Four years ago, Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao were the toast of international boxing. You can say that times have changed because after their memorable slugfest where Pacquiao emerged victorious, both pugilists are now in the same boat fighting to keep their boxing careers afloat.
Cotto, 38-4 with 31 knockouts, was demolished by Pacquiao in 12 rounds in November 2009 and his career has since gone topsy-turvy. He moved up to the heavier super welterweight (154 pounds) division and briefly revived his career by beating Mexican Antonio Margarito in December 2011 for the World Boxing Association (WBA) crown. Cotto did not get past his first defense, losing the hardware to Floyd Mayweather Jr. by decision in May 2012. After Cotto was badly beaten by Austin Trout in his next outing in December 2012, astute observers of the fight game started spreading the word “shot” to describe the Puerto Rican star.
Pacquiao, 34, had the world at the palm of his hand after his clinical butchering of Cotto. Unfortunately for Pacquiao, the fight with Cotto turned out to be his last eye-popping performance. While he won his next four fights, Pacquiao looked pedestrian against the likes of Joshua Clottey and Shane Mosley. Last year, disaster truck as Pacquiao lost both of his fights. He yielded the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title to Timothy Bradley Jr. on a controversial decision in June and six months later was viciously knocked out in six rounds by rival Juan Manuel Marquez. The loss to Marquez was the toughest to swallow as it shattered Pacquiao’s aura of invincibility. As a consequence, he lost his claim to the top spot of the sport’s pound-for-pound rankings.
Cotto and Pacquiao both found themselves in the doldrums last year. Cotto lost his father to a heart attack and later found himself embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal involving a female employee of his. Pacquiao, for his part, dealt with health, religious and even financial issues.
Amid the domestic woes they are currently facing, Cotto and Pacquiao decided to give the sport one more shot. Cotto shifted handlers this year and tapped the services of Pacquiao’s long-time trainer Freddie Roach for his comeback fight against Delvin Rodriguez. The belated partnership worked wonders as Cotto looked devastating in stopping Rodriguez in three rounds on October 5. Cotto later told reporters that he would have beaten Mayweather Jr. had he shown up in the same and form condition.
Pacquiao, 54-5 with 38 knockouts, is booked to hit the comeback road on November 24 (Manila time) against American Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios in Macao. No world title is at stake, but the career of Pacquiao is definitely on the line. Roach has made it clear that if Pacquiao suffers another devastating loss, retirement is the only way to go. Amid reports that his training is once again being hampered by incessant distractions, Pacquiao remains the favorite to whip the one-dimensional and untested Rios. Make no mistake though; Rios is a live underdog because there is no telling how much Marquez’s right hand took out of the Filipino ring icon’s confidence.
Cotto is hankering for a rematch with Mayweather Jr. but Top Rank Promotions is also eyeing a possible move up to the middleweight (160 pounds) division for a fight with veteran World Boxing Council (WBC) champion Sergio Martinez. Pacquiao also has his eyes fixed on a megabuck (and definitely long overdue) showdown with Mayweather Jr., but a fight with the winner of the Bradley-Marquez fight this weekend is also in the cards.
How about Cotto-Pacquiao II? Being the trainer of both fighters, Roach made it clear that this fight will forever remain a figment of the imagination.
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