MANILA, Philippines - Former two-time WBC lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo is convinced there’s nobody out there within weight range capable of beating Manny Pacquiao and that includes Floyd Mayweather Jr. whom the Mexican has faced twice.
It goes without saying that Castillo, now working as Pacquiao’s sparmate, is sure the Filipino icon will dispose of Miguel Cotto when they meet at a catchweight limit of 145 pounds for the WBO welterweight title at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Nov. 14.
Trainer Freddie Roach shared Castillo’s remarks the other day as he assessed the 35-year-old warrior’s performance in two sparring sessions in Baguio City so far. Castillo flew in from Los Angeles via Hermosillo, Mexico, with another sparmate Danny Escobar and arrived in Baguio City in former Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson’s private plane last Sunday.
Castillo’s style resembles Cotto’s and that’s why he was brought in to spar with Pacquiao. He turned pro in 1990 and won his first 18 outings, 13 inside three rounds. In 2000, Castillo wrested the WBC lightweight crown from Stevie Johnston on points then lost it in his fourth defense to Mayweather in a close encounter in April 2002. Castillo was decisioned by Mayweather in a rematch eight months later but regained the vacant WBC title on a 12-round verdict over Juan Lazcano in 2004. Castillo then repulsed challengers Joel Casamayor and Julio Diaz before yielding the throne to Diego Corrales in 2005. He knocked out Corrales in a rematch but was prevented from claiming the WBC belt because he weighed in 3 1/2 pounds over the limit.
Now a welterweight, Castillo has won four in a row, knocking out James Wayka, Roberto Valenzuela, Christian Solano and Carlos Urias and is hoping for another world title crack.
At first, Roach was unsure of what Castillo could bring to the table as a sparmate. But now, he likes what he sees in the rugged Mexican gladiator.
“He’s a genuinely nice guy,” said Roach. “He’s probably doing 70 percent of what he can do. But he’s adjusting and getting more comfortable. He’s looking for a comeback to the big time. I’m willing to help him although I don’t know if I’ll be in his corner for his next fight.”
Roach said Castillo has asked if they could work together in the gym.
“I told him to show up about an hour early before Manny comes to the gym and I could help him out,” said Roach. “That’s no problem for me.”
Roach said while he likes Castillo, he can’t be sure if he’ll draft the Mexican as a sparmate for Pacquiao’s next fight.
“It really depends on whom Manny fights next because I’ll want sparmates who resembles the style of his next opponent,” said Roach. “If it’s Mayweather, I don’t know if Castillo will fit in. But he might. Castillo has fought Mayweather twice so he knows his style and tendencies well. Castillo thinks Manny will beat the heck out of Mayweather because he hits harder and he’s a lot quicker.”
What has impressed Castillo is the uncompromising work ethic in Pacquiao’s training camp.
“Castillo was Julio Cesar Chavez’ long-time sparring partner and it felt good when he told me he’s never been with a team in camp that works harder than us,” said Roach. “That’s saying a lot because Castillo has a lot of experience behind him.”
Roach said it wasn’t difficult to lure Castillo to Baguio City.
“No, it wasn’t hard to get him,” said Roach. “He wanted the opportunity to work with Manny. Everybody does. He’s amazed at how hard we work in the gym, how hard Manny works.”
Roach said Pacquiao’s sparring partners are top-quality. Aside from Castillo, Pacquiao spars with unbeaten junior middleweight Shawn Porter. Escobar is on standby. Another sparmate Urbano Antillon of Mexico was scheduled to fly back to Los Angeles yesterday. When Pacquiao reports for work at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, Roach will likely recruit fresh sparmates including British world champion Amir Khan.
Porter, 21, was the US Golden Gloves champion in 2007 and fought over 200 amateur bouts. His pro record is 10-0 with eight KOs. Escobar, 20, is unbeaten in three bouts, all won by knockout in the first round.
In contrast, Cotto has been feasting on inferior sparring partners. He kicked out Francisco (El Gato) Figueroa after a week of sparring and has kept 37-year-old Fred Tukes and 25-year-old Kenny Abril. Figuero, 31, is coming off a knockout loss to Randall Bailey last April. Tukes has a 7-1-1 record, with five KOs, and is unbeaten in his last seven assignments but his age seems to be a liability. Abril has a 9-3-1 mark, with five KOs, and has won his last five. Figueroa, Tukes and Abril are, of course, all southpaws like Pacquiao.
Cotto will have completed 12 weeks of training when he climbs the ring to face Pacquiao. He began his camp in Puerto Rico and is now in Tampa, Florida. A legitimate welterweight, Cotto will trim down to 145 pounds to make the catchweight limit and may be burned out if he overtrains or is unable to naturally bring his weight down.