Miguel Cotto defends his WBO welterweight title tonight against challenger Manny Pacquiao in a hotly anticipated clash at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, NV.
Pacquiao, 49-3-2 (37), comes into the bout riding a four year, 10 bout win streak at super feather, lightweight and light welter with the most recent victory coming against Ricky Hatton for the IBO 140 lb crown in May.
Cotto, 34-1 (27), a former WBO light welter and WBA welter champ, has bounced back from his sole career defeat to Antonio Margarito last year to win the vacant WBO welter crown against Michael Jennings and then defend in a difficult contest against Joshua Clottey in June.
If Cotto is to win this clash he will have to come into the ring as a fundamentally different fighter than he has shown himself to be in the past, and that is not likely to happen.
The difference between the two combatants in this bout will be Pacquiao’s movement and ring generalship, backed up with his incredible stamina and power in both hands.
Cotto’s fundamentals as a fighter are strong, however, he needs to be set to order to punch and when forced on the back foot he is vulnerable. He comes to opponents in a straight line, bobbing and weaving, and against a constantly moving target such as Pacquiao, the Puerto Rican star could be exposed the same way Oscar De la Hoya was in his fight against "Pac Man".
I don’t believe De la Hoya came into his bout against Pacquiao so much weakened and drained as it was made to be in the media. De la Hoya simply could not find the ever darting Paquiao, instead he was catching shadows, while being cut to pieces by speed, movement and power.
And, I don’t see any other outcome in this fight against Cotto, unless Pacquiao chooses to fight inside and on the ropes, abandoning his movement. Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach is too smart and knowledgeable to allow that into his charge's fight plan.
Just note that against Floyd Mayweather, De la Hoya was only effective when Mayweather was on ropes, so the same logic applies here; the more that Pacquiao avoids the ropes, the harder it will be for Cotto to find him.
One of boxing's clichés is that everything is set up by the jab. A boxer's jab is only effective as the opening punch if it is preceded by proper movement and positioning.
Jabbing from far out doesn’t mean a thing, while jabbing from the inside can be taken away, but if your opponent’s movement is quicker and more unpredictable than yours, than any punch that comes at you will be so much harder to counter and defend against.
Manny Pacquiao can throw any punch from any movement and from any direction, delivered by both hands. And they come loaded. And that was De la Hoya’s problem that cost him a fight, and same outcome awaits Miguel Cotto.
Could Cotto’s aggression be a factor? Only if it is effective aggression, otherwise Cotto will be discarded just like Ricky Hatton was in his fight against Pacquiao.
In Mayweather’s fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, size and power played a role but what really made a difference was Mayweather's movement, speed and defensive prowess.
But Cotto isn't Mayweather. Miguel's body punching will not be effective against an unorthodox, speedy fighter who commands centre of the ring and comes darting in and out.
So, when I say Cotto must show up tonight as a fundamentally different fighter, I mean that he must come with improved speed, mobility and movement as well as putting his size advantage to good use behind effective aggression and power.
Only then he can equal the playing field and put himself in position of winning. The problem is, those fundamentals are either part of your boxing fiber or they are not. It is certainly not something you pick up in training camp before the fight.
Therefore, my prediction is either a clear decision win for Pacquiao or a Hatton-type KO loss for Cotto when he gets frustrated, opens up and start to trade.
Good luck to both fighters and may the better man win.