Back in the late 00's the Welterweight division had so many things going for it. It had the best fighters in the sport, it had the biggest names, and more amazingly than anything else, the top guys seemed to be fighting each other regularly. Time after time we were getting amazing match ups, between top fighters who seemed happy to face each other in an attempt to prove they were the best. Today we get to share one of those in this week's Closet Classic.
Manny Pacquiao (49-3-2 37) vs Miguel Cotto (34-1, 27)
By November 2009 Filipino sensation Manny Pacquiao had gone from boxing star to global sporting star, thanks to massive, high profile wins over Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton. Those wins had turned Pacquiao from a star that every boxing fan knew to a man that everyone knew. It had also sown the seeds for "Pacman" to move to Welterweight, where there was a lot of interesting match ups there for him, including a bout with Miguel Cotto.
Aged 30 at this point Pacquiao was now longer the scrawny but imposing fighter he had been at Flyweight, or the one handed destroyer he had been at Super Bantamweight. He was now a highly experienced, round swarmer, able to unload power shots with alarming speed from both hands. His straight left hand was still a murderous weapon, but his lead hand had been developed excellently by Freddie Roach and he was now an all round offensive machine with terrifying speed and power.
Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto was one of the biggest draws in the sport, and had a huge and loyal Puerto Rican fan base. Like Pacquiao he had fought a genuine who's who of who with wins against the likes of Carlos Maussa, Rendall Bailey, DeMarcus Corley, Pau Malignaggi, Zab Judah and Shane Mosley. He had been an offensive fighter himself, with heavy hands, crunching body shots and a technically intelligent boxing brain. He was a man fans loved and with good reason.
Not only did fans love Cotto and his in ring mentality, but they had also had a huge amount of sympathy for him following a 2008 loss to Antonio Margarito, in a sensational fight. That was a loss that had doubt cast over it in 2009 when Margarito was found to have tried to enter the ring with a plaster like substance in his gloves for a bout against Shane Mosley. That had essentially excused the loss in the eyes of many who saw Cotto as essentially unbeaten, with an asterisk next to the "1" in 34-1.
Coming in to the bout Cotto was the WBO Welterweight champion and a man many regarded as a top 10 pound for pound fighter. For Pacquiao this was his chance to claim a ABC title at a fifth weight, adding the Welterweight title to world title fights at Flyweight, Super Bantamweight, Super Featherweight and Lightweight. for both men it was a chance to further enhance their already impressive legacies.
With anticipation high for the fight we had expected something enthralling. This was two brilliant warriors clashing. It was a test of Pacquiao at a new weight and it was a chance for Cotto to face a naturally smaller man. The only mark on the fight going in was the fact it was at a catchweight, and wasn't at the Welterweight limit. Instead being fought at 145lbs.
Unlike some fights in this series this had the big fight feel. This had the mega fight build up, this had everything going for it, with hype and anticipation all over it. And it damn well delivered.
From the opening moments we saw both men looking to establish themselves, with Pacquiao's speed looking like the difference maker very quickly. Cotto however wasn't intimidated by the speed and looked to press forward, using his jab and left hook to the body to try and get Pacquiao's respect. Right at the end of the round Pacquiao began to dip into his bag of tricks as his confidence began to soar. It was as if he'd taken a few from Cotto, realised he could take the power, and began to move through the gears.
In round 2 we saw Cotto again showing confidence, trying to boxing behind his strong jab and pressure Pacquiao, but he struggled to cope with the speed of Pacquiao, who found his grove by the mid-way point of the round. From there on it was a question of whether Cotto could impose his strength, his power and his physicality on Pacquiao, or slow him down with body shots. It seemed like Cotto really couldn't handle the speed and that was shown again in round 3, when Pacquiao dropped Cotto with a right hook. The knockdown wasn't a bad one, but would be the first of two for the Filipino, with Cotto going down a second time in round 4.
Despite the knockdowns Cotto was still hungry and valiant, fighting back through the middle rounds as the bout continued on. Pacquiao putting on a great showcase of his ability, and Cotto showing the hunger, desire and warriors mentality that had made him a fan favourite.
We'll leave most of the bout unspoiled here, but if you've never seen it before make time to enjoy it in amazing HD thanks to Top Rank. This is a great fight, and a great reminder of recent history, and a time when two true stars of the sport clashed in a sensational bout.
For those wondering, this isn't the best bout we'll feature here in out Closet Classic series. It's certainly not the most competitive or even match up, but it's one of the rare big fighters that lived up to all expectations. It was a virtuoso performance at times, possibly Pacquiao's most complete performance, and one that is, sadly, now often over-looked.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features