In the lead-up to their fight, many wondered whether Manny Pacquiao could handle the power of a hard-punching welterweight like Miguel Cotto. Tonight Pacquiao answered with a resounding yes, taking Cotto's best shots and breaking down the Puerto Rican with speed and precision to take his welterweight crown.
With utter fighting mastery, Manny Pacquiao defeated Miguel Cotto with a TKO in the 12th round at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas tonight, taking Cotto's WBO welterweight belt in a sensational performance that left no question that Pacquiao is not only one of the best pound-for-pound fighters of his generation, but one of the best of all time.
It's a record seventh world title for Pacquiao in seven different weight classes, proving himself perhaps a more complete and explosive fighting machine as a welterweight than he was when he won his first world title eleven years ago as a 112-pound flyweight. For Cotto, meanwhile, though it was only the second loss of his great career, it was a nevertheless a devastating evening, as he found himself on the receiving end of a thorough beating that had him retreating so dramatically at the end of the bout that boos were heard throughout the sold-out arena.
It was a much different story early in the fight, however, when a confident Cotto went on the attack. In the first four rounds, it appeared the showdown was going to follow the script set out for it by many boxing pundits as a memorable war between Cotto's considerable power and Pacquiao's electrifying speed. Cotto's well-timed jab seemed to neutralize Pacquiao'shandspeed in the first frame, and using his own underrated speed, he was able to land heavier shots onPacquiao than the Filipino sensation has absorbed in recent memory.
In fact, tonight's major story may be just how well Pacquiao took those shots. Going into the fight, the public knew how fast Pacquiao was, and also knew that he had knockdown power in both hands. But one thing the world learned tonight about Manny Pacquiao was that he can walk through gigantic punches from a bruising welterweight on the order of Cotto, a man long known for breaking down his opponents with the ferocity of his attack.
Despite Cotto's landing head-snapping jabs and hooks, the speed differential started to show in Pacquiao's favor in the second round, and in the third, he drew first blood with a sneaky-fast right hand that sent Cotto stumbling and then bracing himself with a glove on the canvas - the first knockdown of the fight. The second, a much more convincing knockdown, came in the very next round, as Pacquiao, having languished on the ropes for much of the round, exploded with a roundhouse left that caught Cotto lunging and sent him sprawling to the canvas, clearly injured.
It's arguable that Cotto never quite recovered from that knockdown. He fought a cagey fifth round and may have tipped the frame in his favor, but after that it was all Pacquiao in a frightening onslaught. By the seventh, Cotto had begun to circle the ring relentlessly to stay out Pacquiao wheelhouse, and by the ninth, swollen and bloodied, he was merely in survival mode, desperately trying to end the fight on his feet.
It was not to be, as referee Kenny Bayless stepped in to stop the carnage at 55 seconds of the final round. Now a seven-time champion, all that seems left for Pacquiao to accomplish in boxing is to solidify his claim on being the world's top pound-for-pound fighter by facing the other current aspirant to the pound-for-pound throne, Floyd Mayweather. After tonight's performance, and after Mayweather's commanding victory over Juan Manuel Marquez in September, the way is cleared for a Pacquiao/Mayweather extravaganza that, if it happens, is set to become the biggest, most anticipated, and most hotly debated boxing match of the young millennium.