MANILA, Philippines - The betting is WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico will try to fight like Juan Manuel Marquez and use a counterpunching style in his second title defense against Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Nov. 14 (Sunday morning, Manila).
A source from Pacquiao’s camp said yesterday trainer Freddie Roach has prepared several strategies and tactics depending on what Cotto brings to the ring. But the expectation is Cotto will counterpunch instead of come forward to avoid presenting Pacquiao with an easy target.
Pacquiao went the distance twice with Marquez and was hard-pressed in both 12-round bouts. Marquez, a technical fighter with a counterpunching style that appeared to baffle Pacquiao, said he’s convinced he won the fights.
The first encounter ended up a split draw at the MGM Grand Garden
Arena in May 2004. Judge John Stewart scored it 115-110 for Pacquiao, judge Guy Jutras 115-110 for Marquez and Burt Clemens, 113-all. Clemens later admitted he erred in scoring 10-8 instead of 10-7 when Pacquiao decked Marquez thrice in the first round. If Clemens had not made a mistake, Pacquiao would’ve won by split decision.
In the rematch last year, Pacquiao was stretched to the limit in pounding out a win by split decision. Judge Duane Ford had it 115-112 for Pacquiao, judge Jerry Roth 115-112 for Marquez and judge Tom Miller 114-113 for Pacquiao.
Ford is one of three judges assigned for the Pacquiao-Cotto bout. The others are Adalaide Byrd and Dave Moretti.
Since Pacquiao had difficulty with Marquez, Cotto probably figures to do exactly what the Mexican did in the two fights against the Filipino icon. It’s no secret that Marquez gave Pacquiao a lot to think about in their faceoffs. Cotto wants to do that, too.
“We expect Cotto to counterpunch, do something different,” said the source. “But whatever he does, it won’t work. Manny’s in the best shape of his life. There’s no way Cotto can win, no matter what style he shows.”
Cotto, a natural left-hander, could be Pacquiao’s toughest opponent ever because he’s clever, unpredictable and bigger. He’s also known to use unorthodox tactics, like hitting below the belt to stymie his opponent’s momentum.
Cotto fights right-handed but because he’s a natural southpaw, he has the ability to switch-hit. The Puerto Rican displayed his flexibility in fighting either way in halting Demetrio Ceballos in the seventh round in Las Vegas in 2003.
Roach said he’s not taking Cotto lightly. “I know what he can do,” said Roach. “He can box or punch, come forward or fight from a distance. That’s why we brought in different types of sparring partners for Manny. We’re ready for any eventuality.”
In training for Cotto, Pacquiao has sparred with former world champion Jose Luis Castillo, 35 (60-9-1, with 52 KOs), Shawn Porter, 22 (10-0, with 8 KOs), Urbano Antillon, 27 (26-1, with 19 KOs), Danny Escobar, 20 (3-0, with 3 KOs), Raymundo Beltran, 28 (22-4, with 14 KOs) and Rashad Holloway, 28 (11-1-2, with 5 KOs). The sparmates are a mix of welterweights, lightweights and a lightmiddleweight.
In contrast, Cotto’s sparmates are far from quality fighters. They’re all southpaws like Pacquiao. Welterweight Fred Tukes, 36, has a 7-1-1 record, with 5 KOs, and hasn’t fought since figuring in a four-round draw with Max Skayzer last year. Lighweight Kenny Abril, 25, has a 9-3-1 record, with 5 KOs. Another sparmate Francisco (Gato) Figueroa, 31 (20-3-1, with 13 KOs ) was fired after a week and the speculation was he made Cotto look bad.
Aside from working with superior sparmates, Pacquiao has the advantage of a high-quality corner. Roach, 49, is joined by Argentinian cutman Miguel Diaz, a trainer and manager in his own right with a storybook career. His strength and conditioning coach is Colombian Alex Ariza. Cotto’s trainer is Joe Santiago, 32, who got the job after the Puerto Rican booted out his uncle Evangelista Cotto before the fight against Joshua Clottey five months ago. Cotto’s cutman is Joe Chavez and his strength and conditioning coach is Phil Landman.
Diaz used to be Cotto’s cutman and Chavez previously worked with Pacquiao. Now, they’ve exchanged corners with Pacquiao clearly getting the better deal.