The other man in the ring
LAS VEGAS: Miguel Cotto didn’t need to be reminded what his role is supposed to be against Manny Pacquiao.
Not after signing for half the money Pacquiao is getting paid. Not after having to agree to fight nearly a kilo under his normal weight just to get the chance to fight.
Not after spending months training for a fight, a lot of people in boxing don’t really believe he has much chance of winning.
Promoter Bob Arum took time at the final prefight press conference to remind him anyway. “Psychologically he knows it and I know it,” Arum said. “In this fight he is not the star of the show.”
No, the star of the show is boxing’s latest sensation, a mild mannered Filipino who gave Oscar De La Hoya such a beating he quit on the stool and destroyed Ricky Hatton with a single punch. Pacquiao is the face of this event, the boxer who brings the Philippines to a virtual standstill every time he steps into the ring.
But Cotto has a country behind him, too. Puerto Rico has long been a breeding ground of top fighters, and this fight is probably the most anticipated in his country since Felix Trinidad won a disputed decision over De La Hoya a decade ago.
Almost lost in the Manny mania that has made this perhaps the most anticipated fight of the year is that Cotto has some serious credentials of his own.
“I don’t want to be Manny Pacquiao,” Cotto said. “I just want to be Miguel Cotto.”
For a long time that was good enough. Cotto was a rising star himself, a relentless puncher who won two titles, knocked almost everyone in front of him out, and had no trouble selling out Madison Square Garden.
But along came Antonio Margarito and Cotto found himself on the receiving end of the kind of beating he usually handed out. He fought valiantly before finally being stopped in the 11th round of a brutal slugfest, a devastating loss tempered later only by the suspicion that Margarito had plaster inside his gloves like he did in his next fight against Shane Mosley.
“When things about Margarito came out after the fight it made me feel better about the situation,” Cotto said.
He came back to win a tuneup fight, then had to rally to beat Joshua Clottey by split decision in the Garden in June.
Pacquiao was there to watch a bloodied Cotto barely pull off a win to retain his piece of the welterweight title, and it wasn’t long before negotiations for their fight began.
Though Pacquiao is careful not to say so, his trainer, Freddie Roach, believes Cotto is not the fighter he once was. “I’ve studied the tapes of Cotto before and after the Margarito fight and he’s not the same person,” Roach said.
“It’s a good time to fight Miguel Cotto.” – Sapa-AP
MAKING A FIST OF IT: Miguel Cotto poses for the cameras.