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Friday, July 24, 2009

Cotto-Pacquiao: A good idea gone wrong

So I'm a contrarian. Sue me.

While nearly all my colleagues have celebrated this week's announcement that Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao will get together in a ring on Nov. 14 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, I'm just a little bit less than giddy about it all.

Don't get me wrong, the fact that Bob Arum has created a scenario in which the reigning WBO welterweight champion and IBO junior welterweight title-holder are "signed, sealed and soon to be delivered" will ensure boxing is a SportsCenter lead item come fight week.

The best at 147 pounds is fighting the best at 140.

And that, without question, is a good thing.

Arum said a publicity tour is set to begin "right after Labor Day" for the bout, which will be broadcast on pay-per-view by HBO and billed as "Fire Power."

Neither an agreed-to weight nor a championship belt on the line have been confirmed, though it's been widely assumed the two will be competing for Cotto's title at a contracted weight of 145 pounds.

And assuming those assumptions are correct and the fight indeed comes off with a championship on the line at something less than 147, my initial reaction of frustration will stand.

The fight's a good idea.

Just not as good as it should have been.

But wait, before the e-mails begin...I know Pacquiao is the biggest thing in the sport today.

And I know writers, promoters, analysts and fans have been climbing over each other to be first and most profound in describing him as a throwback and comparing his recent run of dominance to the one established by Henry Armstrong in the 30s and 40s.

Problem is, no matter how many times it's insisted by the reigning cognoscenti, it's still wrong.

Manny's certainly a great fighter. And his elite status at 130 pounds with a win -- albeit a close one -- over Juan Manuel Marquez is evidence enough of his pound-for-pound prowess.

But before too many more mentions are made of Armstrong, take a closer look.

Let's first remember that Pac's climb to the championship rung at 135 pounds was not made with incumbent three-belt champion Nate Campbell on the agenda, but instead with a lesser-regarded and more favorable stylistic match in David Diaz -- then the WBC claimant -- serving as punching bag of choice.

A brutal shellacking of Oscar De La Hoya six months later was surely impressive and rightfully earned Manny kudos.

But the Golden Boy's seemingly imprudent weight loss casts at least something of a shadow on the win, and the clear reality is that his seven-year absence from the welterweight division hardly makes a conqueror an automatic claimant to that weight class's throne.

Most recently, no plausible debate applies to Pacquiao's recent punch-out of Ricky Hatton at 140, where he clearly defeated the best a division had to offer and established himself as its new top man.

But a rise of just a few extra pounds to meet Cotto at an artificial stand-in point between two divisions opens a similar can of doubting worms as the match with a shrunken Oscar.

History shows "Homicide Hank" left no such lingering reservations.

Hey, if Manny wants to weigh just 143 pounds while attempting to defeat a naturally larger Puerto Rican-born foe, so be it. And if Cotto freely chooses to slim down to less than the welterweight max while combating an obviously talented and dynamic Filipino, that's fine, too.

But changing the rules to conveniently orchestrate a big event is simply wrong, and takes away any shreds of legitimacy existent when comparing Pacquiao's laudable achievements to Armstrong's legendary ones.

And while I understand his status as reigning big-fight cash cow gives Manny the leverage needed to set the business terms, it'd be nice to hear purists go the same lengths to raise red flags over cheap replicas of "welterweight title" bouts as they did while breathlessly likening him to multi-division trailblazers of decades past.

As for the fight itself, it's a bad mix for Cotto no matter where it occurs on the scale.

I'll take Pacquiao in 10.

* * * * * * * * * *

This week's title-fight schedule:


WBA light flyweight title - Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

Giovanni Segura (champion) vs. Juanito Rubillar (unranked)

Segura (20-1-1, 16 KO): First title defense; Awarded "regular" title on June 5 Rubillar (46-12-7, 22 KO): Replacement for Sonny Boy Jaro; Lost three career title fights

FitzHitz says: Segura by decision

WBA lightweight title - Windhoek, Namibia

Paulus Moses (champion) vs. Takehiro Shimada (No. 13 contender)

Moses (24-0, 17 KO): First title defense; Eighth fight at venue (7-0, 4 KO) Shimada (23-4-1, 16 KO): Lost 130-pound title fight in 2008; First fight outside Japan

FitzHitz says: Moses by decision

Last week's picks: 0-1 Overall picks record: 111-42 (72.5 percent)

Source: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/boxing/story/1155282.html

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