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Friday, November 13, 2009

Roach lays out plan for Pacquiao

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By Chris Mannix

As strategists go, they don't get much better than Freddie Roach. The mastermind behind 24 world champions, Roach devises winning game plans the way Adrian Peterson scores touchdowns or Ray Allen buries jump shots. And no one has benefited more from Roach's skills than Manny Pacquiao. In just the past two years, Pacquiao has defeated a skilled counterpuncher (Juan Manuel Marquez), knocked off a physically superior hook artist (Oscar De La Hoya) and routed a bulldogging slugger (Ricky Hatton). Each victory propelled Pacquiao to a new level. Each came under Roach's watchful eye.

Still, the cliche "the next-opponent-is-the-best-opponent" may ring true for Pacquiao and Roach. Miguel Cotto, whom Pacquiao will face at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday (HBO PPV, 9 p.m.), is a chameleon. With a hard left hook and a devastating body attack, Cotto can brawl. His knockout victories over Ricardo Torres, Zab Judah and Michael Jennings -- all title fights -- attest to that.

And more so in recent years, Cotto has proven he can be an effective boxer. In 2007, he scored a career-defining victory over Shane Mosley. In a fight dominated by stinging jabs, Cotto was the more precise puncher, winning by at least two points on each of the judge's scorecards.

"He's so adaptable," said Hall of Fame trainer Emmanuel Steward. "He makes adjustments in the ring as well as anyone I've seen in a while."

Adapting to an adapter like Cotto will be Pacquiao's biggest challenge to date. But rest assured, Roach has a strategy.

"There's a Plan A and B," said Roach. Either [Cotto] is going to use his strength and come forward and show us he's the bigger or stronger guy, or he's going to try to be like Marquez and be a counterpuncher. A lot of people like to do that because it gave us trouble. But you can't become somebody else in eight weeks. Once he gets hit, he will revert back to what he does best.

"Cotto has got a great left hook, and when he gets you on the ropes he's very effective. Our job is not to be on the ropes at all in this fight. Obviously, Cotto will pressure us at times during this fight, but Manny's speed is too much. Foot-speed -- that's where the fight is won. And Manny excels in that department."

Roach says the game plan calls for Pacquiao to be aggressive early and keep Cotto out of his comfort zone.

"In the first round of this fight, I'm going to have Pacquiao make a statement," said Roach. "We're not going to give [Cotto] momentum, because if you give him momentum, he's going to get stronger. We're going to start quick. We're going to show him our power in the first round. We're going to hit him. We're not going to go in and just start swinging on him. We're going to do it smart. Pacquiao knows exactly what to do. We'll walk Cotto into a fight, because he follows. And when he follows, we're going to take advantage of that."

Source: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/chris_mannix/11/13/cotto.pacquiao.preview/

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