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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pacquiao a 3-to-1 favorite in Las Vegas to beat Cotto

By Francis Thimsel J. Ochoa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:59:00 11/11/2009

LAS VEGAS—As Team Pacquiao drove into this brightly lit vice city on Monday night, the odds continued to climb in favor of the Filipino ring icon in his historic fight against Puerto Rican champion Miguel Cotto on Nov. 14 at the MGM Grand.

Betting lines at sports houses have Manny Pacquiao a -350 favorite and Cotto a +270 underdog when they dispute the WBO welterweight crown at a catch weight of 145 pounds.

That means it would take a $350 bet on Pacquiao to win $100, while a $100 wager on Cotto would fetch $270.

Pacquiao, the reigning pound-for-pound king hoping to become the first boxer to win world titles in seven weight categories, is also heavily favored to knock out Cotto. To win $100 on such a proposition, one would have to place a $200 bet.

Now used to adulation and acclamation, Pacquiao isn’t putting any of that into his head.

“I don’t want to think that I’m a favorite,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, halfway through a 480-kilometer road trip from Los Angeles, the Pacquiao convoy pulled over at Barstow for a pit stop.

Pacquiao got off the SUV he routinely rides during trips to big fights and spoke to a handful of journalists who were joking about the biting cold of the young California evening.

Asked about his upcoming fight, Pacquiao had a joke of his own.

“Miguel Cotto’s big and strong,” he said in Filipino. “I’m so scared, I’m already shaking.”

All the while, he was flashing the impish smile of someone who knew better.

Tapering off

The brief incident showed best the mental state Pacquiao was in when his convoy braked outside the back entrance of The Hotel at Mandalay Bay, where the world’s top boxer would be billeted for the duration of his stay in the Nevada gambling capital.

Training is expected to be less rigorous for the Pacman than when he was at the Wild Card gym in Los Angeles. Both boxers are already well into the tapering-off stage of their preparations for what is touted as the year’s biggest fight.

This early, Pacquiao knows he’s ready.

Freddie Roach, the American trainer who has guided Pacquiao through dizzying heights of sporting excellence, said the team would mostly walk through strategies at the IBA gym and do some mitt work.

No weight problems

Other than that, Roach said Pacquiao was in good shape physically and mentally.

“We’re ready,” Roach said.

Since moving up past the lightweight ranks, Pacquiao has had no troubles with the scales. In fact, the people’s champ immediately wolfed down a hearty dinner after arriving at his posh The Hotel suite.

Pacquiao then slipped into the master bedroom to call it a day.

As training eases up, promotion goes a notch higher as both fighters engage in public appearances to trump up a bout that is already highly anticipated.

Weigh-in on Friday

The two protagonists will be accorded formal welcomes at separate venues on Tuesday. Pacquiao will make his arrival official at the MGM Grand at around noon and an hour later, Cotto will do the same thing.

On Wednesday, both fighters will be present at the bout’s final press conference. Both will train one last time on Thursday. The following day, they will weigh in for the bout.

Pacquiao and his conditioning coach Alex Ariza have said meeting the catch weight of 145 pounds pegged for the match will be a cinch.

Team Cotto, on the other hand, has kept mum over weight issues. On Monday, strength coach Phil Landman said they would no longer address the issue of weight.

‘Not against me’

Commenting on Pacquiao’s goal of winning his seventh world crown, Cotto earlier told Espnstar.com: “If he thinks he is going to win seven titles in seven weight divisions now, he has picked the wrong moment, the wrong fighter and the wrong opponent … If he thinks he is going to win the seventh title against Miguel Cotto, he is very wrong.”

Pacquiao has won world championships in the flyweight (WBC), super bantamweight (IBF), featherweight (linear, Ring), super featherweight (WBC), lightweight (WBC) and light welterweight (linear, Ring and IBO) divisions.

Cotto trainer Joe Santiago said Pacquiao’s phenomenal achievements would not mean anything once Pacquiao stepped into the ring to face his hook-throwing ward.

“He’s a fighter who started at 108 pounds and has reached 145,” Santiago was quoted by Puerto Rico’s El Nuevo Dia as saying in Spanish.

“But on Nov. 14, it’ll be different. We have great respect for his career and hats off to him for what he’s done in boxing, but on that day Miguel will be the stronger man in the ring.”

Pacquiao strategy

Roach belittled the 32-year-old Cotto trainer.

“He puts a towel on his shoulder, gives his guy a drink and he thinks he’s a coach,” Roach said.

Santiago, who will be acting as trainer for only the second time in his career, said he wasn’t giving much thought to Roach’s comment.

“It isn’t Freddie Roach who will face Miguel Cotto on Nov. 14 but Manny Pacquiao,” he said.

Coach Ariza said Pacquiao would work more on footwork and movement during his tapering-off period as part of a strategy to keep out of Cotto’s range.

He also wants to make sure Pacquiao doesn’t get pushed into the ropes, where Cotto hopes to win the battle of heavy exchanges.

Source: http://sports.inquirer.net/professional/professional/view/20091111-235501/Pacquiao-a-3-to-1-favorite-in-Las-Vegas-to-beat-Cotto

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