There are two types of show-stopping performances we’ve seen from many great fighters in which their performance on that given night are forever instilled into our memory. In order for their showing to really count, they must have achieved it against another formidable foe who wasn’t undersized, old and had to have been considered special or elite going into the bout. The signature showing for all great fighters must be forged against another great or near-great who is seen as their equal.
The first type of show stopping performance is the brutal knockout, especially if it occurs early in the bout ie: Thomas Hearns pulverizing Roberto Duran with a single right hand in the second round. The other type of eye- catching performance is the one where a fighter delivers a systematic beat-down over the opponent and the longer the fight goes the worse it gets ie: Bernard Hopkins dismantling Felix Trinidad before finally finishing him in the 12th round.
Manny Pacquiao 57-5-2 (38) has had a career littered with signature and near signature performances over the last decade. He looked terrific beating Marco Antonio Barrera the two times they fought. After being out-boxed by Erik Morales the first time they met, he came back and stopped him twice during their rematch and rubber match. He beat up and punched around David Diaz at will, annihilated a washed up Oscar De La Hoya, pulverized Ricky Hatton, spooked Josha Clottey into being afraid to throw a punch because he didn’t want to leave himself open and vulnerable to Pacquiao’s counter attack, and he took the bigger and stronger Antonio Margarito to boxing school.
That alone is hall of fame worthy and quite impressive, but that isn’t all of it. What’s missing is the one fight in which Pacquiao boxed perfectly, hit with power, put his combinations together beautifully, took the best his opponent had to offer and didn’t even change the expression on his face, and if that weren’t enough, how about how he attacked in the manner of a human buzzsaw and never took his foot off the gas until the end when he looked as if he felt sorry for the beating he doled out during the previous 11 rounds.
The date was 11/14/09, the place was the MGM Grand in Las Vegas Nevada and the opponent was WBO welterweight title-holder Miguel Cotto 34-1 (27).
Cotto, 29 at the time, had only been beaten by Antonio Margarito who some suspect fought Cotto with loaded gloves. A year later Margarito was suspended from boxing for attempting to battle Shane Mosley with compromised gloves. After defending his newly won WBO title against Joshua Clottey, Cotto willingly agreed to defend it against Pacquiao 49-3-2 (37) at the time, in a 145 pound catch-weight bout. Not only was Cotto bigger and stronger than any fighter Pacquiao had ever faced at the time, it was also the belief of many boxing observers that Floyd Mayweather was doing his best version of the two step in order to stay on the other side of the street from where Cotto was.
Prior to the bout I was disenchanted when Pacquiao insisted on the 145 pound catch-weight and felt that Cotto would be hurt by having to shed those last two pounds. But in hindsight Pacquiao was so dominant that it’s unlikely the two pounds would’ve changed the outcome. Before the fight many assumed that Cotto would be too big and strong for Pacquiao, although Manny’s significant edge in hand-speed wasn’t discounted. However, the thought was Cotto could walk him into the corners, and then beat on his body with his vaunted hooks. And once that began to be a regular occurrence Manny would be slowed to a walk and would eventually become a sitting duck for Miguel to beat on and probably stop late in the fight.
Unfortunately for Cotto, he crossed paths with Pacquiao on a night that he put it all together and he may have never been better or fought more purposefully. As it turned out, Cotto’s walk-in style combined with his lack of speed was just right for Manny. Pacquiao’s blinding hand and foot speed along with his imaginative offensive assault, throwing punches in combination of five and six, totally befuddled Miguel. So much so that Cotto never had a clue from where the next punch was coming from. And if that weren’t enough, Pacquiao brought incredibly consistent power on that night. He had Miguel hurt and bloodied and after putting him down in the third and fourth rounds, Cotto came out and emptied his wagon and won the next round and kept Pacquiao from ending the fight early. And that’s what made the win so special for Pacquiao because Cotto definitely wasn’t shot or fighting from memory. He may not have been vintage Cotto, but it’s hard to imagine any other welterweight dominating Miguel like that. In fact no one has before or since.
However, Cotto’s gallant stand in the fifth round was about it for him as far as big moments in the fight. From the sixth round on Pacquiao out-thought and fought Cotto for the remainder of the bout and it was hard to watch at times because it was so decisive, it was almost scary. By the last third of the bout Cotto was almost flinching whenever Pacquiao feinted. It got to the point to where you could see Cotto really didn’t want to let his hands go because he knew it left him open to exchanges, and he was getting the worst of it nine out of ten times. In the 12th round the fight was stopped and no one who saw it will forget how great Pacquiao was that night against such a formidable and dangerous opponent.
It wasn’t so much that Pacquiao out-boxed and out-sped Cotto. What was so off-the-chart impressive was how he broke his will and by the midpoint of the fight Cotto was fighting as if he were the smaller man. And that’s something no fighter has ever done to Cotto before or after he fought Pacquiao. For Pacquiao to be able to dominate and break the will of the bigger Cotto, who was seen as a true ring warrior going into the fight, was truly remarkable. If you want to make a case for Pacquiao as an all-timer, you don’t have to look further than this fight. He looked like Roberto Duran on this night.
On the night Manny Pacquiao stopped Miguel Cotto, the realization of his greatness exceeded the expectation of it.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com