The most anticipated fight of 2009 is tomorrow: Manny Pacquiao vs. Miguel Cotto. It’s a compelling matchup between two of the most exciting fighters in the sport. Even though the odds makers are favoring Pacquiao to win the fight — some experts would say unreasonably so — there are several interesting factors that make this bout so interesting. Let’s take a look at some of them.
1) Can Pacquiao Deal with Cotto’s Power? — Manny has never dealt with a fighter as strong as Cotto. A weight drained and old Oscar De La Hoya doesn’t count. Although Cotto is short for a welterweight (147 pounds), he’s thick and strong. Compare that to Manny, who was fighting at 135 in the summer of 2008 and has had most of his success at 130. You have to figure that at some point in the fight, Miguel is going to get leather on Manny. Will he be able to deal with Cotto’s fierce body shots? What about the left hook to the head?
2) Can Cotto Deal with Pacquiao’s Speed? — It’s true that Miguel has taken on some crazy fast fighters in the past, like Zab Judah and Shane Mosley. He was able to neutralize their speed through a strong jab and smart boxing tactics. That said, the mercurial Judah is an idiot with no heart. As fantastic as Mosley is, he’s never used his speed intelligently at 147 and above. While Pacquiao isn’t the smartest fighter in the world, he excels at using his speed to get in, do some damage, and get out. If Cotto can nix Pacquiao’s speed — and that’s a huge “if” — it’s going to take several painful rounds to do it.
3) Will Joe Santiago’s Inexperience Hurt Cotto? — Cotto recently fired his longtime trainer, his uncle Evangelista Cotto. He named his nutritionist, Joe Santiago, head trainer. Pacquiao, on the other hand, has been working with the excellent Freddie Roach for years. Roach has claimed that Santiago’s inexperience is hurting Cotto, since the fighter doesn’t have anyone correcting his bad habits. Some say this is Roach engaging in gamesmanship, but I think it’s a valid point. Perhaps Santiago has been training Cotto poorly, but the bigger issue is whether Santiago can analyze the fight and help Cotto make adjustments. I’m not sure how effective he can be in that capacity.
4) Is Manny Too Distracted? — From HBO’s excellent 24/7 series, it was easy to see that Cotto’s training camp was tranquil and Pacquiao’s was chaotic. That said, I think this point is way overblown. Pacquiao always has a million things going on when he’s not in the gym. He’s a world-class athlete from a third-world country. He’s revered and adored in the Philippines — arguably more important to his country than any other athlete is to theirs. Honestly, I think HBO is just playing this angle up. The reports from the Wild Card Gym say that Manny’s looking as sharp as ever.
5) The Margarito Factor — Miguel Cotto took a vicious, vicious beating from Antonio Margarito in July 2008. A lot of people were surprised by the damage he took. When Margarito’s camp was caught trying to insert a hard, plaster-like substance into his hand wraps before his fight with Shane Mosley, the beating made more sense. Whether Cotto was being battered by plastered hands is a mystery that will never be solved, but it’s clear that a lot of punishment was absorbed. Some fighters never recover from a trouncing like that. I don’t think Cotto is the same fighter he was before the Margarito fight. Prior to that fight, I would have favored him over Pacquiao, but now…it’s tough.
Anyway, as a huge boxing fan, I’m so excited for this fight! I could easily see a Pacquiao knockout, but a Cotto decision is also a reasonable prediction. Do any of you have picks for this fight? Lay ’em out and explain why (please)!