Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Rise & Fall of Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto

Jeff Pryor previews the upcoming mega-fight between Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto.

Photo © Marty Rosengarten / Ringsidephotos.com

On a recent trip to Puerto Rico, at a time when Manny's personal minions were to be seen prowling about the streets of San Juan, bedecked in "Team Pacquiao" track suits, biding time until the press conference scheduled later that week and eating mofongo's at any number of quaint eateries before strolling back to their accommodations among the resort laden streets, I had the chance to talk to a few Puerto Rican's about the upcoming bout between their beloved boxer and the Filipino phenom.

One such islander, a taxi driver I got to chatting with, told me "Of course I want Cotto to win. I have great pride in my country. So of course I want Cotto to win... but... I like Pacquiao, he's my favorite." The man told me this with a sheepish, apologetic grin that seemed to plead please don't mention this to anyone.

It's eye opening that Pacquiao's ubiquitous appeal is so strong that a Puerto Rican who, so he told me, has never left the island, would be rooting for the Filipino outright if not for a patriotic sense of duty to his country.

On the flip side of that, I've seen Puerto Rican's born and raised in one of the five boroughs of New York, out of their minds and raucous at Madison Square Garden shrieking in reverie for a man from a land they've never been.

Both men are worthy of such adulation and both men are torch bearers for their profession. The torch, however, slips from everyone's hands at some point.

One senses that Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao are both at precarious positions within their careers.

On the Puerto Rican pugilists side, a string of less than scintillating outings has triggered whispers that Cotto's brutalizing loss at the hands (augmented or otherwise) of Antonio Margarito in the summer of 2008 may have permanently changed his mentality and longevity within the sport.

Over that same time period, the Filipino fighter has continually tempted the scales, fighting well above what was thought to be his prime weight, taking on increasingly larger men and running the risk of hubris that could dethrone him from the pinnacle of the sport at which he now resides.

When they stare at one another from across the ring, awaiting the bell to sound and set off the fury that will ensue, one of their career paths will be on the teetering precipice of veering in an entirely different and less acclaimed path.

Over the course of that thirty six minutes of action (or less), both men's stature... profitability... and legacy will be altered. How, and by how much, is why we watch.


Miguel Cotto has mutated. From a stalking brawler, to a boxer puncher, and now, some would claim, a pot-shotting runner.

The truth is, Miguel is a little of all those things, and his opponent indictates which one we'll see. In the case of his matchup with Pacquiao, Cotto should be the naturally bigger, more rugged man. Obviously it would be to his advantage to make it a rough and tumble affair where he forces the action.

What Cotto has had trouble with of late are bigger men, who he cannot hurt. Margarito was the epitome of that mold, up until Shane Mosley punished and stopped the Tijuana Tornado early this year. Clottey, had the same toughness, though lacked the relentlessness that Margarito had been so successful with. Both men caused Cotto to shift from an excellent boxer-puncher to more of a hit and run artist.

It would seem that as physically arduous as the Margarito fight was for Cotto, it may have equally damaged his psyche to some extent.

The good news for Cotto is that in Manny Pacquiao, he is not facing a bigger, unhurt-able punishment sponge, but a smaller, more vulnerable pugilist. That alone is a key factor for, not only Miguel Cotto's chances at sustaining a successful fight plan, but also for plugging any lingering mental fissures that have appeared in his confidence.


Manny Pacquiao has mutated. From a raw, all destroying dynamo, to a half controlled burgeoning boxer, and now to a well rounded precision power puncher.

Pacquiao's rise up the weight charts has coincided with a dampening of his reliance on natural ability and more emphasis on learned skills and technique.

His dominant wins against De La Hoya and Hatton seem to suggest that he is capable of fighting at these weights with great success, but perhaps what has been hidden by the sheen of their impressive names is the actual quality of those two fighters at the time Pacquiao got them in the ring.

Without meaning to take anything away from these terrific wins, one could still make a legitimate case that Pacquiao's impressiveness was at least partially bolstered by the inefficiencies of his two foes.

Stated plainly, Pacquiao still has something to prove at weights in excess of 135 pounds. In facing Cotto he will be squaring off against his first elite fighter, still in his prime, since abandoning the lower weights.


Let's quickly tick off the advantages and disadvantages for each.

Size favors Cotto, though by a slimmer margin than might be expected, at least on paper. They stand within an inch of one another and reach is the same.

The catchweight may affect Cotto who used to suffer to make 140lbs. At 145lbs. he will be forced to drain off an extra bit for this fight. It could be the difference in a gruelling bout, but in my estimation it will be a minor factor. Cotto will likely outweigh Pacquiao after rehydrating leading up to the fight. Regardless of height, reach and weighing in the same, Cotto will be bigger and fight bigger when the opening round begins.

The counterpoint of that is that Pacquiao will be faster. How much faster may determine the outcome of the fight. Ripping a page from Cotto's own recent playbook, Manny may look to potshot and counter for large portions of the round. It's not his traditional style, but he showed a fleet footed finesse against Hatton that would suggest he could employ a highly effective gorilla warfare mode of attack; strike and manoeuvre out before any retaliation can find you.

His dynamic speed and dexterity may overwhelm Miguel, who at times, though he was able to match Mosley's speed, can be plodding and measured with a penchant for admiring his work.

If Cotto finds himself chasing Pacquiao across the ring, trying to corral the Filipino for prolonged stretches, it could be a long night for the Puerto Rican. Cotto will have to employ his underrated jab to keep Pacquiao occupied while he works to get close to Manny. But if he can't lay gloves on him, it may lead to frustration and even fouling which Cotto has not been above before.

For Pacquiao's part, he'd be well served to stay off the ropes and keep Cotto from getting set to rip shots to his body.

It's those shots that bring us to the next factor, power. Cotto will undoubtedly be the heaviest handed opponent that Pacquiao has faced. While Margarito and Clottey were able to withstand extreme amounts of battery, they are two exceptions in the division... perhaps in the entire sport.

It might be easy to forget that before facing those titanium headed titans, Cotto was considered pound for pound one of the more devastating punchers in the sport.

His punching prowess made Gianluca Branco quit after a crushing punch... to the shoulder. It left Quintana sucking wind on the canvas debilitated and nursing a severely battered liver. And Paulie Malignaggi's face grossly distorted, a bone in his face busted and deformed.

It can even be argued that the punishment he foisted on Margarito over the course of their brutal showdown, likewise, took something out of the controversial Tijuana fighter and in short softened him up for his ultimate collapse against Mosely.

Pacquiao's own power seems to have carried up with him admirably, his explosive knockout of Ricky Hatton being the most illustrative example. However one wonders if Cotto had fought the De La Hoya that Pacquiao did, would the Golden Boy have been left to call it a career on his stool, or would he have been splayed on the canvas, perhaps pounding it futilely from a body shot like the one Hopkins delivered?

The salient point however is whether Pacquiao will have enough firepower to hurt Cotto, and I believe he does. Cotto holds the edge, but Pacquiao holds his own.

The overriding equation is as follows; is Cotto's speed close enough to Pacquaio's to let him land and is Pacquiao's power close enough to Cotto's to make his punches punish? The reality ratio of those two factors are the crux of this fight’s outcome.

While you can question Cotto's durability at this point, you cannot question his heart. He is a warrior through and through. And while you may question the true value of Pacquiao's most recent conquerings, you cannot question his bravery. In facing down bigger, highly respected opponents he has proven to truly be with 'No Fear", a statement his trunks are often emblazoned with.

The combination of these fighters, facing off in a ballet of brutality should be enough to set off any fight fans excellence detector, for when these men, two of the sports prized practitioners, meet up on the 14th it should be an electrifying showdown that sends one of them rocketing into the stratosphere and the other drifting back to earth.

e-mail Jeff Pryor


Anonymous said...

is Cotto's speed close enough to Pacquaio's to let him land and is Pacquiao's power close enough to Cotto's to make his punches punish? NO,, COTTO IS GONNA END CHSING PACQUIAO

Jon said...

I really can't wait to see this fight!!!! Go Manny! Go Cotto! Give us a good one.

Anonymous said...

I hope after pacman wins this fight, you will not say Cotto already damaged good.

Anonymous said...

Let'get ready to rumble.....that's the more exciting word to hear .The buffer's voice...and that will make your butts on the edge of your seat!

rhk111 said...

Ho-hum .... Cotto this, Cotto that, Cotto, Cotto, Cotto ....

The same Cotto who couldn't dispose of Malignaggi, and the same Malignaggi who was destroyed by Hatton. Then look at what Pacquiao did to Hatton.

Cotto will be no better than Hatton, and will fall equally as hard. For all his vaunted power, Hatton never got to unload it on Pacquiao. So will Cotto.

Anonymous said...

"...he could employ a highly effective gorilla warfare mode of attack..."

LOL! have not seen any gorilla employ a highly effective mode of attack, hows that again? ha ha ha you made my day mr writer, wait a minute are you referring to mar mike marley the white gorilla?

Anonymous said...

the best illustration of these two warriors fighting style and capabilities.
in that, it is either way, cotto or pacquiao.
with the sparring training of pacquiao against shawn porter a jr.middleweight, manny can take a heavy punch.
i go for manny...speed is the key, cotto will be like david diaz always outpunched. as to power, manny has power with him.

dong48 said...

u may question cotto's durability and value of pacman's recent victories but i don't... it just sound inappropriate... cotto and pacman embodies the true boxing warriors...

now for money mayweather being a true boxer... that would be tons of questions even without the riddler...

Anonymous said...

Mr writer do u really think PAc has something to prove above 130 lbs? is hatton, the king at 140 undefeated at that weight class and give floyd a vey tough job not an elite fighter? not to mention HAtton annihilates Malignaggi to whom cotto never KO'd! oscar a quality 147 and 154 not an elite fighter who give floyd a lot of troubles? common! u r not making sense! we all know Pac Kod those two easily! llewmij@ymail.com

Anonymous said...

The concluding analysis of this article remains to be seen.That is what makes this fight exciting there's a lot of possiblities,even what Roach is joking, first round knock out, can't outrightly be ruled out.Wild it may seems but a precedent had happened already on Hatton second round knock out by Pacquiao.Some more days...we will find out.

Anonymous said...

boxing fraternity, all over the world would like to see quality boxers, in their prime, doing the sport justice, not money, eggo but the pride and sport at heart.i salute, cotto for serving the sport wt intergrity over the years,without ducking and hiding ,avoiding but fight any one put agnaist him.look out for geedy champions who are in boxing for the money, making outrageous demandsthey think they are worth, cotto fight anyone money mayweather is arleady making noise about 60-40 ,but you still have to fece the greatest of all time who has accomplished most everything and want to add you to his victims.lets get ready to rumble. may the bestman win.good for you good for boxing .

Anonymous said...

The writer insinuates that DLH past his prime when before the fight, many said that pacman will tumble on the first left hook of de lahoya. The writer also insinuates that Hatton the kind of 140 pounds will be too much for Pacman, but after the fight, the whole world was left gasping their breath on that first round and hatton is considered the overrated fighter of the british isles...NOW MR. WRITER,, TODAY YOU SAID THAT COTTO IS THE BIGGER ,STRONGER MAN AND CAN WIPE OUT ALL THE GLORIES OF PACMAN, let us see what your going to say t cotto after that fight.....some excuses....tell that to the marines.

Anonymous said...

1001 excuses if manny will KO cotto:
1. damaged goods
2. over-trained
3. weight drained
4. past of his prime
5. not in perfect condition
6. etc....
1001. manny have taken steroids

Anonymous said...

Only one thing cotto will win this fight if he still using his dirty tactics like what he did to judah by punching judas balls and taking advantage after he hurt judah balls..but on nov. 14 if he try that he will be disqualified....manny the new wbo welter weight champion...

Anonymous said...

it is always a pleasure to read some thoughts of others imperfect mind...coz through it you can see some points of excuses that you could use after fights..if you are really sure Mr. writer that DLH is already past of his prime and Hatton is an overrated fighter..why don't you put your ass in front of pacquiao and try some of his not left coz it might end you burried with/in 6 feet under the ground but instead try his right hand and you will be left hanging on the isle of uncertainty..yah you have a point that cotto have the heaviest punch how sure are you?..have you tried it already?...i'm not a pacman fan...i just enjoy watching him when he fight coz it's not boring...i've seen cotto's fight once and i fell asleep, and when i get awake i just heared a unanimous decision..common man let's see this coming 14th if those anihilated thoughts of you will come true..more power to boxing it's the way sports should be...exiting!

mpar1 said...

Cotto's best days are behind him. Manny's speed will overwhelm him.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article man Now I want to see the fight so BAD!!!

bisdakinchicago said...

Everyday I read articles about Manny, most foreign writers wrote something about Manny as if they knew him well but in fact they only knew Manny now that he is P4P king. That is why most of them always belittle Mannys achievements, "He won cause his opponents were washed-up".
Please try to know Manny well first.
I watched him on his first pro fight in the program "Blow by Blow" from then on, I followed his fights. His first loss, a KO loss to Torrecampo who is way more experienced fighter than him. He lost but never backed down.
Throughout the years he fought fighters who are way bigger, experienced, seasoned than him, yet he won.
Fighting Lebwaba, nobody knew him yet, he won in a stunning fashion. Was Ledwaba a nobody?
Against MAB, Morales, Solis, other Mexican greats? We're they washed-up fighters? Tell it to the Mexicans!
Marquez always said he won both fights yet on the first fight, a judge admitted he was wrong yet did you hear anything from manny?
JMM second fight was a close one, it could have went either way, but if you are a judge, will you give it to the counter puncher? or to the aggressive one who scored a knockdown.
Against ODLH, well, before the fight, everybody said hes too big, after the fight? He was a washed-up fighter!
Hatton? before the fight, Hatton is stronger, bigger man...After the fight? hatton is a nobody anyway, Tell it to the 10,000 brits who came to vegas!
Now, if cotto losses to Manny, what could be your excuse?
Why cant we just give Manny the credit that he deserve?

Anonymous said...

i've seen it again and and again..and again..articles like this that say oh Pacquiao cant this can't that..etc..and right after the fight they're all...speechless.

Pacquiao will beat Cotto period. As long as the great mind of Roach is with Pacquiao's skill and power they are undefeatable. Mayweather won't even stand a chance against Pac. We will all see.

i lyk pacman i hate his fans said...

overall i think its a good article. i just hate it when pacquiao fans get so emotional if and when a writer writes something with even the slightest hint of doubt on pacquiao's achievements. chill out people. we all know he's great. people have the right to their own opinions. as for me, i can't wait to see this fight. this is what boxing fight are supposed to be.

Anonymous said...

OK the Major titles are WBO,WBA,WBC,IBF lets look if pac is overhpe as some Cotto fans are saying. Lets compare Cotto's last 10 opponents to Pac's last 10. Cotto fought 5 fighters with no major titles(Clottey,Jennings,Gomez,Urkal,Branco)3 fighters with 1 major division title (Margarito,Quintana,Malignaggi)2fighters with 2 major division titles(Mosley,Judah). Now Pac fought 4 fighters with no major titles(Solis,Valazquez,3kBattery,Lucero)1 fighter with 1 major division title(Diaz) and 5 fighters with 2 or more major division titles(Hatton,Hoya,Marquez,Berrerra,Morales) Looks like pac has fought better competition hands down. So Cotto fans Pac has fought more multi division champs then Cotto STOP DISRESPECTING PAC!!!

Anonymous said...

Pac has fought 3 fighters(Marquez,Berrera,Morales) that has titles in 3 weight divisions and 1 fighter(Dela Hoya) in 6 weight divisions. What about Cotto? answer: ZERO!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Cotto has never fought a fighter with 3 or more weight divisions titles. While Pac fought 4 so Pac had fought more SUPER ELITE FIGHTERS AND DEFINITELY NOT OVERHYPE PEOPLE.If anything PAC is UNDERHYPED!!

Anonymous said...

Pac is a 6 weight division Champion stop this disrespect who else has achieved this? Cotto NOT EVEN CLOSE!! Only Dela Hoya and he destroyed him!!!

eric brun said...

There's an invisible strength inside Pacquiao now..a burning desire to lift up his countrymen's morale after drowning from devastating floods. Cotto should watch for that nasty left uppercut that will lift his feet up high.

Anonymous said...

excellent article! well said and so balance. i'm looking forward for this war. i'm a Filipino and i love Manny because he is a national symbol of bravery but i also admire Cotto. Firepower will be a box-office hit and mayweather will be put to shame.

Pacquiao Fan said...

Thanks for the information. I like It. I will watch their incoming fight this November 14, 2009.

LatinoPorVida said...

Interesting article I must say it's funny because I am just like that taxi driver hoping Cotto wins somehow yet I got a strong feeling Pacquiao will be too dam fast for Miguel.

I believe the shadows of Margarito still haunt Cotto. I believe Margarito did more damage mentally than physically to Cotto. Cotto still has the heart and power to fight on yet his mind ain't all there. I also quesiton Cotto's chin just look at his past fights against DeMarcus, Torres, Judah and even Margacheato.