Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pacquiao's Star Shines Brighter Than Ever

The magnificent Manny Pacquiao celebrates after stopping Miguel Cotto in the 12th and final round of their welterweight championship bout.

LAS VEGAS – In a night that saw big Hollywood stars from Mickey Rourke to Mark Wahlberg to Will Ferrell turn out for one of the most anticipated fights of the decade - it was Manny Pacquiao's star that shone brightest of all.

In a brilliant display of speed, precision punching, movement and determination, Pacquiao scored another in a long line of big wins with a 12th round stoppage of WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto. The end came at 55 seconds of the final round before a sell-out crowd of over 16,000 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Referee Kenny Bayless stepped in to halt the the bout and save Cotto from further punishment. At the time of the stoppage, Pacquiao was ahead on the three official scorecards by 109-99, 108-99 and 108-100.

CompuBox had Pacquiao ahead in punches thrown 780 to 597 and punches landed 335 to 172. In the most telling statistic, Pacquiao landed 49% of his power punches to 31% for Cotto.

Cotto's only bright spot was in the first round, but after that it was all Manny Pacquiao. The Filipino spitfire dominated from the second round on and although he was hit with some solid punches by Cotto, there was never a point in the fight that Pacquiao appeared to be in any sort of danger.

Cotto was down in the third and fourth rounds of the fight and as the bout progressed he was gradually broken down. By the end of the fight he was swollen, bleeding from cuts around the eyes and he was spitting blood. Cotto was clearly attempting to survive as he backed and moved away. As the fight wore on, he often refused to engage Pacquiao in meaningful exchanges.

Pacquiao used speed, quickness and a potent right hand to usurp Cotto's WBO welterweight title.

By all accounts, the fight will be a financial blockbuster. A standing-room only crowd roared in approval for both fighters and it is estimated the fight will exceed 1 million pay-per-view buys.

“There was approximately 18,000 closed-circuit sales in Las Vegas,” said promoter Bob Arum. “Pay-per-view tracking is extremely, extremely strong. We'll have to wait until Tuesday to get an accurate number.”

Cotto was never really in the fight and he landed only sporadically. It was Pacquiao who was more consistent, busier and who came ahead for most of the bout. Pacquiao fired right jabs from his southpaw stance and mixed in uppercuts and hooks to keep Cotto on the defensive.

While Pacquiao was marked slightly after the fight, Cotto was taken to University Medical Center for a complete body scan. The Nevada State Athletic Commission erred on the side of caution in demanding that he be fully checked out before being given the all clear.

Pacquiao, who improves to 50-3-2, 38 KOs and adds the WBO welterweight title to his list of championships said, “I was looking for a knockout shot.”

In a statement released by Lee Samuels and Ricardo Jimenez of Top Rank, Cotto, who drops to 34-2, 27 KOs said: “I'm cut, I'm swollen, but that's what I'm supposed to do. I did my best. I fought the best fighter I have ever fought. I hope the fans enjoyed a great fight.”

Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach, who was outspoken for his man in the weeks and months leading up to the fight said, “I thought we had to break him down, which we did. I was worried. He fought a great fight. But Manny was fighting very smart and once he started getting into his rhythm it was no problem.”

Prior to the fight, Cotto was thought to be the stronger man. But it was Pacquiao that bullied Cotto to the ropes and punished him.

Bob Arum and HBO sports television network chief Ross Greenburg indicated that negotiations will begin immediately for a 2010 bout between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. In fact, both men expected that very scenario to play out in the coming days and weeks.

What is clear is that after this win, Manny Pacquiao should be cemented as the pound-for-pound best fighter in the sport. Without question - in any potential negotiations in a fight with Mayweather – it is Pacquiao that will have the upper hand in the talks.

“It all depends what we can get Mayweather for,” said Arum.

What has now become crystal clear is that Pacquiao is far and away the most exciting fighter in the sport – and perhaps the most exciting athlete in all of sports.

“It was amazing and I can't believe it,” said Pacquiao of his win.

Pacquiao was delayed in making it to the post-fight press conference because he had to have his right ear drained of blood. He had a large bandage wrapped around his ear.

“Another great night,” said Roach. “After the first couple of rounds he had me worried because he wasn't sticking to the game plan. But after that he settled down and you all saw what happened.”

Indeed we did.

November 2009

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