Jeff Pryor gives hit thoughts on this past Saturday's big fight.
Photo © Ray Kasprowicz
He's got real welterweight power. He's got a real welterweight chin.
This past Saturday, Welterweight's around the world, even the best of the best, (Mosley and Mayweather, that's you), had to feel a little flutter in their stomachs as they watched Manny Pacquiao dispose of the otherwise resilient and courageous Miguel Cotto.
Margarito, Mosley, Judah... some of the more explosive and damaging punchers in the division, did not do to Cotto what the supposedly diminutive Filipino was able to do.
He unloaded devastating salvos that exploded across Cotto's chin and sent the world class Puerto Rican crumpling down to the mat like a rag doll.
The speed, angles, energy and fighting spirit we all knew, with 100% certainty, had made the trip up in weight with Pacquiao, but until this last bout there was a question mark on the legitimacy of his power and ability to take a punch.
Those questions have been answered.
In doing so, Pacquiao has stamped himself emphatically as the premiere fighter at Welterweight, and of the entire sport of boxing. He very likely has stamped himself as the greatest boxer of his generation, and has put forth the compelling argument that he is an all-timer that could go head to head with any fighter who ever lived and have a pretty damn good shot at winning.
As to the fight itself; it was no cake walk. To claim it was, diminishes Pacquiao's accomplishment.
Cotto fought well, and hard, for the first four rounds. Miguel, known for being very heavy handed, though lacking explosive power, dug in hard to Manny's body, landed flush power shots to Pacquiao's shaggy head, and laid a good number of his sunday punches on the money.
The amazing thing was that nothing seemed to affect the division jumping dynamo. And while Cotto had a hard time putting the hurt on, Pacquiao was able to detonate fight altering blasts that wobbled Cotto throughout the fight.
When it came down to it, the size of the two men was about the same. The speed was relatively close. No, despite what most thought would be the deciding factors, what the fight came down too, was Pacquaio's uncanny durability.
Cotto's chin, which has held up reasonably well during his remarkable Welterweight run, could not stand up to the explosive force of Pacquiao's precision pummeling.
Perhaps taken separately, Miguel could have survived the speed deficit, or awkward angle assaults, or even the X-factor explosiveness of the Pacquiao punch, but when you combine those attributes, what makes Manny what he is now, is the combination of devastatingly explosive power, and a well tuned, yet unpredictable, delivery system.
It would seem that the pinnacle of Miguel Cotto's life as a fighter was reached in the early rounds against Antonio Margarito. He was fluidly assaulting the tough Tijuanian, combining a fury and precision that was nearing mastery as he peppered Margarito and evaded much of the return fire. In the early going it looked like Cotto was making his case for pound for pound supremacy.
What unfolded next is a matter of record and from the tail end of those moments of brilliance on that summer night two July's ago, until now, the tale of Miguel Cotto has been one of a precipitous , though valiant, downfall.
Against the fighter, who now it can be said, is undoubtedly the best in the world, Cotto had success early on. Winning the majority of moments through four rounds. His jab was consistently snapping back Pacquiao's head, and he was able to throw combinations with some success to Manny's body and head.
Though the first knockdown was more a stroke of ill timing for Cotto; the punch catching him off balance without his feet under him, the second seemed to signal all, but the end of the fight. As he trudged back to his corner following that viciously compact uppercut which scrambled his senses, Cotto's face seemed to purport that his self belief had been knocked out of him.
He sat heavily on the stool and stared vacantly at his young trainer for the first quarter of his break; lips, thickly parted, eyes glassy and staring. Only when trainer Joe Santiago began to rub his face and head vigorously, did Cotto seem to snap out of his dazed reverie and come back to reality.
As the rounds wore on and Cotto started to retreat more and more, he looked increasingly weary in the corner. The contest becoming one merely of endurance; enduring pain and embarrassment, rather than a competition to win.
What Cotto lacked in ability to hurt Pacquiao, he made up for with a quiet showing of guts, grit and determination. Though he was forced to increasing amounts of retreat, there was never a round that he didn't fire off real blows, launching attacks with real intention to hurt, even as Pacquiao ate them up and kept coming.
As the HBO announcers astutely pointed out, tough moments for a proud warrior.
It is a revealing peak into Cotto's personality, that when told he had one more round by his corner before they would stop it, heading into the tenth, he went out and put together a determined round, one in which none of the judges had him winning, however one in which he seemed to put anything he had left into lasting just a little longer, refusing to give in.
The eleventh round saw more punishment for Miguel than a classy fighter like him should have to endure, the crowd booing as he ran out the clock, trying desperately to avoid more damage to his battered body and face. At rounds end the translator had him exclaiming wearily and with a sense of disbelieving "There's one more round?".
The look on his face said it all. Three more minutes of hell.
Cotto said later that he wanted them to stop it then... but he changed his mind. He's a fighter. He's a man. At that moment no one would have blamed him for giving in. He didn't.
Thankfully Kenny Bayless did his job, just as Cotto and Pacquiao did theirs.
Where does Cotto take that warriors heart from here? The writing seems to be on the wall, and it states plainly that Miguel Cotto is no longer that unblemished destructor that entered the ring against Margarito.
He may be in a position to face the Shane Mosley vs. Andre Berto winner. A Margarito rematch may be in the offing should the embattled brawler be reinstated and there are surely good fighters he can still beat, but at the highest level, it would seem Miguel Cotto has entered the twilight of his career.
If he is to continue on in the hopes of obtaining another marquee fight, he would be best served in taking a step down in opposition after facing the cream of the crop for the last several years.
Wherever Cotto goes from here, he has earned his millions and hopefully gets to enjoy them with great health and a sense of accomplishment for the terrific career and legacy he forged for himself.
As for the man from Manila, Mayweather undeniably looms. As Freddie Roach has suggested, that fight may be the one to go out on. The penultimate career topper for the ferocious Filipino who has faced down the best boxing could put in front of him, from weight classes near and far.
That man is all smiles right now, just as he always is; a fact which I thought about as he walked to the ring on Saturday. Here it was the biggest fight of his life, and Manny was grinning his usual grin, winking and waiving to random crowd members.
I once asked former middleweight Anthony Bonsante whether his fearsome countenance in the lead up until the bell rang was a put on, to psych out his opponent. He told me that it was nothing of the sort. Before the fight he worked himself into a genuine rancor, one which manifest itself on his face as an almost comical parody of anger at times, but it's what he had to do, in order to get into the mindset for fighting.
Pacquiao's lighthearted grin shone strong, in stark contrast to Cotto's quiet, determined, concentration. Just before Michael Buffer intoned his famous catch phrase to kick off the fighter introductions, the last lingering grin slid off of Manny's face, like a cloud passing over him. From that moment he didn't smile again, until midway through the fight when Cotto clipped him with a flush bomb to end round five, and he smirked sheepishly at getting caught by his waning opponent, as he strode back to his corner.
Therein lies the secret to Manny's success, in life and in the ring. He flips a switch and he changes gears.
That's why the maelstrom of his training camps don't affect him. That's why he can lull an opponent into a sudden bursting combo that plants them on the deck.
And that's why anyone who steps into the ring with Manny Pacquiao is a substantiated underdog. He is the benchmark for an era, and everyone else is playing catchup.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Jeff Pryor gives hit thoughts on this past Saturday's big fight.