes during a week when the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Gates brought up debate over whether wealthy persons of colour are perceived differently in society.

More than that, it's senseless. And I'm pretty tired of writing obits.

Source: http://www.cbc.ca/sports/blogs/2009/07/cottopacquiao_already_creating.html

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