Location: General Santos City, Philippines
Manny Pacquiao has become more and more unpredictable.
His chief legal counsel once told me that Team Pacquiao is a virtual snake pit, just like Malacañang where wolves continuously keep their eyes on their back for the next prey and predator.
The recent imbroglio involving near fisticuff, some say choking incident, between his self-appointed adviser Michael Koncz and Manny’s conditioning coach is child's play compared to the adroit and sly maneuverings between and among camps with poles-apart interests in the Filipino boxing superstar.
Think about this, for another reason.
Manny is such a favorite of Malacañang that he can walk through its doors to see President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo unimpeded. But at the same time, you have former President Joseph Estrada paying him a visit in his cock farm in Malungon, Sarangani. The first of three HBO 24/7 installments for his Miguel Angel Cotto rendezvous had him being pestered by coach Freddie Roach while having coffee with former Senate President Manny Villar who, like Estrada, is running for president next year. Roach, not wanting any distraction and upsetting the schedule and training regimen he mapped out for his ward, doesn’t mind standing up to a guy who could become president of the country one day.
But that is not what this piece is all about. We will reserve the more seedy and steamy ones for later.
This is about Manny’s transformation from a strictly one-two combination fighter, right jab-left straight, into a completely unorthodox and unpredictable boxer and his November 14 (November 15 in the Philippines) date with Cotto.
Manny’s speed and agility are deceiving. His previous opponents knew these are Manny’s main assets, aside from his powerful fists. Yet nobody has solved the puzzle that is Manny. Juan Manuel Marquez came close to unsettling Manny’s rhythm. But that was it, almost. And almost is as painful as complete failure.
Cotto’s trainor said they have prepared a counterfoil for Manny’s speed. Easier said than done.
Cotto is basically a bigger and powerful upgrade of lightweight David Diaz, whom Manny stopped in nine rounds to capture his fifth title in as many weight categories in June last year.
True, Cotto is the probably the strongest and biggest opponent Manny will ever face. The Puerto Rican also has above-average boxing skills as shown when he boxed away from danger against Shane Mosley and Joshua Clottey, both with above-average quickness and power, en route to decision wins.
But Manny’s speed in catching a back-pedaling opponent is unmatched. Just take a look back at the way he sent Marco Antonio Barrera (first fight), Erik Morales (second and third bouts) and Ricky Hatton crashing to the canvas while moving back in the early rounds to set up his kayo wins in latter rounds of their matches.
Comparing Cotto to the speed of Barrera and Morales is like comparing apples and oranges. He is a slumbering welterweight by Manny’s standard.
However, Cotto is not entirely defenseless against Manny. If there is any boxer who could turn off the lights on Manny, it is the Puerto Rican - provided he catches Manny solidly with his powerful hooks to the body or to the chin of the Filipino southpaw.
Unpredictable as he is, I am seeing Manny running circles on Cotto before striking him with powerful and lethal accuracy in the middle of the ring, just like a sly fox about to pounce on its prey.
The key is to penetrate that peek-a-boo defense Cotto will likely adopt in the early going to test Manny’s power.
Solve that and Cotto will open up to brawl with Manny.
It should be a slambang affair like it is hyped up to be.