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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Making Sense of the Pacquiao Rumors

So many rumors out there in Fistiana, so much hype, and all of it surrounding the next move for ol' Mighty Manny Pacquiao, the Ferocious Filipino. Pacquiao vs. Cotto? Pacquiao vs Mayweather? Pacquiao vs. Mosley? Let’s sift through the various gases floating around the sweet science hothouse right now and see if we can make some sense of it all.
Pacquiao vs. Cotto

Bob Arum, the promoter of both Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto, says he has a deal in place for this fight and that he likely will have it signed by the end of the week. Of course, Arum has been pushing this matchup on the world since the moment Ricky Hatton’s head hit the canvas on May 2, so who the hell knows? Cotto came out today and told Primera Hora that fighting Pacquiao would be "the biggest fight and greatest achievement of my career", so clearly some kind of deal is on the table. All along, Cotto has seemed to me like the wrong fight for Pac Man (and vice versa), and I felt certain that in the end his name would turn out to be nothing but a bargaining chip used to haggle with Captain Money Mayweather for the terms of the mega-fight on everybody’s mind. If that’s still true, however, one has to admit that Arum is taking the ruse pretty far.

Manny Steward?

The rumor has been around for a while now that Hall-of-Fame trainer Manny Steward is interested in training Cotto, and that rumor really has heated up in the past few days. Evidently, Steward contacted Arum about Cotto recently, and Arum told him to talk to Cotto’s team directly and gave him the appropriate phone numbers. Cotto addressed the situation today by saying that he is very happy with his team, but that he is willing to consider Steward’s offer.

Leaving aside for a moment the question of Cotto’s "team" (to my eyes, they looked about as tight for the Clottey fight as did Mike Tyson’s corner when he fought Buster Douglas), here’s my question about this development: Would Steward want to train Cotto if he’s NOT getting the Pacquiao fight? There’s a strong possibility that if the Cotto/Pacquiao fight doesn’t go off, then Cotto’s next fight will be a welterweight unifier with WBC belt-holder Andre Berto. I don’t know, and maybe I’m wrong about this, but I somehow doubt that Manny Steward, possibly THE premier trainer in the sport, is calling up Bob Arum because he’s dying to train Cotto for a Berto fight. Not that this means anything necessarily, other than that it gives me the sense that among the insiders working the strings of this puppet show, Manny Steward at least is thinking that Cotto is next in line for Pacquiao.

The Machinations of Lil Floyd

Is there anyone out there in Boxing Land who believes that Floyd Mayweather actually has a rib injury that forced the postponement of his fight with Juan Manuel Marquez originally scheduled for July 18? I haven’t talked to a single person about this who simply says, "yeah, he’s injured, that’s the whole story." Everybody has an angle on what’s going down, and every angle leads to one essential conclusion – that Floyd wasn’t happy with how the promotion was going for Marquez and pulled out for fear that he was about to take a bath at the box office. All week, while the Pacquiao/Cotto talk has dominated the media (via Arum’s never-ending quote machine), there have been whispers behind the scenes that Pacquiao is still dead-set on fighting Floyd, and that what’s really going on right now is that the powers-that-be are working to free Floyd from his Marquez contract so that he and not Cotto can serve as Pacquiao’s opponent on November 14. Granted, this would be one hell of a blockbuster announcement, and though it might seem far-fetched, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. The main thing that makes it a possibility to my mind is the sudden appearance of Floyd’s "injury." Floyd doesn’t get injured. Something is definitely up with that.

The Golden Boy Takes Up Mosley’s Cause

Oscar De La Hoya stepped up to the mic this week for his Golden Boy partner, Shane Mosley, in Sugar Shane’s ongoing and seemingly quixotic quest to land himself the next Pacquiao assignment. De La Hoya reached out to boxing writers personally, including ESPN’s Dan Rafael, to make the case that while Cotto is deserving of respect, Mosley is most deserving of the next fight with Pacquiao because "Shane is the top guy at welterweight."

Of course, that assertion is debatable. Yes, Shane beat Margarito in January, who in turn beat Cotto last July. But if you go look back a little in the current welterweight round-robin, you find that Cotto beat Mosley by disputed but unanimous decision when they fought in November of 2007. Which muddies the picture considerably, and reduces Mosley’s claim to its essence – he wants the fight because he wants the fight, plain and simple. Fair enough, but it seems almost certain that he’s out of luck. The best shot that Sugar Shane has at a big make in the next year is if Cotto gets the Pacquiao fight in November and wins it. Then I think it would be very likely that there would be a unanimous call from pundits and fans alike for Cotto/Mosley II.

The Wrap

For now, let’s face the facts – Pacquiao doesn’t give a crap who the top welterweight is. He wants the biggest fight with the least amount of danger, title-belts and weight classes be damned. Mosley doesn’t satisfy either of those requirements, so he’s out of the sweepstakes. Freddie Roach, Pacquiao‘s trainer, has said to my face that Mosley is without question the most dangerous possible opponent for Manny. Mosley has a very good claim on being the physically strongest guy currently fighting at 147, and he proved it in January by pushing Tony Margarito (a gigantic welterweight) around the ring like a rag doll. In my estimation, Roach is wary of Pacquiao fighting either Mosley or Cotto because of their size, but in a lesser-of-two-bruisers decision, he’d take Cotto in a heartbeat. That’s why we very well may see that fight announced in the next few days.

But I still can’t help but wonder about Floyd. On the “most money, least danger” front, Floyd wins hands down. Even if Floyd beats you, he’s not going to hurt you, not a fighter like Pacquiao anyway. And after watching Miguel Cotto walk through fire to earn a split decision over a monster like Josh Clottey this past Saturday, I’m thinking Cotto might seriously hurt Pacquiao, even if Pacquaio manages to beat him. In the end, I suspect that this whole mess is coming down to one question: Can Floyd free himself of his contract to fight Marquez? That can’t be a difficult question to answer, but I’m guessing we’ll know the answer within a week or so. If I was a betting man (and I am), despite all of the public pronouncements about the state of the Pacquiao/Cotto negotiations, I’d still put my money on them making the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight and leaving Cotto and Marquez out in the cold. Follow the money, as they say, and the money in this thing still points to the man called Money.

Source: sportingnews.com

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