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Friday, October 23, 2009

If Cotto beat adversity, he can upset Pacquiao

Adversity’s face, bloodied and often beaten, provides the best look at fighters who are great, those who are trying to be and those who never will be. Unbeaten only means untested. Miguel Cotto is staring straight into that scarred face as he prepares for Manny Pacquiao in this year’s most intriguing fight, also the biggest in his career.

The 145-pound fight is easy to like for all the advertised reasons, the biggest of which is Pacquiao’s rocket-like emergence into the crossover kind of stardom that once belonged to Oscar De La Hoya. But the real drama, at least from this seat in the audience, rests with Cotto, whose deep well of poise and dignity bubbles beneath a quiet exterior.

There is plenty of talk that Cotto will step into the ring on Nov. 14 at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand already damaged, mostly because of what happened in the 2008 loss to Antonio Margarito and then his determined stand in a bloody decision over Joshua Clottey last June in New York.

Against Clottey, Cotto endured a savage cut above his left eye from a third-round head butt. From that moment in the third through the 12th, Cotto was a profile in courage. Yet, the wound also leaves a scar that some see as a symbol of a terrible price exacted from him in the loss to Margarito, who later tried to use loaded gloves before losing to Shane Mosley.

Nobody will ever really know whether Margarito’s gloves were locked and loaded against Cotto, but this much is certain: Cotto, who was stunned and on his knees against Margarito as though he had been struck by an unseen force before throwing in the towel in the 11th round, is no quitter. Definitive proof of that was delivered against Clottey. Yet in Cotto’s battered face, there were signs that Margarito had taken something from him.

There is no way of knowing, at least not until the fight. But the question is out there and it was asked during a conference call Tuesday with Cotto trainer Joe Santiago, conditioning coach Phil Landman and promoter Bob Arum, who also promotes Pacquiao.

“The Margarito fight is over and done with,’’ Santiago said from Cotto’s in camp Tampa, Fla. “We’ve prepared for a new challenge. I think he is hungry, as always, wanting to win with the confidence he has. I don’t think that changes. He is more than ready.

“The Clottey fight? I don’t think many guys would have stood up to him the way he was fighting with Miguel’s cut and everything.’’

Meanwhile, Santiago said the cut has completely healed, although it is safe to bet that Pacquiao will try to test that assertion early and often.

“We were very lucky on the night of the fight,” he said. “We had two good plastic surgeons there. They did excellent work with him. It all came out very nice. I haven’t seen anything at all with the cut. It hasn’t been an issue in camp and I don’t think it will be an issue in the fight.”

Arum also was quick to say that Clottey’s toughness and skill has been lost in the speculation about whether the Margarito robbed Cotto of his prime.

“Clottey is one of the best welterweights out there,’’ said Arum, who also promotes him. “For Miguel to come back after suffering that cut where he could hardly see and still pull out a victory, I think shows not only that Miguel is back, but that it was an absolutely brilliant performance. All the people who don’t give Clottey props don’t realize what a great fighter he is.’’

Still, the tough Clottey is never going to wind up on anybody’s Hall of Fame ballot. He’s good, but maybe just good enough to get beat by the very best. If Clottey was in fact a steppingstone, Cotto will emerge with the enduring sort of legacy that only true adversity can produce. Pacquiao already has it in a career defined by his comeback from a similar cut, a gaping wound over his right eye, in a 2005 loss by decision in his first fight with Erik Morales.

Pacquiao went on to beat Morales in two rematches. He has never looked back, at least not at the kind of adversity that has confronted Cotto and is always ready for a rematch with anybody.


· A photo of the staph infection on Kelly Pavlik’s left hand explains in nasty detail as to why he withdrew from the bout, re-scheduled for Dec. 5, with Paul Williams. Still, I’m baffled as to why Pavlik didn’t test the hand in the gym before money was spent on staging another news conference. It wasn’t as if Pavlik has suddenly caught H1N1. The troublesome hand qualifies as a prior condition. Everybody knew about it. It’s the reason the fight was postponed in the first place. It’s unfortunate, because Williams-Pavlik would have added a lot to a good fall schedule. Now, I’ll be surprised if they ever fight.

· Shannon Briggs, the last American-born heavyweight with a major title, is still waiting to make a comeback after a cancellation Saturday, Oct. 17, in Phoenix because physicians found a cataract in his opponent’s eye during the pre-fight physical. While Briggs was in Phoenix without answering an opening bell, old rival Sergei Liakhovich was in the gym, working on his own comeback. Briggs took the World Boxing Organization title in 2006 from Liakhovich, scoring a walk-off knockout in a ring above the pitcher’s mound at Chase Field, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ homepark. Briggs scored the stoppage in the last second of the last round. Liakhovich wants a rematch. “Absolutely,’’ Liakhovich said. Sure, Brigs said. “But it would still be a one-round fight,’’ said Briggs, who looks back at his 12 rounds in the first one and only remembers one, the 12th.

· More Briggs: There is gray in his goatee. “Wisdom,’’ he said.

· And props to Arizona Senator John McCain for his stubborn pursuit of a pardon for Jack Johnson, the late heavyweight champ and a piece of Americana. Of course, Johnson should be pardoned on a 1913 conviction for interracial dating. He should have been pardoned 96 years ago. But why the delay? McCain has been trying to get this pardon done for years, or at least since Bernard Hopkins was in his 30s. Don’t tell me President Obama is too busy. We’re not talking about health care. Please, Mr. Obama, just sign that pardon.

Source: http://www.15rounds.com/if-cotto-beat-adversity-he-can-upset-pacquiao-102309/

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