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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Manny Pacquiao Vs Miguel Cotto: A 24/7 Look

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By Gina L. Caliboso-November 7, 2009
As my favorite fighter Manny Pacquiao approaches in what many consider the biggest fight of his career against Miguel Cotto, the drama played in HBO’s 24/7 – Pacquiao-Cotto has not failed in its contrasting portrayals of two great fighters. The two episodes aired to date seem to be on a time space continuum as each weekend passes with a question as to which fighter looks stronger, sharper, and more focused.

In the first episode, the devastating typhoons that hit the Philippines which eventually resulted in a state of calamity for the country just showed that focus was impossible within the Pacquiao camp. Rain, mudslides, and a lack of supplies as the city of Baguio unraveled in natural disaster is tragedy in and of itself. I wasn’t too interested in Pacquiao’s training camp. Pacquiao, after all, is the people’s champion. As a symbol of strength and success to his countrymen, Pacquiao was focused to a degree, but it’s obvious with his surroundings, he couldn’t really be as intense and focused. Both

Buboy Fernandez and Trainer Freddie Roach went to a nearby village as representatives of Pacquiao showing support. I was actually a surprised that Pacquiao decided to train in the Philippines in that critical time before a fight. He had met with such success by keeping a somewhat low profile at the Wildcard Gym in Hollywood, why mess with that proven formula for success? But as much as Trainer Roach didn’t see it would be a problem – the exception of course being hit with the typhoons.

By contrast, I was immediately struck by the low-key portrayal of Miguel Cotto. The first episode revealed some footage from the Margarito fight that had me turn away. It’s tough to see blood coming out from everywhere from the head. And there was intensity to Cotto’s sense of boxing pride and ability. Cotto’s training camp has not been without its drama either. Miguel Cotto had originally been trained by his uncle, Evangelista Cotto, but has instead made a change to have trainer Joe Santiago, who apprenticed under Evangelista for eight years as his head trainer. The portrayal of Cotto is understated and subtle. But then again, there weren’t any typhoons in Puerto Rico either.

I am a bit wary of the in-fighting revealed in the Pacquiao camp between advisor Michael Koncz and Alex Ariza, Pacquiao’s strength and conditioning coach. Regardless of how small the incident was played in the episode, it struck a dynamic contrast to the tight knit focus displayed by the Cotto camp. It is after all meant to create a level of expectation, but in-fighting between one of many in a boxer’s training camp - I don’t see any purpose to any conflict really. Even worse, to see Trainer Roach reveal his own unhappiness in Baguio was uncomfortable to witness, but I think he was doing his job as he should. Roach has to keep Pacquiao focused and being in Baguio was just not working.

For the second installment of 24/7 this past weekend, the setting moved from Baguio to Manila. In the training camp in Manila, it was revealed just how much of a celebrity Pacquiao is in the Philippines. For as much as our culture is very focused on the many celebrities in our country, Manny Pacquiao does it all. In the episode, the question was asked to Freddie Roach: “Can he do it all?” Roach answered with a bit of a smile and stated that Pacquiao is a multi-tasker. The episode showed the busy nature of Pacquiao as he moved from the conditioning field with Ariza followed by Pacquiao’s appearing on a television show to sing. Even President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made an appearance in the first minutes of the episode and emphasized Pacquiao’s importance to the country as the “People’s Champion.”

The episode, however, continued to dwell on the Alex Ariza – Michael Koncz tension and revealed an unnecessary discord that can easily disguise any lack of focus within the Pacquiao camp. I don’t like boxers to be distracted. With great success, a boxer faces the business end of boxing that can be distracting, let alone the celebrity and fame. Trainer Freddie Roach said it best when he stated that a boxer’s entourage “swells with success.”

The script for 24/7 couldn’t be better written, especially in reference to Pacquiao’s training. With the line that there’s “no room to hide in the training room” and there was a “questioning to Pacquiao’s intensity,” Pacquiao faced sparring partners Jose Luis Castillo and Sean Porter under Roach’s instructions and incentive that he will give $1,000 to any sparring partner that successfully knocks out his star pupil.

One can easily see that 24/7 provides contrasting portrayals to give the impression that each fighter is motivated for his own reasons – whether from strength of character, sheer will, and intensity. It is with this that in the midst of the emphasis on the chaos of Pacquiao’s training camp, Miguel Cotto remains cool and isolated when his camp moves from the comforts of Puerto Rico to the business of training camp in Tampa, Florida. The portrayal of Cotto is lighthearted and focused with fewer players.

The training emphasis set by Don Miguel Cotto (Cotto’s father) reveals a level of military discipline to act as one unit for the benefit of Miguel Cotto the younger. The episode showed Cotto getting up in the morning, along with everyone else in camp, including Cotto’s son Miguel III, to go to a nearby track and start road work. There is very little chaos surrounding Cotto. His training is low-key and very often, there is always a parting shot of Cotto’s back as he walks in and out of training – as if he bears the burden of the fight on his own – Cotto does, really, and 24/7 emphasizes this quite well. I am struck by the touching connection between father, son, and grandfather.

The episode also provided glimpses of Cotto’s sparring rounds. It was just glimpses, but each of his sparring partners revealed that Cotto is strong and ready. There is an amusing personalized heavy bag with Pacquiao’s image on it. The image of Cotto slowly walking to and from his gym has dramatic effect because it’s just Cotto alone as contrasted to the many that surround Pacquiao.

Finally, as Pacquiao makes his way back from Manila to Los Angeles, even the flight revealed the Koncz – Ariza conflict. Get over it already, you two. You have a common interest – the fighter Pacquiao, remember? Annoying for 24/7 to play this drama out!

It is within the Wildcard Gym that the absence of Michael Moorer is mentioned. I had remembered Moorer from previous 24/7 episodes while Pacquiao prepared for the Hatton fight. I thought the explanation was well-stated without revealing any sort of bad blood between Roach, Pacquiao, and Moorer. More importantly, however, it is within the confines of the Wildcard Gym in Hollywood that I love seeing 24/7 footage. There are no distractions for Pacquiao. He looks confident, fast, strong, comfortable, relaxed, and in a rhythm in the ring of the Wildcard. Environment can be everything. In the Wildcard Gym, Pacquiao has a center, a drive, a focus, and a clarity as to his purpose in the upcoming weeks to fine tune his boxing skills. And while the Philippines is and will always be Pacquiao’s home and always in his heart, it’s in the Wildcard Gym that he is what he has become – a world championship boxer.

The narrator states that in boxing – it’s a “dance rooted in brutality with a unique choreography.” Both fighters have different lives and different training methods. But 24/7 does something quite unique – it reveals that both fighters must learn to balance boxing and life in motion, even though to them, boxing is life. Fighters must find their own zones of success even with outside influences. There is a notable difference between the portrayals of Pacquiao and Cotto. It’s appropriate that the episode ends with a lone silhouette of both Pacquiao and Cotto. In the limited light of the Wildcard, Pacquiao makes the sign of the cross in the corner as Cotto walks out of his boxing gym. But both fighters realize one thing. Both Pacquiao and Cotto know and live that as the snapshot of the episode reveals – it is a preview of what is to come – two boxers – one fight – only one winner.

Source: http://ringsidereport.com/rsr/news.php?readmore=2346

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