(Miguel Cotto, left, Manny Pacquiao, right; photoshop via www.boxingrepublic.com)
The headline says it all. It’s official, according to a news release from Top Rank Promotions: On Nov. 14, pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao will fight Miguel Cotto, one of the other 10 best fighters around in all of boxing, in what could be the year’s biggest and best bout. Pacquiao and Cotto are can’t-miss fighters on their own, and together, they stand to produce fireworks of blowing-up-the-fireworks-factory caliber. These are men who have made a habit out of being in candidates for Fight of the Year starting in 2004 and 2005, respectively.
The catchweight of 145 pounds — a weight Cotto and his team believe he can make comfortably — means that, most likely, we’ll have a fair fight. Pacquiao is the junior welterweight champion and Cotto fled that division years ago after struggling to make weight. Pacquiao’s team at one point was trying to bargain Cotto down to 142, which was ludicrous, as Cotto most assuredly would have been weakened. By contrast, Cotto is a pretty big and prime welterweight, unlike Oscar De La Hoya, the only man Pacquiao has fought at welterweight and whom Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach knew couldn’t get down to 147 anymore and whom was past his prime. So Cotto will be the best big man Pacquiao has ever faced. The only real open question about how level the playing field will be for this fight is whether Cotto still has any lingering effects from his 2008 knockout loss to Antonio Margarito, about which opinions are divided after Cotto’s narrow victory over Joshua Clottey.
But just short of a fight against Floyd Mayweather, Jr., who is busy with his own bout against Juan Manuel Marquez Sept. 19, this is the best fight either man could make. Shane Mosley might have been the most competitive option for Pacquiao and Cotto probably owes Mosley a rematch to crown the legitimate welterweight champion of the world, but Mosley brings nowhere near the money Pacquiao or Cotto does. Pacquiao’s devout Filipino following and Cotto’s devout Puerto Rican following give both a base of support that will ensure big dollars for everyone, from the gates at MGM Grand in Las Vegas to pay-per-view numbers in the contiguous United States to worldwide broadcast rights. Both, too, are favorites of hardcore fight fans — and in the case of Pacquiao, increasingly, casual fight fans, too — everywhere.
I heavily favor Pacquiao in this bout, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a real mega-fight, an unquestionably good match-up of quality fighters with as much steak as it has sizzle, which I’m intensely anticipating.
(P.S. Pacquiao will be campaigning for his seventh belt in seven weight classes, a record if he pulls it off, but Pacquiao already snagged the only record there that matters: When he became the lineal junior welterweight champion, Pacquiao became the first man ever to win four lineal championships in four divisions. That means infinitely more than whether he wins Cotto’s alphabet title belt in this fight. For more on what I mean, read “champions vs. belt-holders” here.)