Last night, a short drive from Los Angeles up I-15, boxing continued its Renaissance.
The sport, left for dead prior to the Mayweather-De la Hoya hype machine-turned-snoozefest, has revitalized itself in the last two years due to an increased internet presence (fans can see highlights, find fight info, follow the sport in a manner more organized than the fight game itself), the plateauing of MMA, some attractive matchups, and of course – great fighters.
Alarmists labeled De la Hoya “the last great draw,” but subsequent bouts (Mayweather-Marquez, Mayweather-Hatton, Pacq-Hatton) have shown that the boxing market robust and its consumers rabid.
The move back into the mainstream continued at the MGM Grand due to a spectacular fight between two classic warriors (with a nod to ).
Cotto, devastatingly focused (“here take a photo/walk in serious like Miguel Cotto” 1:03 mark) walked into the ring fearless, despite being destroyed by a cheating Antonio Margarito 16 months earlier. The stronger of the two fighters – with good speed – Cotto needed to take the fight directly to Manny, and he was acting the part.
Manny walked in the ring in quite a different fashion – with Eye of the Tiger blaring and the well-constructed MGM Garden Arena featuring Pacquiao on its huge mega-screens, the six-time (six different weight classes) title holder smiled, winked and high-gloved his way into the ring, seeming eager & enthused to ‘go play.’
As La Diva of the Phillipines sang an absolutely stunning rendition of the Phillipine National Anthem, Lupang Hinirang, it was clear that the electricty was back in Vegas, and it was back in boxing.
Michael Buffer rumbled and the crowed roared, and the two champions went at their business.
The first round had Cotto establishing his size; clearly the bigger, stronger fighter, he went right at Pacquiao. No real action but Cotto won the round, 10-9.
The second round was solid with punches throughout; Pacquiao was clearly the more active fighther, landing stiff blows to Cotto – though with no real damage – and Pacq won, 10-9.
In the third round, a solid knockdown on a quick right to Cotto’s temple at the end of a three-punch combo established the momentum as clearly on Pacq’s side. Pacquaio 10-9.
Round Four was one of the best fight rounds I’ve seen in 2009. Both fighters standing and delivering bombs, with Pacq’s speed winning the beginning of the round and the end of the round, when Pacq rocked Cotto with a left uppercut, sending him careening to the canvass and ending hopes of a 10-9 round. This would also be the last round in which Cotto hurts Pacquiao, as he did have a strong ‘middle minute,’ flummoxing Manny with sharp jabs and a couple left hooks. Pacq wins, 10-8.
The Fifth Round was a recovery round for both fighters, as Cotto perhaps exposed Manny’s one weakness with a strong uppercut early in the round. That said, Pacquiao is clearly smelling blood in the water, as his attack sensors are beaming, foreshadowing his ‘kill radar’ utilized at the end of his fights. Pacquiao 10-9.
The Sixth Round was the beginning of the end for Miguel. The first signs of his backpedaling strategy begin, as his left eye is bloodied, and its clear he quite literally can not see where Pacq’s punches are coming from. Pacquiao is just too good a fighter. Good round overall, Cotto’s heart is keeping him around. Pacquiao, 10-9.
Round Seven showed a faint glimmer of hope for Cotto – or maybe it was just heart – as he valiantly chased Pacquiao “through every foot of the 400-square foot ring” (Jim Lampley), but Manny’s quickness is not subsiding at all, and he continues landing every punch from every angle. Cotto’s energy level is still very high, but he just can’t hit Pacquiao with a strong blow. Pacquiao 10-9.
Round Eightbegins and ends with shots from the HBO PPV cameras of Miguel Cotto’s wife & son, unable to watch Cotto getting meticulously picked apart by Pacq. An easy round for Manny, ringsiders Emmanuel Steward & Larry Merchant join with Lampley in calls for Kenny Bayless to begin watching this fight for a moment to stop the carnage. Pacquiao wins, 10-9.
The Ninth Round was yet again furious, though all in Pacq’s favor. Cotto (who actually kissed his father/trainer between rounds as if to tell him that he loves him) was more “back, back, back” than Chris Berman calling a homerun derby, bloodied more and more with each crisp, off-angle shot from Pacq. Pacquiao 10-9, though it could have been a standing 10-8.
Round Ten began with Cotto’s corner telling Miguel “one more round,” and continued with a cacaphony of pleas to stop the fight from the triumvarate of Steward/Merchant/Lampley. I’d love to criticize, but they weren’t off the mark. Miguel’s amazing stamina & heart were the determining factors in Bayless’s decision to allow the fight continue, because Cotto’s wife actually left the arena with their son at this point in order to avoid watching the beating. Pacquiao wins, 10-9.
The Eleventh Round was more “Run, Miguel, Run” than anything boxing-oriented, and Pacquiao kept right on going at Cotto, though Miguel’s deft ducking and sliding abilities helping him avoid more damage. Pacq actually stopped chasing toward the end of the round, essentially begging Cotto to take the fight to him. Cotto opted not to, smartly. Pacquiao wins this one too, 10-9.
The Twelth and Final Round was simply a showcase for Cotto to prove yet again that he has unrivaled heart and dedication. Though a quick (ironically in the grand scheme, late?) stoppage from Bayless ended the match 55 seconds after the bell is struck, it is clear that Miguel Cotto belonged in the ring with this Legend, but just wasn’t as good of a fighter.
Lance Pugmire in today’s L.A. Times sums it up:
* Pugmire’s take: We’re seeing an athlete at his peak, a dominating, charismatic boxer who has speed, power and smarts. That was Pacquiao’s plan, and he carried it out brilliantly against a powerful foe, sending Cotto to the hospital. Bring on Mayweather.
YallKiltIt Summary: Boxing is Back, and I eagerly await this $60mm matchup. Floyd is Fast, but Pacquiao is Amazing. Should be a True Classic.
**Also, congratulations to Yuri Foreman, the first Israeli Boxing World Champion, who according to Kevin Baxter of the L.A. Times, “scored a shocking and one-sided decision over Puerto Rican Daniel Santos in a WBA super-welterweight title fight Saturday night on the Miguel Cotto-Manny Pacquiao undercard. “