10 questions going into the Pacquiao-Cotto fight
1. Can Pacquiao take a punch from a prime 147-pounder?
Yes, Pacquiao fought Oscar De La Hoya at welterweight. However, many observers believe that De La Hoya was both depleted and in decline; he had next to nothing on the few punches he landed. Cotto is a relatively young (29), strong, full-fledged welterweight with a high knockout percentage (77 percent). He very likely will land some hard punches unless he’s taken out early. And how Pacquiao reacts could play a central role in the fight. Remember, Pacquiao fought at 130 pounds as recently as last year. The thought of Pacquiao going down seems to be unthinkable in light of his recent success but it is possible.
2. Have Pacquaio’s recent victories been blown out of proportion?
Pacquiao has established himself as a superstar based largely on his last three fights, knockouts of David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton. However, we can find serious flaws in all three opponents: Diaz is solid but limited, De La Hoya was in decline and depleted and Hatton was probably a combination of Diaz and De La Hoya. In other words, it can be argued that Pacquiao beat three very vulnerable fighters. This is probably one reason many observers are picking Cotto to win. The only question mark hovering over him is the beating he took from Margarito. Other than that, he’s in his prime and coming off a solid victory over a tough opponent in Joshua Clottey. Bottom line: This fight will tell us much more about Pacquiao than the past three.
3. Is Cotto fully recovered from the beating he took from Antonio Margarito last year?
Some fighters never come back from a beat down like that, both physically and mentally. Cotto's situation is different from that of someone like Amir Khan, who was caught by a big punch and stopped quickly. The Puerto Rican was systematically broken down until he could no longer fight, undoubtedly leaving his body and confidence damaged. He seems to have bounced back reasonably well. He handled an overmatched opponent in Michael Jennings in his comeback fight and then outlasted Joshua Clottey in spite of a bad cut above his eye, a gutsy performance. Pacquiao is a step up from Clottey, though. It will be interesting to see how Cotto reacts when Pacquiao’s punches rain down him from all directions.
4. How will the 145-pound catch weight affect Cotto?
Cotto has pointed out that he weighed in at 146 pounds and had no trouble getting there before his split-decision victory over Clottey in June, in which he fought 12 hard rounds. He doesn’t expect one more pound to make or break him this time. He might be right; no one knows his body like he does. Then again, fighters often say that every pound they must lose – sometimes even fractions of pounds – take a toll on their energy level. And Cotto hasn’t weighed in for a fight below 146 since he was 138¾ for Paulie Malignaggi in June of 2006, more than three years ago. We probably won’t know how the catch weight will affect Cotto until the late rounds – if the fight gets there.
5. Is Cotto’s new trainer, Joe Santiago, equipped to guide him in a fight of this magnitude?
Cotto said he selected young Joe Santiago to replace his longtime coach, his uncle Evangelista, before the Clottey fight because he believes in his ability, Santiago had been with the team for some time and they communicate well. However, the fact remains Santiago went directly from Cotto’s nutritionist to his trainer. And he’s going to go head to head with one of the top trainers in the world in Freddie Roach. Rarely do you see in a fight this big with such a disparity in the corners. This isn’t to suggest that Santiago won’t do a good job on fight night. His credentials can legitimately be questioned, though.
6. Will a variety of distractions have affected Pacquiao in any way?
Pacquiao and trainer Freddie Roach say that the distractions he experienced during his one-month training camp in the Phillipines – in-fighting on his team, typhoons and moving camp from Baguio to Manila, for example – didn’t have an impact on his preparation. He ran in the rain or swam in a pool, whatever it took to get in prime fighting shape. However, Roach admitted that conditions during the five days spent in Manila were not ideal, which prompted him to move the camp back to Los Angeles a day early. One wonders whether all this set him back at all and, if so, whether three weeks is enough time for him to be 100 percent ready.
7. Will Cotto be able to cope with Pacquaio’s speed?
Cotto proved against Shane Mosley and Zab Judah that he can handle a very quick opponent. Roach has said as much. Cotto is very clever and probably a lot quicker than we give him credit for, meaning he might also be able to deal with Pacquiao’s speed. That said, Pacquiao might be quicker than both Mosley and Judah when both hand and foot speed are considered. Pacquiao’s hand speed probably rivals that of Mayweather; De La Hoya couldn’t see his punches coming let alone react to them. And his foot speed might be even more impressive, particularly when it’s combined with improving skills. He has become adept at moving in and out of harm’s way before his opponent even has a chance to react. This could prove to be the difference in the fight.
8. Will the cut Cotto suffered against Clottey resurface?
Cotto was cut badly above his left eye by an accidental head butt against Clottey and he fought that way for eight-plus rounds. Santiago said on a conference call a few weeks ago that the cut had healed well and played no role in training camp. He credited two plastic surgeons on hand the night of the fight. However, we know that fighters who have been cut badly are more likely to be cut badly again, particularly as they get older. It’s not difficult to imagine Pacquiao peppering the eye with his right jab until it opens again. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen. And if it does, at least Cotto has proved that he’ll fight under those circumstances.
9. What if Pacquiao loses?
The landscape of boxing would change to a good degree if Cotto beats Pacquiao. Now, Pacquiao is the hottest thing going in the world. He’s a charismatic, exciting fighter who has destroyed his recent opponents and seems to be getting better with age. And he hasn’t lost since Erik Morales outpointed him in 2005. If he loses, he comes back to earth to join the rest of the mortals. The superfight everyone is talking about – Pacquiao-Mayweather – would go out the window and promoter Bob Arum would have to go back to the drawing board to determine how best to move forward. Of course, how he loses would affect the impact. If he’s blown out, that hurts. If he loses a close, entertaining fight, the damage wouldn’t be so bad. Perhaps a rematch would be bigger than the first fight.
10. What if Cotto wins?
Cotto would be a far bigger star than he ever was if he upsets Pacquiao, particularly among his Puerto Rican brethren. He might never be as big as Wilfredo Gomez and Felix Trinidad on the island but a victory over the top pound-for-pound fighter would undoubtedly make him an idol. And he would be in a tremendous position in terms of earning power and leverage. He could either fight Pacquiao again for the most money he’s ever made or take on Mayweather himself for a similar payday. Another option would be a rematch with Shane Mosley. Whichever direction he went, he’d make huge money in front of a huge audience. That’s what fighters dream of when they take up the sport.