WAPAKMAN! In the above trailer for Manny Pacuqiao’s movie, you see a hilarious costume and a comical fight between a boxer and a crustacean. Your eyes don’t deceive you, but I see something deeper: The hero of a nation defeating the symbolic embodiment of the “crab mentality,” that troublesome mindset people in the Philippines are always warning about. Ooooo, deep.
I’d like to wrap up other loose ends involving Manny Pacquiao, and other weekend-relevant topics, before looking ahead to the rest of the week. That’s just what I’ll do, touching on the undercard I haven’t written up since the blog and a couple other weekend results, but mostly focusing on the names “Pacquiao,” “Miguel Cotto” and “Floyd Mayweather.” (h/t on the movie trailer to FilmDrunk; and to my pal Mike C)
Cotto’s nobility: The good. Because I’ve spent so much time focusing on Pacquiao since he knocked out Cotto in their 145-pound bout, I haven’t focused much on Cotto. But I came away from that fight admiring his nobility more than ever. There’s no other word for it: Nobility. Not only did he persevere through a frightful beating, refusing to quit far beyond a point where most any boxer would have. But he also did something rare in this day and age when, at the end of the fight, he didn’t make a single excuse for the loss. He just said Pacquiao was great. A lot of ladies love Cotto, I noticed from Twitter (@fabulousmady noted Cotto at the weigh-in looked like a “2 pc and a biscuit,” which cracked my ass up). But I kind of have this admiration for him that borders on man-crush, only less superficial. Maybe it’s based on my theory that I think all men, inside, are little boys, and it’s rare when you find a grown man who behaves more like a man than not. Cotto has traits I wish more adults did, including myself.
Cotto’s nobility: The bad. Cotto effectively quit once in a fight, his loss to Antonio Margarito. I thought it defensible then, and more defensible after we learned that Margarito had tried to load his gloves at least once, his next fight against Shane Mosley. His refusal to give up Saturday — maybe born of the criticism Cotto endured in that Margarito loss — may have cost him badly. Perhaps a boxer can bounce back from one prolonged nasty beating. I’m not sure how a boxer bounces back from two. And it’s not like the Pacquiao and Margarito losses are the only two wars of Cotto’s career. I’d be surprised if Cotto is ever the same fighter again, and if the fight had ended a few rounds earlier, I’m not sure I have to write that lamentable sentence. Cotto’s wife and one of his children left the building rather than watch it drag on so long. Cotto’s father tried to stop it. Cotto never let anyone do it. Cotto’s trainer, Joe Santiago, should have overruled him, but did not. There came a certain point in the fight where Cotto was too much of a man, and part of that general over-manliness, I think, is reflected in picking Santiago as his trainer to begin with — giving credence to Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach’s gripes that Cotto effectively trained himself because he picked someone he’d be the boss of, rather than vice versa.
Next for Cotto. I’d like to be wrong, and think that Cotto has more boxing left in him. I’m not calling for his retirement or anything; he says he’ll fight on, and I don’t see why he shouldn’t give it one more restart. If that happens, I favor Doug Fischer’s prescription — a new trainer, a long rest, followed by someone like a Jesus Soto-Karass, followed by say a Carlos Baldomir, before going back into a hard fight like the Shane Mosley rematch. I expect he’ll drop a good deal in my pound-for-pound rankings, though, next time I update them. One bad beating against elite opposition doesn’t dump you too much in my books. Two of them hurt you a fair amount in that regard. After that, you have to show us you’re still an elite fighter.
The actual fight, the actual performance. Hey! I didn’t even mention what I thought of the fight yet! I’m really playing catch-up here. The headline for me really was Pacquiao, to the exclusion of almost everything else. The first five rounds were Fight of the Year-like. In the 2nd round, the 15 people or so in my apartment literally burst into spontaneous applause, and it may be the Round of the Year. It was great to see that happen so suddenly, without coordination — the people in my apartment varied from those who were barely interested in boxing to those who were pretty interested, and it goes to show that a great action fight is obvious for all eyes to see. After the 5th, though, it turned into a one-sided beat down that was hard to watch, with only the spectacular nature of Pacquiao’s performance making it good television in any way. And I think this has to go down as Pacquiao’s best performance. Against an opponent this good, of this size, to win the way he did, Pacquiao was better than ever. Sure, he may have fought stupidly early, but he made the right adjustments, he found a way to stalk Cotto when he was in survival mode and just all around blew my ass away.
Pacquiao’s options. Obviously, the world wants Pacquiao-Mayweather, as well it should. But Pacquiao’s team is talking about other options, too. Since they are, I will. 1. Juan Manuel Marquez at junior welter. No. I don’t want it anymore. I said after Marquez-Juan Diaz that it was very obvious to me that if there was a trilogy fight, the slower, aging blown-up Marquez would get knocked out by the ever-evolving, fresh Pacquiao, probably with ease. After seeing Marquez get shellacked by Mayweather at 144, and after seeing Pacquiao show yet more improvement against Cotto, there’s no way Pacquiao-Marquez III is a competitive fight. It’s too bad, because for a while, it was the fight I wanted more than any other. Now, I’d be upset if it DID happen. 2. Yuri Foreman. No, but maybe someday. Foreman won a junior middleweight title belt Saturday, and beating Foreman, something Pacquiao would do, would give him a title belt in an eighth division, putting him nearly out of reach in that particular record category. So I have moderate interest in it, but no, Pacquiao-Mayweather should happen first. This fight has actually been discussed. 3. The winner of Shane Mosley-Andre Berto. Should Pacquiao-Mayweather not happen — assuming I’m still a boxing fan after it falls through — this is the best fight for Pacquiao. Mosley is a step harder for Pacquiao than Cotto, and if Berto beats Mosley, then he’s legit for doing it. I know I diss the “winner gets the purse” idea all the time, but to get Pacquiao-Mayweather, we may have to do something like it — an even split of most of the revenue, with some share going to the winner. The egos, both Pacquiao’s and Mayweather’s, are too huge. I’m inclined to think that if this fight doesn’t happen Mayweather will be the reason — Mayweather finds reasons not to fight people, Pacquiao fights everyone — and like Nick Tylwalk and I were discussing just today, that’s a frightening proposition. The future of the sport hinging on Mayweather’s whims? Be afraid, boxing fans.
Pacquiao’s personality. I was thinking today how funny it was that someone who comes off as so cheesy in so many ways (see: that mustache, Wapakman) is also so cool. I think it’s because of his personality being so unique. It’s like he’s so cheesy he BECOMES cool. One of my favorite Pacquiao moments ever transpired during the interview with HBO’s Larry Merchant, after Merchant noted Pacquiao showed Cotto no mercy. Pacquiao giggled like a little girl and said, “I know.” There’s nothing that sums up Pacquiao to me so much as that — that someone so childlike in so many ways can also be such a fucking killer in the ring. And I don’t mean childlike condescendingly. Yes, he’s a little too trusting of some of his scoundrel-y advisers and such, so I guess I’m being slightly condescending, but he’s also got a child’s curiosity to try everything from acting to singing to scuba diving to everything else he’s famous for trying to do, and he fights like he’s having fun, like it’s all a big hoot, rather than a life-or-death business. Then, there’s the possibility that he’ll keep fighting even if he wins political office. Can you imagine? A fightin’ congressman? Maybe that just hits my dual-career choice sweet spot (boxing writer, congressional reporter), but I can’t imagine most anything cooler than a member of Congress who fights in the Capitol and in the ring, too.
Timing of Pacquiao-Mayweather. Top Rank’s Bob Arum wanted Pacquiao to fight again in March, while HBO wants the fight to be in April, May or June. The reason HBO wants it after March is because of the Winter Olympics. Yeah, as if the Winter Olympics suck so much life from ONE OF THE BIGGEST FIGHTS OF ALL TIME. Anyway, it just so works out that Roach doesn’t want the fight until later, too, since Pacquiao needs to recover from an ear injury and a generally difficult fight. And really, it doesn’t seem at all like Pacquiao’s electoral plans will interfere with whether Pacquiao fights Mayweather. Everyone always worries about all the distractions in Pacquiao’s camp, and it’s hard to imagine a bigger distraction than running for Congress. Pacquiao to me looked “meh” to me in 2007, the last time he ran for office, but he always manages to find a way to overcome this junk, so I guess he could find a way again. Pacquiao is talking about both Mayweather and Congress in 2010, which means we can assume that’s the plan.
Mayweather’s trash talk. Mayweather exists in this kind of reality-free world where he can say whatever he wants, no matter how false or contradictory or hypocritical or wrong-minded, and because he says it with such conviction, people believe it. He’s insufferable. Really insufferable. He thinks Pacquiao is one-dimensional. That’s fine, he can think that if he wants; I think he’s underestimating Pacquiao, but at least it’s not the ravings of a lunatic. Then Mayweather says Pacquiao has never said he wants to fight him, so he assumes Pacquiao doesn’t really want to fight him. Except he has said that, and it was a pretty rare thing for Pacquiao to do. See, Pacquiao hardly EVER says who he wants to fight. He reverts to the “that’s up to my promoter” line all the time. Besides, it was only a couple weeks ago that Mayweather was dismissing the idea of fighting Pacquiao, so by Mayweather’s own standard, he was scared, too. What’s more, Mayweather refused to discuss who he wanted to fight immediately after beating Marquez, so isn’t Pacquiao entitled to the same ambiguity? Then he complains that if he fights Pacquiao, he can’t win with the public. If he knocks him out, no one will care, since Pacquiao has been knocked out before; if he wins by decision, he won’t get credit, because it’ll be boring; if he wins at all, he won’t get credit because he was supposed to; and if he loses, everyone will be happy. Seriously, what an ass this guy is. First, you can’t play the villain for most of your career so as to enhance your bank account and then expect everyone to root for you. Second, Pacquiao being knocked out before is irrelevant now. It was a decade ago, under circumstances where Pacquiao was compromised because of being weight-drained, before Pacquiao was a tenth of the fighter he is today. If Mayweather wins by decision, maybe it WILL be boring, but he will get credit. Because beating Mayweather is exactly the kind of thing everyone has wanted Mayweather to do for the last six years — get a win over a guy who can be considered something like the best available opponent.
Roach’s trash talk. At times, it seems like fighters have felt bullied by Mayweather, who talks so much trash about his opponents and says so many thing about them that out of bounds (like Mayweather, Sr. accusing Pacquiao of being on steroids absent any evidence whatsoever, which is bordering on libelous) that I do think he gets in the heads of his foes. Roach, though, is unflappable. He hears Mayweather’s critiques of his fighter and comes back with “Mayweather is a fragile guy” and says Pacquiao has “more balls.” I don’t know how Pacquiao will hold up to the kind of verbal attacks, but Roach is more than ready to take the bulk of the fire and serve as a kind of shield for Pacquiao.
How Pacquiao-Mayweather would go. A bunch of people have asked me, so I’ll just repeat it here. I don’t think it would be anywhere near as good as Pacquiao-Cotto, which just makes sense if you’ve seen Mayweather fight. Again, when he’s offensive-minded, he’s practically my favorite fighter. I love to watch him stand right in front of his opponent, make him miss, then unload with blinding combinations. There’s nobody who does that kind of thing. When Mayweather’s safety-first, like he has been too often, he can stink out the joint. And I don’t see Mayweather being super-aggressive with Pacquiao. Standing right in front of Pacquiao would result in Mayweather getting hit much more often than he is willing to risk. Pacquiao’s fast enough, hard-hitting enough and does so many things that at times have bothered Mayweather — awkward angles, southpaw stance, combinations, etc. — that Mayweather just won’t stand in front of him. It won’t happen. So that means we’d end up getting a fight something like the second half of Pacquiao-Cotto, with Cotto retreating and counterpunching and Pacquiao finding the whole thing a little frustrating. Only Mayweather will be far more effective fighting backing up than Cotto ever could be. The thing that put me firmer in thinking that Pacquiao wins that fight — I still think it’s a close fight — is that Pacquiao took the power of Cotto, a significantly harder-hitting welterweight than Mayweather, and his chin held up so well he just stalked Cotto relentlessly. Mayweather may hit Pacquiao a lot in that fight, but he wouldn’t knock him out, so it becomes a question of who wins the majority of firefights, with Pacquiao probably getting the edge from judges for being the aggressor. I reserve the right to change my mind if I find out Mayweather knocks out Vitali Klitschko in sparring. Interestingly, MGM’s betting operation would install Mayweather as the slight favorite, but betting elsewhere has opened and Pacquiao is the slight favorite. If Mayweather doesn’t come into this fight as the favorite, I think it would be the first time of his career.
Yuri Foreman-Daniel Santos. I converted, if not to Judaism, to Foremanism as a result of this undercard fight. For the first few rounds, it was dreadful, as expected. But then Foreman got much more aggressive, and suddenly there was action. Foreman doesn’t have knockout power, but I don’t need a fighter to have knockout power for me to like ‘im. A fighter who thrives on boxing skills, as Foreman does, isn’t automatically disqualified from my heart, either. I just need a boxer to fight his ass off for me to like him, and as the fight wore on, Foreman increasingly fought his ass off, rather than just circling and playing keep away. So Foreman, in winning a decision where he scored a pair of knockdowns, won me over. If he fights like that, I think he’ll be difficult to beat and moderately enjoyable to watch. Granted, Santos came in with serious weight struggles. He reportedly had to lose seven pounds in a week, and he rehydrated from 154 Friday to a whopping 173 Saturday. Santos didn’t look like Santos, and that certainly helped Foreman look like less of a bore, but credit due to Foreman. Overshadowed by Pacquiao’s own history-making title performance was that Foreman became the first Israeli to win a major title. Good for him. Maybe before he finishes up his rabbi studies, he can get knocked out by Pacquiao. All joking aside, Foreman vs. any other 154-pounder becomes a much more palatable option for me after this Santos win.
Bob Arum’s prickishness. Arum, as a Jew who has pride in his heritage, was understandably happy to see Foreman win the belt. And Arum has plenty to be proud of this week just as a promoter, putting together a fight like Pacquiao-Cotto that’s as good as any boxing fan could dream up. Plus, he probably made a ton of money this weekend. But he still found a way to work my nerves, first hanging up on Steve Kim during a radio show when Kim rightfully called Arum on his empty promise that Pacquiao-Cotto would have a “spectacular” undercard, then repeatedly flipping off ESPN’s Dan Rafael after Foreman beat Santos for reasons I don’t understand. It’s too bad how after a weekend where Arum should be celebrating a few successes, he decided to go so classless.
Other weekend results. Bantamweight Z Gorres is showing improvement in his health after a scary collapse Friday and subsequent medical-induced coma. I’ll keep rooting for him to recover, to the point where he can lead a normal life, although obviously his boxing career is over… Middleweight Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. beat Troy Rowland and probably regrets wanting the exposure he got on the Pacquiao-Cotto undercard, since anybody who saw that fight probably won’t ever want to see him again… Alfonso Gomez vs. Soto-Karass didn’t turn out to be the barnburner anyone expected thanks to Soto-Karass’ fouling and the premature conclusion due to a cut-induced head butt, but Gomez looked pretty good in it and it featured the funniest haircut vs. haircut match-up of the year, between Soto-Karass’ quasi-mohawk and Gomez’ floppy bangs… Highly-touted welterweight Mark Melligen lost over the weekend to Michel Rosales, whose resume looks decent enough not to make it an embarrassing, exposure-style loss, but given that I saw Melligen in June and wasn’t impressed with him at all, I’m going to say he probably isn’t for real.