Sunday, November 15, 2009


Pacquiao Punished Cotto and get the Seventh Title

LAS VEGAS — When it ended, Manny Pacquiao had won his seventh title in seven weight divisions, a first in boxing history. Miguel Cotto exited with white shorts long stained red. His wife and son had left three rounds earlier, so bloody was the beating.

Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, right, lands a right to the head of Miguel Cotto, of Puerto Rico, during their WBO welterweight boxing title fight on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Pacquiao won this anticipated fight by technical knockout, after the fight was stopped in the 12th and final round at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. The fight easily could have stopped — some would say it should have stopped —earlier.

The brutal beatdown of Cotto continued Pacquiao’s progression, adding to a résumé that must now be weighed against the best in boxing history. Potentially, this could set up the boxing match everyone wants to see: Pacquiao against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

By the third round, Cotto (34-2) had been knocked down, his nose bloodied, his corner quieted. Here was Pacquiao (50-3-2), the savage, speedy southpaw, deconstructing yet another formidable opponent.

Cotto kept smacking Pacquiao in the thighs, trying to slow him down. It proved futile. In the fourth round, Pacquiao landed a powerful left hand — half uppercut, half hook — and Cotto’s face went backward, twisted in a grimace, as he fell to the canvas once again.

In the sixth round, Pacquiao busted Cotto’s bottom lip open, then took a shot from Cotto as the round ended. But Pacquiao sauntered back to his corner, a smile stretched wide across his face.

As the fight wore on, Cotto’s left eye kept swelling, until it looked like a golf ball was attached. Pacquiao landed punches with both hands, jabs, hooks, upper cuts, a punishing variety.

Cotto never quit, but he made a habit of dancing backward. In the ninth round, Pacquiao backed his opponent into the ropes, again and again, until he had rendered Cotto’s face a bloody mess.

The fight presented a classic contrast in styles. Could the larger, more powerful Cotto pound Pacquiao into submission? Could the fastest southpaw on the planet overwhelm Cotto with flurries by fist?

Both fighters came from poverty, won at young ages, captured the imagination of their countries in the process. Pacquiao entered this fight as the star of the show, but it was Cotto who was the World Boxing Organization welterweight champion.

Pacquiao kept moving up in weight, kept beating favored fighters, winning as easily at 112 pounds as at 140. He earned six titles in six weight divisions, forced Oscar De La Hoya into retirement, knocked out Ricky Hatton with a savage blow rarely delivered by a man his size.

Along the way, Pacquiao collected belts, from lightweight to junior welterweight and every belt in between. He entered Henry Armstrong territory, earning comparisons to the boxer who won three titles in 10 months in 1937 when there were only eight divisions.

Pacquiao was more than just a boxer. He became an international superstar, a singer with albums that twice went platinum, an actor with so much money he made his own movies.

As this fight, the toughest of his career, crept closer, celebrities picked Pacquiao to win. Everyone from Hillary Clinton to Sylvester Stallone — Rocky himself — predicted victory.

Proof of Pacquiao’s own confidence came from the concert he scheduled at Mandalay Bay, a full eight songs to be sung fewer than two hours after the fight concluded.

But Cotto was no ordinary opponent, not at first glance anyway. His only loss in the 35 fights came against Antonio Margarito, an opponent later caught with doctored gloves, who beat Cotto so badly in this ring that Cotto was bleeding from his mouth, eye and ears.

After that fight, Cotto covered his body in tattoos and claimed he had moved on. But the question lingered: Had Margarito permanently softened Cotto?

Freddie Roach, who counts Pacquiao as the 24th world champion he has trained, sure thought so. When Roach prepares Pacquiao to fight, he looks for the habits of opponents, not their weaknesses. Weaknesses can be fixed, Roach reasoned, but habits will remain.

He knew Pacquiao would be giving away at least 10 pounds by fight time, giving away an inch and a half in height and two inches in weight. But when Roach watched Cotto, who had the inexperienced trainer Joe Santiago in his corner, he saw fundamental weaknesses, and he devised a plan for Pacquiao to pound Cotto’s body.

Santiago worked only his second fight as Cotto’s lead trainer Saturday, but all week he had pointed to his 18 years spent learning inside boxing gyms in Puerto Rico as reason to believe. On Friday, at a weigh-in hosted by the actor Jeremy Piven, Santiago marched right up to Roach, noted that Cotto had made the 145-pound weight stipulated in his contract, then called Roach a word that essentially means jerk.

Roach, the only man awarded trainer of the year three times, kept talking. He said that if Pacquiao hurt Cotto early, he would knock the Puerto Rican out. He said that Pacquiao would not lose a single round.

Some boxing writers at ring side said they believed Pacquiao lost the first round. But Pacquiao started landing in the second round, and when Cotto returned to his corner, he did so with a bloody nose.