Fight Prediction: Pacquiao vs Cotto

November 14, 2009 in Boxing by pacejmiller

boxingclips_pacquiao_cotto_ad

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming November 14 fight between Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto ever since it was announced in July.  However, I refrained from making an early prediction because I wanted to wait and check out how each boxer was progressing in training and whether they had any distractions that were going to cause problems when fight time rolled around.  With just a day to go, I believe it is time I throw in my 2 cents and predict a winner.  [Apologies for the length, but after all this thinking I need to have something to show for it.]

manny-pacquiao-vs-miguel-cotto2

Manny Pacquiao

The Pound-for-Pound King

Given the meteoric rise of Manny Pacquiao after his last few fights, it would have been easy to forget everything and just predict another crushing Pacquiao victory.  It’s easy for naysayers to rip into De La Hoya and Hatton after Pacquiao annihilates them, but let’s not forget Pacquiao was a massive underdog in the De La Hoya fight and though he was the the favourite against Hatton, several experts thought Ricky would rough Manny up and even knock him out.  So much for that.

We’ve seen Pacquiao at 147, when he utilised his blistering speed to perfection against the over-matched shell of Oscar De La Hoya.  We’ve also seen him at 140, when he utilised his devastating power to brutally mash up Ricky Hatton’s brain.  So how will be perform at the catch-weight of 145?  Long-time trainer Freddie Roach admitted that 140 is Pacquiao’s best weight, but as long as his speed is not affected (which it wasn’t at 147), the additional 5 pounds can only add to Pacquiao’s power and durability.  There was never any doubt that Pacquiao has the speed advantage over Cotto, but a question mark hovers over his ability to absorb punishment against a naturally bigger and stronger man arguably in his prime.  None of Pacquiao’s last 3 opponents (Hatton, De La Hoya and David Diaz) had the power and resilience that Miguel Cotto possesses, and it will be interesting to see how Pacquiao handles this test.

In his blog at Ring magazine, Oscar De La Hoya predicted a Miguel Cotto victory.  That’s a big call considering Pacquiao embarrassed De La Hoya into retirement.  But then again, this is Oscar De La Hoya, the man/promoter who spews more shit than any man on the planet.  The same De La Hoya who predicted himself to KO Pacquiao, Ricky Hatton to KO Pacquaio, Juan Manuel Marquez to beat Floyd Mayweather Jr and Chris Arreola to beat Vitali Klitschko.

Want more?  How’s this for delusion?  This is what De La Hoya wrote:

Pacquiao doesn’t hit hard enough to knock anyone out in the welterweight division. I’m basing that on my fight against Pacquiao. I could’ve stood there and put my face in front of him and he couldn’t have hurt me.

Mmm…standing still and putting his face in front of Pacquiao certainly looked like De La Hoya’s strategy that night – but if Pacquiao couldn’t hurt him, then why did Oscar quit on his stool?  Why was he cowering in the corner, hanging onto the ropes and doubling over?  And didn’t Pacquiao technically knock him out anyway? ‘Nuff said, De La Hoya is a douche.

Is Pacquiao getting sidetracked by his fame and fortune?

pacquiao

Does this look like the body of a distracted man?

Pacquiao has always been big in his home country, the Philippines, but his recent victories over big names have launched his name into the stratosphere, and he is now crossing over with mainstream fame.  Naturally, this raises the question of whether Pacquiao has changed, or if he has too much going on, or if he is allowing all this attention, money and glamour go to his head.  And if it has, will it affect his performance in the ring?

Pacquiao always has a massive, ever-growing entourage that follows him wherever he goes, so that’s nothing new.  He’s also been into politics (which threatens to end his career) for quite some time, so that shouldn’t be a distraction, even though getting calls and invites from politicans all day can mess up your schedule.  And as we’ve seen on HBO’s 24/7 series, he also appears on Filipino TV regularly, including live singing performances.  He also produces and stars in films, including the superhero movie ‘Wapakman’ in which Pacquiao plays the title character (as seen on 24/7).  By the way, did you know he has released albums in the Philippines and he has recently inked a deal to record an album in the US?

Furthermore, now he is appearing more and more frequently in mainstream media, including commercials with Kobe Bryant, his face appearing on the cover of TIME magazine and on giant billboards in San Francisco.  He’s also recently been on Jimmy Kimmel Live, a popular talk show.

With so many things happening in Manny’s life, his fans are worried that Pacquiao is not 100% focused on boxing like he should be.  And against a dangerous opponent like Miguel Cotto, that could be a fatal mistake.  Pacquiao has risen particularly quick the last couple of years, so a fall from grace could be equally devastating in the event of a loss.  Freddie Roach believes none of this stuff will affect him though, claiming that once Pacquiao gets into the gym “it’s all business”.

On the other hand, Pacquiao detractors are claiming that Manny is no longer the humble, devout Christian people saw him to be earlier in his career.  He has already reportedly admitted to cheating on his wife, and on 24/7 we saw him use profanity at his conditioning coach, not to mention disrespect trainer Freddie Roach by refusing to leave Baguio (where he commenced training).  There were also recent reports quoting Manny as saying that Floyd Mayweather Jr didn’t want to fight him (though he has more recently said he is focused solely on Cotto).  In my view, this is pointless.  Unless he has become so arrogant that he is taking Cotto lightly, whether Pacquiao is a good person or not has no effect on his performance in the ring.  It may lose him a few fans, but it’s not going to make him lose to Cotto.

Pacquiao’s disrupted training camp

Reports concerning Pacquiao’s training camp have been mixed.  Due to tax reasons, Pacquiao had to commence his training camp for Cotto in Baguio, in the Philippines, as opposed to his usual camp at the Wild Card Gym in California.  However, the horrific typhoons that hit later (which caused hundreds of deaths) forced Pacquiao to relocate to Manila.  Then, weeks later, the team finally arrived back in California to train at the Wild Card Gym, though jet lag and the time difference forced Pacquiao to sleep away an entire day.

Some people may remember that former champ Michael Moorer was supposed to be gradually taking over Roach’s reigns as the trainer gradually succumbs to Parkinson’s disease.  Indeed, Moorer featured regularly in the 24/7 series when Pacquiao fought Hatton.  However, it has been revealed that Moorer was fired because he had apparently disrespected some Filipino politicians which didn’t make Manny very happy.

Those who watched 24/7 will also be familiar with the confirmed rift inside his camp between conditioning coach Alex Ariza and advisor Michael Koncz (who seems like a complete douche).  It was reported that the two came to blows over who should be in Pacquiao’s corner on the night of the bout.  This no doubt provided a giant headache for Pacquiao and Roach.  It makes me wonder whether any of these things will have an impact come fight time.

On the other hand, despite the distractions, other reports have been overwhelmingly positive.  Some said that Pacquiao was already in fighting shape before he entered training camp, which is a frightening thought.  And the word from just about everyone is that Pacquiao continues to be a freak in training, working longer and harder than anyone else in the business.  Bob Arum, who promotes both Pacquiao and Cotto, said that while Cotto works hard, compared to Pacquiao it “looks like he’s taking a vacation”.

Just days before the fight, Freddi Roach confirmed that Pacquiao was in peak condition: “Manny told me,’I’m back’,” Roach said on one of their last days before leaving for Las Vegas.  “He’s back, no problem, at all.  Focus is there, the conditioning was never a problem.  We worked everyday.  Baguio, Manila, wherever we were.  We never missed a day of working out and running and so forth. So we got back here, his running has been really great, boxing’s been really good.  He sparred eight rounds the other day, looked really good, 100-percent.”

Regardless of what happens in this fight, both Pacquiao and Roach have said that there will be “no excuses”.  (That said, if there really weren’t any ‘distractions’, why say that?)

[Note: I have a feeling that 24/7 has really set out this time to make Pacquiao the ‘bad guy’ in this fight.  Manny’s always been the quintessential good guy, so they’ve attempted to emphasise the distractions, the rifts in the camp, suggesting that Pacquiao had allowed fame to get to his head and has not taken Cotto seriously.  On the other hand, Cotto is painted as the ‘nice family guy’ trying to rebound from a now questionable loss.  Think about it – they glossed over Cotto’s split with his uncle, who was his former trainer.  The slant was ‘it was a sad, unfortunate thing’, but little was made of the fact that Cotto essentially beat up his uncle.  And for all the gossip about Manny Pacquiao’s alleged affairs, no one seems to mention that Cotto has a daughter born out of wedlock to another woman.  And what’s the deal with the subtitles when Pacquiao speaks but none when Cotto speaks?  Both are equally hard to understand in my opinion, especially with Cotto’s mumbling.]

Miguel Cotto

The Underrated Champion

Apart from the fact that he likes to refer to himself in the third person, I really like Miguel Cotto.  He gives me the feel of a brooding warrior, a guy that is relentless and impenetrable.  Watching his fights, I can also see he is a very sound technical boxer, with underrated speed and counter-punching abilities.  He’s a natural welterweight who is bigger and stronger than Pacquiao.  He doesn’t have the explosiveness of Manny, but he has the type of thudding power that wears opponents down and breaks them physically and mentally.

And look at his record, for crying out loud.  34-1 with 27 knockouts, with the sole loss against Margocheato (the man with the loaded gloves).  His opponents have not been slouches: Lovemore N’dou, Randall Bailey, DeMarcus Corley, Oktay Urkal, Zab Judah, Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito, Joshua Clottey, just to name a few.  Plus he has handed 1st career losses to formerly undefeated fighters such as Carlos Maussa, Kelson Pinto, Ricardo Torres, Paulie Malignaggi and Carlos Quintana.  Maybe the lineup is not quite as impressive as Pacquiao’s, but how many boxers out there today can boast such a daunting record against boxers at this level?

Let’s not forget, Cotto is a natural southpaw himself who is very experienced against southpaws and fighters with tremendous speed.  He may not have looked good against all of them, but he’s ended up winning all those fights.  Now Pacquiao is on a whole other level, but Cotto is about as well equipped to handle it as any other boxer out there.

Is Cotto damaged goods?

cotto

Cotto has never trained this hard for a fight

On the other hand, a big question mark has hovered over Cotto ever since that brutal beating he suffered at the hands of Margacheato.  We all witnessed the blood pouring down his face as he cowered in the corner, taking a knee to avoid further punishment.  Some say that when a boxer takes punishment like that, they’re never the same.  Cotto has since defeated Michael Jennings and ground out a tough split decision against Joshua Clottey, but many think he has not been as impressive as he once was.  Whether there is any merit in that, I don’t know.  Cotto dominated Jennings, and Clottey was as awkward and difficult as they come.  It’s hard for anyone to look good against him.

Another issue is Cotto’s fragile skin.  He was chopped up badly against Margacheato, and he fought through a nasty cut against Clottey for a big chunk of that fight.  Against a southpaw like Pacquiao who likes to jump in, an accidental head clash is not out of the question.  Heck, Pacquiao may be able to slice him open with his fists.  Hence a technical stoppage on cuts is a real possibility.  One thing I do know for sure is that Cotto won’t quit if he suffers a cut.  He could have against Clottey but he chose to fight on, and it demonstrates the lion’s heart that he possesses.

Is Cotto’s team too inexperienced?

Cotto used to be trained by his uncle Evangelista, but had a well-publicised falling out which reportedly came to blows.  Enter Joe Santiago, a 32-year-old dude who I thought looked more like Cotto’s little cousin than his trainer.  He was reportedly Cotto’s conditioning coach, but he’s been referred to as a ‘nutritionist’.  He was actually both.

Of course, Cotto will back his trainer, but his Santiago’s inexperience is a glaring issue, especially in comparison to the well-seasoned Freddie Roach.  A direct comparison is frightening.  Santiago is 32.  He has never boxed and never trained a fighter for a bout of this magnitude.  He claims he learned the art from observing in a boxing gym in Puerto Rico for 18 years.  On the other hand, Freddie Roach is a 49-year-old, World Boxing Hall of Fame inductee, 3-time Trainer of the Year winner (2003, 2006, 2008).  He has trained boxers from Mike Tyson to Oscar De La Hoya, from Bernard Hopkins to James Toney, from Amir Khan to Mickey Rourke.  Countless world title fights.  The contrast is stark.

Santiago’s relative inexperience has been pointed out many times, particularly by Freddie Roach, who has been at his best with the mind games.  On the plus side, Santiago and Cotto are close in age and they are good friends.  He says he knows Cotto inside out, and can tell what Miguel is saying without having to say a word.  Whether that is beneficial or not I’m not sure.  Bob Arum said that in Pacquiao’s camp, it is clear that Freddie Roach in the boss.  In Cotto’s training camp, Cotto calls the shots.

One other thing that is seldom mentioned is that Cotto used to always train in Puerto Rico, and for the first time they relocated to Tampa for their training camp.  This was one of the reasons Cotto and his uncle Evangelista’s relationship soured.  I find it interesting that for all the talk about Pacquiao breaking away from tradition by training in the Philippines, not many bothered to mention that Cotto too was breaking from his usual training location.

How will the catch weight affected Cotto?

The fight is regarded as a welterweight bout (which has a limit of 147 pounds), but it will take place at a catch-weight of 145 pounds.  All the talk has been about Pacquiao having to down protein shakes just to make weight, but what about Cotto?  There have been reports that Cotto has had trouble meeting weight (which carries a Floyd Mayweather-esque penalty per pound), which may explain why his training camp commenced earlier than usual.

I think Cotto’s weight issues are being overlooked.  Cotto has not fought below 147 pounds since 2006.  If he is weight drained for the fight then he may be in for a very long night (or a very short one).  It may not be as blatantly obvious as what happened to De La Hoya, but in a pick ’em bout like this one, a couple of pounds may tip the balance.

Prediction

Miguel-Cotto-Margarito29

Okay, here we go.  To be honest even when I started writing this post a few days ago, I could not decide on who is going to win this fight.  I keep going through the various factors for and against each fighter, and it seems to balance out quite well.  Do I go with the seemingly invincible little man who appears to be in unstoppable form, albeit experiencing issues in his training camp and distractions in life, or the underrated bigger man with the size and strength to bring his opponent back down to earth but has had a question mark over him since a questionable but devastating loss?

Check out these other predictions, such as the one from Ring Magazine in which ten trainers weighed in with their opinions, or the one from ESPN, where present and former fighters put in their 2 cents.

As you can see, opinions are virtually split down the middle.  In my view, there are several variables to this fight.  If we assume both boxers have had great camps and are in peak form, then the fight will come down to who can execute the best strategy.

I think Pacquiao will respect Cotto’s power and size and utilise his speed to full advantage.  I don’t think he will try to fight Cotto toe-to-toe unless he has worn him down or if Cotto is in trouble.  Therefore I envisage Pacquiao trying to use his foot and hand speed to frustrate Cotto by going in and out of range, peppering him with rapid blows then turning him to the side, not allowing Cotto to set his feet to land the danger blows.  It’s a strategy we’ve seen Pacquiao execute against both De Le Hoya and Cotto and I think we’ll see it again here.  If Pacquiao can do that, I see him winning an unanimous decision.  However, unless he catches Cotto with a freakish shot like he did against Hatton, I don’t think we’ll see a KO.  The much bigger and stronger Margacheato just kept pounding and pounding Cotto with those (potentially) loaded gloves and it took 11 rounds to wear Cotto down.  I can’t see that happening in this fight.  The chances of the fight being stopped on cuts are much higher.

On the other side of the coin, I think Cotto will apply conventional wisdom and try to impose his size and strength on Pacquaio.  Sure, he can stay back and try to counter-punch Pacquiao like Marquez did, but I think he will try and take advantage of his strengths against the smaller man.  I believe body shots are the key.  If Cotto can load them up and hit Manny with a few of those, Pacquiao will slow.  And when he does, Cotto could seriously hurt him, especially if Pacquiao is trapped against the ropes or in the corner.  If that happens, Cotto will either knock Manny out or Freddie Roach will throw in the towel to rescue his prized fighter.

At the end of the day, both scenarios (and a whole bunch of other ones) are possible.  I believe we are in for a tremendous fight.  Both are exciting boxers who want to give fans their money’s worth.  The X-factor for me is how the fighters will respond if they find themselves in a bit of trouble, or if things are not going according to plan.  This is where I think Pacquiao has the advantage because he has the experience of Freddie Roach in his corner.  Not to take anything away from Joe Santiago, who I’m sure is a good strategist in his own right, but Freddie has the proven track record on his side. As Bob Arum said, Freddie is the boss in Pacquiao’s camp, and Manny has been following instructions very well in his last 3 fights.  Conversely, Cotto is the boss of Joe Santiago.  If their fight plan doesn’t work out as planned, will Cotto listen to the advice of Santiago or will he stick with ‘what Miguel Cotto thinks Miguel Cotto knows best’?

For that reason I still have to go with the Filipino sensation, Manny Pacquiao, by unanimous decision (with a slight chance of a TKO on cuts).