LAS VEGAS — We are witnessing one of the all-time boxing greats, and the impressive part about it is that Manny Pacquiao doesn’t talk about how great he is. He proves it, fight in and fight out.
He did a mountain of proving against Miguel Cotto, taking over midway through the fight and laying a beating on the Puerto Rican star to win a welterweight title via 12th-round TKO before an electric, sold-out crowd of 16,200 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night.
Thousands of miles away, millions in the Philippines undoubtedly celebrated the victory of their national hero. Thousands more were in ecstasy in the arena as Pacquiao made boxing history we may never see again.
With the punishing TKO victory, Pacquiao won a title in a record seventh division, six months after he knocked out Ricky Hatton in the same ring in the second round to win his sixth title at junior welterweight, and nearly a year after he retired Oscar De La Hoya. For a 16-year-old who turned professional at 106 pounds and won his first championship at 112 pounds, Pacquiao has raced up the scales like nobody else in boxing history.
“It’s an honor to win a seventh title,” Pacquiao said. “It’s history for me and, more importantly, a Filipino did it.”
There won’t, however, be a try for an eighth title, he said.
“This is the last weight division for me,” Pacquiao said.
Although smaller in stature than Cotto, Pacquiao displayed the blazing speed that is his calling card, as well as powerful punches. The revelation, however, was Pacquiao’s chin. Cotto, a fearsome left hooker, landed his shots. But Pacquiao never went anywhere.
It was give-and-take early on, for about three rounds. However, in the third, Pacquiao dropped Cotto with a right hand, although Cotto appeared to be slipping on the canvas at the same time the blow landed.
Although Cotto (34-2, 27 KOs) didn’t appear hurt, he would be soon. In the next round.
The combinations kept raining on Cotto, but Cotto appeared to be winning the round early. He had landed some crisp left hooks, but Pacquiao never budged. Then the fight changed.
Pacquiao landed a powerful left hand and Cotto went down and was very, very wobbly when he got to his feet.
Fortunately for Cotto, the round was about to end and he was able to collect himself during the rest period.
But not for long.
Cotto couldn’t deal with the flurries and Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KOs) was all over him. Cotto’s face began to swell. By the ninth round, Cotto was in rough shape. He was bleeding from his mouth and nose, spraying blood onto the canvas and in retreat.
“Manny’s speed was too much,” said Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer. “Manny’s in-and-out motion was too fast. Manny broke him down. I knew when Cotto started backing up the fight was over.
“In the beginning we fought Cotto’s fight too much, stayed on the ropes too long, but as the fight went on Manny’s speed was too much. Manny dictated the fight. Cotto’s corner should have stopped the fight three rounds sooner when Cotto began to run away.”
After the ninth round, Cotto’s wife left the arena with one of his children. They missed Cotto getting cut next to his left eye in the 10th round, which left blood streaming down the side of his face.
Finally, after a lot of punishment in the 11th round, it looked like the fight might be stopped in the corner, but Cotto refused to allow trainer Joe Santiago to call it off.
But referee Kenny Bayless and the ring doctor had taken a good look between rounds, and when Cotto started getting battered around again in the 12th, Bayless stopped it at 55 seconds.
“Cotto was taking quite a bit of punches,” Bayless said. “Because of the amount of punishment he was taking we looked closely with the ring doctor about the eighth round and talked about how much longer he could go. He was hitting Pacquiao with good jabs but it wasn’t doing much. The guy was relentless.”
Although Pacquiao, 30, who made a minimum $13 million to Cotto’s $6.5 million, made it look easy — isn’t that what all-time greats do? — he said, “It was a hard fight. I needed time to test his power. We practiced fighting a disciplined fight. That was my key to victory, staying disciplined and not panicking in the ring.”
As Cotto’s face began to swell and blood began to leak from his face, he must have had flashbacks to July 2008, when, in the same ring, he suffered an 11th-round knockout loss to Antonio Margarito, one later tainted by the revelation that Margarito tried to load his gloves for his next fight.
However, Pacquiao’s punches seemed authentic and they did a lot of damage.
“I tried to bring all I can for all these fans,” Cotto, 29, said. “It didn’t go my way in this fight. The jabs I threw didn’t do enough damage and I didn’t protect myself enough. Miguel Cotto will always fight the best fighters in the world. And Manny Pacquiao is one of the best fighters and the best boxers I ever fought. I told Joe that I wanted to continue fighting. It was my decision to continue.”
“He hit harder than we excepted,” Santiago said. “He was a lot stronger than we expected.”
After the glorious victory, attention turned to what was next for the king.
After all, Floyd Mayweather, the undefeated former pound-for-pound king and welterweight champ who came out of retirement in September, looms.
All indications are that Pacquiao-Cotto will well surpass 1 million pay-per-view buys (HBO will replay the fight next Saturday at 10 p.m. ET/PT). Mayweather’s win over Juan Manuel Marquez also surpassed 1 million.
A Pacquiao-Mayweather showdown looms as the possible all-time record pay-per-view.
So what about it?
“Sure, we’ll fight Mayweather, if he wants to,” Roach said.
And what did the king have to say?
“It’s the promoter who makes the fights,” he said. “My job is to fight in the ring.”
And fight he does.