By JE Grant
Manny Pacquiao has emerged as boxing's most popular international figure. As the only fighter to win lineal titles in four weight classes, his popularity is more than matched by solid achievement. In destroying Oscar de la Hoya (even a diminished version), and spectacularly knocking out a strong Ricky Hatton --- and doing so in weight classes in which he had not ventured --- "Pacman" exceeded all expectations of stardom.
Miguel Cotto is a star in his own right. His wins over top competition such as Shane Mosely, Zab Judah, and Carlos Quintana, should not be overshadowed by his own devastating knockout loss to Antonio Margarito. Indeed in light of Margarito's subsequent scandal involving hand-plastering prior to his fight with Shane Mosely, one has to view his fight with Cotto with some skepticism.
Both fighters are strong, quick-fisted (though Pacquiao has a clear edge), exhibit punching power (with perhaps a slight edge to Cotto), and come to every fight to win with their shields held high or on them.
Pacquiao holds an advantage in his corner with the legendary Freddie Roach at the helm. Cotto's history with cornermen is also legendary by in a negative sense. A round-robin of cornermen for Cotto may prove crucial in a close bout down the stretch.
PREDICTION: Pacquiao knows only one gear -- fast. He will attempt to overwhelm the more methodical Cotto from the opening bell. No one should expect Cotto to fold early, even if he hits the deck --- again, he's in this to win it if he can. Pacman's vulnerabilities come with his swarming style. His wide punches, though delivered with lightning speed, can allow a well-positioned Cotto to sneak in his sharp, short right hands to the chin. Cotto has been on the deck and, except for the Margarito bout, rose to win. Hitting him is not especially difficult, though he often make opponents pay for the privilege. On Saturday Pacquiao's machine, however, won't be denied. While Cotto will fight to the fullest of his ability, he won't slow Pacman's advance. He'll get hit more often than ever and from more angles than ever. His chance lies in his power and he'll need to go for the big punch early or risk being hopelessly behind and exhausted late in the fight.
PACQUIAO BY TKO IN 10.