Here are some generally accepted beliefs of insiders and handicappers going into the upcoming mega-blockbuster Pacquiao vs. Cotto fight. The following is merely an exploration of the scope of different possibilities. Let’s take a look at four of the more generally accepted “truths” and see if there’s a decent possibility that they have it wrong.
Generally Accepted Truth #1: Cotto Is Not What He Once Was
Perception: Cotto is an old 28. A long run fighting top guys has taken its toll. The Margarito beating, in particular, sent him on an irreversible slide down the peak. The Clottey fight saw Cotto barely able to win against an opponent he would have dominated a few years ago.
But Not so Fast: He has fought a lot of tough guys, and the Margarito beating was harsh, but what real evidence is there of him slipping? A blowout against Michael Jennings in which he looked pretty good? A close win against Clottey? We’re talking about a win, mind you, against a top guy in the division that no one wants to fight, a guy that looks like a super middleweight standing next to Pacquiao. I remember almost everyone saying Evander Holyfield was shot before he fought Tyson, and there was significantly more evidence suggesting that to be true than there is here.
Generally Accepted Truth #2: Pacquiao’s Recent Form Is Off the Charts
Perception: There’s nobody around right now at welterweight or below who can beat him, with the possible exception of Mayweather. His win over De La Hoya showed he could deal easily with bigger guys. He has become a significantly better fighter since the second Marquez fight, not losing a round while completely decimating his opposition.
But Not so Fast: Closely examine the growth in Pacquiao’s reputation since the second Marquez fight. Sure, he was already a superstar and a #1 pound-for-pound claimant, but in less than two years, his mystique has grown to almost Ali-like proportions. This is significantly based on wins over a top-five lightweight in David Diaz and two guys (De La Hoya and Hatton) who were past their primes and in perhaps their last fight.
They were exciting, eye-catching wins, but do they warrant such an increase in hype and stature? Were most of his opponents even before moving up to 135 in their primes? Are we so hungry for a mega-superstar, a great fighter that actually provides thrills as Pacquiao does, that we have wrongfully begun to acknowledge and value excitement over merit? Sure, he’s earned it. He’s one of the best ever, but have we gone overboard?
Generally Accepted Truth #3: Pacquiao Will Have No Problems At This Weight
Perception: Pacquiao is not bound by the same constraints other fighters are in regards to weight. From flyweight to welterweight, he has excelled, and there is no reason to think he will hit the wall now. His whitewash against De La Hoya, a onetime middleweight titlist, showed he has no problem handling bigger opponents.
But Not so Fast: Are we taking a leap of faith with the weight issue? Can we reasonably expect a former flyweight titlist to be a juggernaut at welterweight? What precedent is there for this? Are we basing this on Pacquiao’s dominance over De La Hoya, who brought almost nothing to the table that night? Did he not struggle to win a razor-close bout at junior lightweight a mere 18 months ago? Since leaving 130, whom has he really beaten to suggest he can handle top welterweights with ease?
Generally Accepted Truth #4: Cotto Is Not Truly a Great Fighter
Perception: While very good, Cotto has fallen just short of greatness. He caught Mosley and Judah at the right time. And while doubt exists over the legitimacy of the Margarito fight, he did sustain a clear beating, before capitulating in the 11th round. Great fighters don’t do that. Great fighters don’t have trouble beating the Joshua Clotteys of the world.
But Not So Fast: A closer examination of his record does suggest greatness. Many of the opponents he beat were top-notch, and are still factors in the game: Mosley slaughtered Margarito after losing to Cotto, Quintana went on to beat Paul Williams, and Malignaggi, Torres, Judah, and Clottey are still in the mix to varying degrees.
The loss to Margarito was a bad luck situation for Cotto, and not just for the possible loaded-gloves factor. The version of Margarito that fought Cotto was the best Margarito we have ever seen in the ring. He almost struck up an image of Marvin Hagler in the Hearns fight, a man who on that particular night, was not going to be denied, a man you would have needed a baseball bat to dissuade. Margarito that night just might have been a handful for any welterweight in history. The shame in that loss has been overblown in the minds of intolerant fans. All great fighters lose, especially when taking on one tough assignment after another.
If perception and reality were tied together as tightly as one might think, we would all be making money gambling on boxing. It’s not that easy, and many times we see the connection between perception and reality evaporate in the ring before our eyes.
This writer is picking Pacquiao by late-rounds stoppage, but if Cotto wins, it will likely be because one or more of the aforementioned perceptions was not correct. It wouldn’t be the first time. Enjoy the fight!
Photo Credit: Image: Pro Boxing Fans; Photos: Mike Gonzalez (Pacquiao) & Wikimedia User Javabeans (Cotto); Creative Commons 3.0 License
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