ON November 14, 2009 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto met in a welterweight superfight. The Puerto Rican’s WBO welterweight title was on the line as Pacquiao – who began his professional career as a wiry flyweight – was aiming for a major title in a seventh weight class.
“HIS weaknesses are obvious to me,” said Cotto. “He lost to Erik Morales in their first fight, had a draw with Juan Manuel Marquez and then a razor-thin victory in the rematch. Pacquiao faced a very tired and aged Oscar De La Hoya. Then Ricky Hatton, an overrated fighter. Against me the story will be different. It will be war.”
COTTO retained that unerring determination from the moment the fight was signed, right up until the fight was over. He promised to win, “For the glory of Puerto Rico.”
PACQUIAO’S trainer, Freddie Roach, was extremely confident too. He offered (an unclaimed) bounty of $1,000 to any sparring partner who could drop Manny such was his desire to see his growing charge tested to the max in the build-up. “[At the start] I picked him [Pacquiao] to win by decision but the way he’s punching, his speed, we will knock this guy out. We will bust him up a little bit. We’re going to have a fast start and we’re not going to give Cotto any momentum.”
PROMOTER Bob Arum played the host’s card, and welcomed both fighters to the party. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen and I can see the fight going a lot of different ways and that’s why it’s going to be such a great fight.”
CERTAINLY, even before what arguably remains the most impressive performance of his career, Manny Pacquiao was the man of the moment. His face was everywhere in the USA. On billboards, on buses, live on the Jimmy Kimmel show and Time Magazine had to reproduce another 50,000 copies of their magazine that had Manny on the cover to cope with demand.
PACQUIAO, typically, grinned and giggled as he made his way into the ring. Cotto, meanwhile, was pure predator. His focus could be seen in the opening round, too, as he jabbed, and double jabbed. He moved intelligently and swiped accurately at every opening. 1-0, Cotto.
BUT the Filipino was preparing to take over. Cotto was brilliant in the early rounds, but Pacquiao was even better. In the third round, Cotto touched down from a powerful left. His body resisted the fall but his glove touched the canvas and a count was issued. The Puerto Rican fired back with expert punches, stinging Pacquiao, but the ferocity of the smaller man would not be denied.
AT the end of a glorious fourth, Cotto walked straight onto a savage left uppercut. It was testament to his fitness and guts that he survived the round but he was never the same again. His steep descent quickened, and it would be a brutal fall.
PACQUIAO administered a steady beating, rearranging Cotto’s face as he went. The warrior within Miguel made a fight of it until the eighth, and then it was all about survival. There were calls to stop it as blood gushed from his features but the Puerto Rican’s head trainer, Joe Santiago, adhered to his fighter’s pre-fight wishes and allowed the fight to continue. Eventually, and thankfully, the bout was stopped by the referee in the final round.
AFTER his success, jolly little Manny headed over to the Mandalay Bay Events Center and performed an eight-song concert. Some of the tracks he belted out were La Bamba and Sometimes When We Touch.