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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pacman-Cotto fight just what boxing needs

LONDON - Anyone who still loves boxing probably still is wincing at the description of the puffed up cruiserweight and new world heavyweight champion David Haye's defeat of lumbering Russian giant Nikolai Valuev in Nuremburg last weekend as both a masterclass of defensive fighting and the redemption of the whole abused business.

However, at least there is an almost instantly available antidote in Las Vegas on Saturday night to the onset of physical nausea. Not only is Miguel Cotto-Manny Pacquiao the real thing, real fighting that is, it also is potentially a stupendous example of what happens when exceptional talent is given a proper test.

Some fight people even believe the contest for Cotto's WBO welterweight title just might make it into the kind of terrain occupied by Marvin Hagler and Tommy Hearns at Caesars Palace 24 years ago. This is perhaps saying too much. When Hagler finally overwhelmed Hearns in the third round of the most astonishing action, the late Budd (On the Waterfront) Schulberg at ringside shivered and said: "I never expected ever to see anything so intense outside of war."

Yet when promoter Bob Arum projects Saturday's fight into such company an old quote of his does not automatically spring to mind. Arum once was challenged on a statement because it was in sharp contradiction of something he had said the day before. "I was lying yesterday," he shrugged.

Now he declares: "The way Manny and Miguel are talking about it, it could be like the three-round Hagler-Hearns war. The conventional wisdom is that Cotto is best when he is aggressive but I don't know if he feels he can be aggressive with this guy from the get-go. If he is aggressive enough, though, sure, it could be Hagler-Hearns all over again."

The fact is that history settles lightly over the MGM Garden Arena ring on the weekend because The Pacman against anyone decent is the nearest thing we are probably going to get to a guarantee of authentic fighting.


It also happens that his 29-year-old Puerto Rican opponent Cotto is rather more than decent. Indeed, he is currently rated in the pound-for-pound league behind only Pacquiao and, talking of masterclass defensive performers, Floyd Mayweather Junior. Cotto, strong and sleekly aggressive, has just one defeat to his name and it is one that became surrounded by question marks after his conqueror Antonio Margarito was found to have illegal fist wrappings in his next contest.

Certainly Cotto insists that he is something more than a stepping stone to the fight that already has boxing aficionados counting the days: Pacquiao versus Mayweather.

Cotto declares: "I'm prepared for the speed of Manny. My hand speed is pretty equal to his. But is Manny's speed equal to the power of Miguel on Saturday night? You know, I'm very calm. Yes, Manny is a special fighter but I've been doing this for many years and know how well I can fight. He may be looking down the road but I'm just focusing on this fight. He can fight whoever he chooses when I've beaten him."

Cotto is the naturally bigger man. He last fought at welterweight while Pacquiao was a division lower when eviscerating Britain's Ricky Hatton last spring.

The Filipino is the fighter's fighter, the most searing example of the benefits of beautiful timing and the will to exploit it at any point. His experienced coach Freddy Roach says that his man is unique, a force of nature as much as a superbly programmed pugilist. It is an opinion endorsed by an adoring public, thousands of whom gathered at his hotel entrance when he arrived in Vegas last week. There is much affection too, most ferociously expressed in his homeland where each year it is estimated he hands over more than a million dollars in cash and food to the poor who regularly arrive outside his house.

Pacquiao says it is a straight forward way of giving thanks for his good fortune to be such an accomplished fighting man. Roach frequently is required to clear away Pacman fans from his gym in Los Angles.

"Sometimes it is impossible," the trainer said. "You just can't get the work done. The trouble is, Manny just loves to be loved."

The fighter says: "If I could, I would fight every day of my life and if I can help as well, well that is a gift to me also.

"Cotto is a good fighter, I respect him but I believe I can do the job."

It is unlikely to be accomplished quite as quickly as it was against Hatton who fell, beyond any hope of recovery, near the end of the second round.

The suspicion here, though, is that it will indeed be finished some considerable time before the end of the 12th.

Assistant trainer, and former world heavyweight champion, Michael Moorer draws the same conviction from the look in Pacquiao's eyes which announces that he has entered his zone of absolute concentration.

"I know it when I see it," he said. "A look, a light comes into his eyes which I think you could only understand if you have worked long and hard for a fight. His eyes shine in a way that says: 'This is my time, I can doanything I want.'

"You do not see it often but I see it when I look at Manny. He is a fighter so far out of the ordinary that I find it difficult to give any other fighter any kind of chance. He is surely one of the greatest we have seen."

Miguel Cotto no doubt will dispute the theory with much nerve and formidable fighting gifts. It is possible, though, to see only one winner and it is Pacquiao around the fifth round. He will win both for himself and the spirit of boxing, which on this occasion at least is the shortest priced favourite of all.

Source: torontosun.com

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