If the rumors circulating via the Internet and other boxing publications are accurate, it looks as if Manny Pacquiao 54-4-2 (38) and Miguel Cotto 37-3 (30) are going to meet for a second time later this year, probably in November. If the fight happens then, it'll be almost three years to the day that Pacquiao stopped Cotto in the 12th round of their first fight. As you'll recall that bout was fought for the WBO welterweight title with a 145 pound catch-weight stipulation. In that bout a perhaps slightly drained Cotto couldn't handle Pacquiao's speed, unorthodox attack and imaginative offense. If that weren't enough, when Cotto did catch Manny with some of his thudding hooks to the head and body, nothing happened and Pacquiao seemed to feed off of it and grew more confident.
Since then Pacquiao hasn't looked as good as he did that night and Cotto has moved up to junior middleweight and has fought well along with winning a piece of the title at 154. In his last fight he gave Floyd Mayweather the most competitive fight he's had in 10 years since he fought Jose Luis Castillo the first time (a fight I scored 115-113 Castillo).
If in fact Cotto does get a second shot at Pacquiao, that's great and certainly well deserved on behalf of Cotto. If there are two fighters that no one should begrudge constantly getting big fights and paydays, it's both Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto. Shane and Miguel have faced every fighter who was perceived as a threat to them including facing each other (Cotto won by decision) in a fight that could've been scored for either. Yes, both Mosley and Cotto are real fighters that never took the easy way out and boxing would be on top again if it were littered with fighters like them as it once was.
Miguel deserves the payday and the chance to even the score with Pacquiao the way he did against the first fighter to beat him as a pro, Antonio Margarito. If Pacquiao is going to fight Cotto again, because in reality he has no other real opponent to face, he better not play the catch-weight game this time. Remember, he and Freddie Roach don't wanna see Juan Manuel Marquez again and Timothy Bradley would be more confident in a rematch. So you can see why they'll try to fight Cotto, simply because they know Manny holds the psychological and stylistic advantage.
Some will look to make the case where Cotto has a better chance this time, but he doesn't, actually his odds have diminished. If there's anything Pacquiao could use right now is a fight in which he not only has supreme confidence, but he knows he can plant the seed of doubt into his opponents mind. Something that would be off the table against Marquez or Bradley.
Against Cotto, Pacquiao will look re-energized and confident and much better than he did in his last two bouts versus Marquez and Bradley. He knows at some point Miguel will fight to survive and avoid exchanges while trying to tip toe his way to a decision victory. There's no way he'll attempt to raise hell with Pacquiao like he did during the first few rounds of their last meeting and Pacquiao knows it. That said, I'm not saying Cotto is fearful, just realistic and now knows how dangerous Manny is for him.
If there's one thing fighters would love to know going into a fight is this -- that their opponent doesn't really want to fight it out with them and will look to be nice and steal rounds with the hope of eeking out the decision. As much as Cotto is the ultimate warrior, I think after he's confronted Pacquiao again and is reminded of what happened the first time, this will apply. Although I'd love to be proven wrong.
Knowing Cotto will bring that mindset to the ring, Pacquiao will be Shark like with blood in the water and he'll fight as the predator from round one on. That's huge, because Cotto can't be effective at all moving away from Pacquiao, especially with Pacquiao being at his best pressing the action against a fighter who is squared up and right there. On top of that - Pacquiao can move in a lot faster going forward than Miguel can move away or step off going back. So basically, Cotto is in a catch 22. He can't take it to Manny and try to work him over without getting hurt and busted up himself, and if he constantly moves away and tries to fight in flurries like he did against Margarito during their rematch, he'll be second in almost every exchange and has no shot at winning a decision. Manny's short little straight shots will get to the target before Miguel can bring his hook home, regardless of whether it's directed to Pacquiao's head or body.
If there is a Pacquiao-Cotto rematch, Manny holds every single advantage in the book. He will enter the ring with all the confidence in the world and wholeheartedly believes he can take Cotto's confidence without much resistance. In addition to that, Manny will want to beat Cotto more impressively again than Mayweather did earlier this year. But keep this in mind, in his fight with Cotto, Mayweather made a conscious decision to beat him on the inside, in effect to beat him at his own game. And he made that decision during the fight, which gives you a signal about how versatile the guy is. If he'd wanted to, he could have won by a wider margin by fighting his usual style, but, for me anyway, that would have been less impressive. I think he understood that he could give people a fan-friendly fight without incurring much genuine risk. So even if Pacquiao is more impressive against Cotto this time, it doesn't translate into him holding the advantage over Mayweather.
Manny is a great offensive fighter. He'll always look more impressive against fighters that aren't hard to find or cannot offer much resistance. In this case, Cotto is a little of both. Pacquiao will always look better against Cotto compared to Mayweather, but Floyd will always handle Marquez, something Pacquiao really hasn't done once in three fights.
Pacquiao-Cotto II will be a re-run, not a rematch. And as much as Pacquiao holds the advantage stylistically, the psychological advantage is even a bigger determent and factor going against Cotto. Something like the advantage Aaron Pryor brought to the rematch with Alexis Arguello. And like Arguello, when all is lost, Cotto will go out the same way Alexis did, trying with everything he has, but in the end accepting that he did his best, but the other guy had his number and he just couldn't beat him.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com