Friday, October 2, 2009

Cotto out for respect

SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin Henson
Source: The Philippine Star

Boxing Monthly writer Glyn Leach has an interesting theory in his analysis of WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto’s title defense against No. 1 contender Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 14 in Las Vegas.

According to Leach, Cotto has been disrespected as a defending champion in the negotiations for the scheduled 12-round bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

First, he was ordered to stake his crown even if in a quote published in the Puerto Rican newspaper “El Nuevo Dia” last July 31, the titlist said, “the belt is not going to be on the line in this fight – (that’s) final and firm.” Cotto had to eat his words after Top Rank chairman Bob Arum gave in to a widespread clamor from fans and media to make it a championship bout.

Without the title on the line, Pacquiao wouldn’t get the chance to become the first fighter ever to win seven championships in different divisions. So Arum’s decision was a concession to Pacquiao. Cotto’s previous declaration was ignored.

“We don’t need the fight if the title is not on the line,” said Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach. “I want Manny to do this for a reason. I want Manny to win seven world titles. Titles are overrated but I would like to see Manny do this.”

Second, Cotto agreed to fight at the limit of 145 pounds, two under the welterweight limit. For sure, he would’ve preferred to fight at 147. This was something the Puerto Rican wouldn’t ordinarily concede but again, the decision was made to accommodate Pacquiao. Cotto, of course, didn’t object because nobody else – except Pacquiao – could give him this kind of payday.

You would think that as the defending champion, Cotto could at least choose the weight limit.

“Yes, Cotto agreed to do it,” says Leach. “How could he not? It was the best payday available to him and bottom line, it would give him the opportunity to test himself against the best fighter in the world.”

Remember that Pacquiao had agreed to a weight limit of 147 pounds in his fight against Oscar de la Hoya. But that was De la Hoya, not Cotto. De la Hoya was decimated to the bone reducing from his natural weight of 154. Now, Cotto will wring himself dry trimming down to 145.

Third, the WBO showed partiality in giving in to Pacquiao’s demands while virtually disregarding Cotto. Leach says Cotto deserved better treatment from the WBO whose flag he held proudly in seven lightwelterweight title defenses. In contrast, Pacquiao has figured in only one WBO title fight – his technical draw in a unification bout with Agapito Sanchez in 2001.

* * * *

But the lack of respect is precisely what makes Cotto a dangerous opponent for Pacquiao. He has everything to gain and only the WBO title to lose. And even if the Puerto Rican yields the WBO crown, he can console himself by saying he lost to the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter and there are still the WBA, WBC and IBF versions to vie for.

“As he enters November’s fight with Pacquiao, (Cotto) finds himself playing second fiddle in what had once been his own orchestra,” says Leach. “The Filipino is the leading man, Cotto is just a bit player in the big picture. And what’s more, outside of his own fanatical Puerto Rican following, Cotto will realize that the vast majority of people will want him to be beaten by Pacquiao in order to facilitate the fight that all of boxing wants to see, the Pacman versus Mayweather – the decider for the pound-for-pound championship.”

Cotto is not about to blow the opportunity to prove himself – not just as a spoiler but as a champion who is crying out for recognition – without a gallant stand.

* * * *

With Floyd Mayweather’s decisive win over Juan Manuel Marquez recently, the way is clearing for a megabuck duel with Pacquiao in March. Only Cotto can derail it.

“Cotto will never have a better chance to enter a fight completely and utterly motivated,” continues Lynch. “Given the circumstances surrounding the fight, if Cotto cannot find sufficient reason to pour his heart and soul into achieving victory, he will need to look at himself in the mirror, long and hard.”

There is no doubt Cotto is motivated – highly motivated. Who wouldn’t be in his position? He started training for Pacquiao at least two weeks ahead of the Filipino icon and is determined to win.

Cotto, who will be 29 when he fights Pacquiao, has lost only once – to Antonio Margarito under dubious circumstances as the Mexican was found guilty of using an illegal hardening substance in his handwraps for his next fight against Sugar Shane Mosley. The suspicion is Margarito used the same substance to stop Cotto in the 11th round last year.

“Doesn’t Pacquiao realize he’s facing me, the WBO welterweight champion, who has lost just once, to a guy who might have cheated?” wondered Cotto.

While Pacquiao will be fighting for glory and a revered place in boxing history, Cotto will be out to gain global respect.

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