Manny Pacquiao five greatest moments

Ronnie McCluskey on Manny Pacquiao's finest fights

Miguel Cotto (2009)

11 years after winning his first world title, Pacquiao signed to face two-weight champion Miguel Cotto. Outside of the Mayweather clash, it is still the most-watched fight in the Pacquiao canon – and for good reason. Their styles were always destined to gel: Cotto the powerhouse body puncher with smooth boxing skills and a warrior’s mentality; Pacquiao the redoubtable Action Man, swinging for the fences from the opening bell. Something had to give.

If the KO over Hatton had persuaded fans that Pacquiao had a shot against Floyd, the manner of his win over Cotto convinced many he would actually win.

That night in Vegas, the little Filipino cut another future Hall of Famer to ribbons with an exhaustive, all-angles assault, bludgeoning the durable all-rounder from pillar to post and drawing ever more members into the growing Cult of Manny. Of course, it wasn’t plain sailing from the start.

Two-weight champ Cotto came out full of purpose, dictating with the left jab. By contrast Manny was lunging in and getting countered. In the second Pac’s own famous left started to land in earnest but Cotto – who must have reckoned that his size and strength would tell as the bout progressed – appeared untroubled, landing a meaty left hook at one point, drawing loud cheers from the crowd. The third was the round in which the fight caught flame, Manny winning the gunfight by knocking Cotto to the deck with a deceptively powerful right hook. Amazingly Miguel recuperated and stunned Pac with both a well-torqued left hook and defiant uppercut soon after. This was war, no mistake. Cotto wore the same intensely focused expression as he’d worn in the Margarito dogfight a year earlier.

In the fourth he had to call upon that admirable tenacity once more as Pacquiao’s fluid left put him down for the second time. From then on the proud Puerto Rican, like David Diaz and so many others before him, could do no more than postpone the inevitable. Despite his considerable gifts – despite his experience and power and calculus – he could proffer no answers to the Pacquiao Puzzle.

Manny moved quickly through the gears, shrugging off Cotto’s increasingly ineffective jabs, his fearless and swarming attacks leaving the crowd in no doubt that they were watching an artist paint his most ambitious canvas to date. The paint was blood-red and splattered over Cotto’s face; his family sensibly vacated their ringside seats after a savage ninth. Their man lasted until the 12th, a mark of his machismo, but Bayless had seen enough and mercifully waves it off before the toll of the final bell. Pacquiao, wearing a broad grin, might have been good for another ten rounds. Has he ever looked better?


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