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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Will Size Matter: Manny Pacquiao’s Challenge of Miguel Cotto

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It was a breath of fresh air. I saw recently a “taster” film for HBO’s upcoming 24/7 series about the Pacquiao/Cotto matchup, in which Max Kellerman brought the two fighters together across a table and questioned them about their potential fisticuffs.

Consider the following quotes: first, Cotto on Pacquiao:

“You have to give some credit to him you know. He’s a good boxer, he’s a great fighter; all the things he has, he’s earned.”

Pacquiao on Cotto:

“Miguel is bigger and stronger than me. I’m the challenger here in this fight. He’s the champion.”

Cotto on the fight:

“This fight is going to be like Hagler-Hearns. For many years people are going to remember this fight. The winners in this fight will be the fans.”

Pacquiao to Cotto:

“You train hard, and I’ll train hard, and we’ll do our best. May the best man win.”

Wow. No face-off. No stinging insults, no invocation to chow down on members of the immediate family, or to remove sundry body parts, or even to bring a bit of business to a Vegas morgue. The two warriors shook hands, smiled at each other, and wished each other the best of luck.

Of course, these are two individuals so secure in their own special talents that the usual pre-fight antics are superfluous to them. One suspects, that their backers know this too, as do the fight public who will be asked to lay their money down on fight night. Even the promotional teams, who usually seek to drum up a mess of antagonism between fighters in the build-up to a big event, know that this one is different. These are real men, real gladiators, who have paid their dues, earned their respect the hard way, and have no room for clown-faces. Falsehood and mimicry are foreign to them.

All of which makes the fight all the more compelling on its own terms, and not on those of the publicists. For all their mutual respect outside the ropes, we know that when the bell sounds the ferocity, tenacity and sheer fistic spite that have characterized both of their boxing careers will be as much in evidence as they ever were – perhaps even more so given the quality and depth of the opposition.

Pacquiao is right to surmise that he’s stepping on to Cotto’s turf. He does so having trampled across a number of great fighters in an inexorable rise up the weight classes, thrashing men who came to the ring believing that, this time, Manny had bitten off more than he could chew. Each time he’s risen to the challenge, climbed the next mountain. In a career that has amassed 49 wins (37 of them stoppages) and only 3 losses, Pacquiao has conquered new horizon after new horizon.

But this next escapade is his most dangerous yet. Cotto is no Ricky Hatton, who sacrificed his boxing career at the altar of indulgence, and is no Oscar De La Hoya, who sacrificed his at the altar of greed. He’s no Juan Diaz either, and it could be said that a fleeting similarity to Juan Manuel Marquez, who gave the Pacman all the trouble he could handle, ends on the scales where Cotto habitually fights 20 pounds heavier.

Before Pacquiao’s dismantling of Hatton, the jury was still out as to his credentials at the higher weights. No-one doubted his quality at feather, or super-feather, but many pondered whether he could move up further. The Hatton fight at light-welter delivered an emphatic verdict that Pacquiao is a relevant and powerful force at 140 pounds and beyond.

But is he a winning force at 145, which is the catchweight for this contest? Will Cotto be sufficiently inconvenienced by having to boil down to 2 pounds under his championship weight (a ridiculous concept, incidentally – the welterweight limit is 147 and that’s the weight the fight should be made at for a title belt to be on the line, in this case the WBO’s).

The suspicion is that Cotto will find it easier to fight at 145 than Pacquiao will to bridge his gap. Cotto was a light-welter until three years ago, and whilst he was a big and powerful 140 pounder, he’s been less imposing a figure at 147. Most of his 34-1, 27 KO’s record has been compiled at the lower weight.

When Cotto has been troubled in the ring, it’s generally been big, powerful welterweights who have made him think. His last fight against Joshua Clottey was a case in point, and of course the loss to Antonio Margarito, since disgraced having been found to have doctored his wraps in a subsequent fight, was a disturbing and debilitating hammering. Even if Cotto has comforted himself since with the thought that Margarito was almost certainly carrying something in his gloves for their fight, the mental scars of that beating must still exist.

Freddie Roach, in the Pacman’s corner, is telling us that he’s developed a winning strategy, as always, and that his man will overcome all the physical obstacles, as he always does:

“I think Cotto will be aggressive and that he will be looking to show his strength. When he fights a south paw he turns left handed a lot more and I expect him to do that with Pacquiao. He is naturally left-handed, clever, and he is dangerous because of that. Our job is to take that away from him. We’re going to let him know in the very first round round what he is up against. You’ll see.”

Whatever happens on the night, it’s going to be a war between the most admirable of combatants. If two fighters have ever earned the right to be comfortable in their own skins, it’s these two.

So there’ll be no clown-ish antics in the build-up, no mock punch-ups or ankle biting, and not even a war of words. There will be respect, and honesty, and probably the best damn fight we’ll see for many a year.

Be sure to enter RSR's contest to win a free gift basket by picking the winner of Manny Pacquiao Vs Miguel Cotto.

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Source: http://ringsidereport.com/rsr/news.php?readmore=2287

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