20/20 Hindsight: Surprise! It was Manny Pacquiao's Power That Made the Difference Against Miguel Cotto

Even with a few days for it to sink in, I'm still doing a bit of mental digestion of Manny Pacquiao's 12th-round TKO of Miguel Cotto. It isn't the result (which I correctly predicted, if I may toot my own horn a bit), or the seven titles in weight classes, or even the hype already building as fans salivate over a possible meeting between Pac Man and Floyd Mayweather (the early line is already set!).

Instead, what stands out to me as something to ponder is that in what many people billed as a contest between speed and power, it was Pacquiao's power that was really the deciding factor. The telling quote in the aftermath of the fight came from Cotto trainer Joe Santiago:

"He hit harder than we expected and he was a lot stronger than we expected."

Think about that for a moment. It's a much different song than the ones sung by David Diaz or Oscar De La Hoya pointing to Pacquiao's quickness as the main cause of their defeats. Oscar even went as far as to suggest he didn't think Manny hit that hard.

For the first few rounds, though, Cotto was able to handle, if not completely neutralize, Pac Man's speed. He did so mostly by staying busy with his jab and capitalizing on his reach, plus throwing in the occasional counter shot.

Pacquiao had already started stepping it up toward the end of the second round, perhaps proving Freddie Roach's assertion that Manny wasn't following their preferred strategy. Still, it was only after Cotto tasted some flush shots - especially the left to the chin that dropped him in the latter stages of the fourth round - that he looked like he was lost, essentially fighting while going backward for the remainder of the bout.

Manny's high KO percentage and reputation as an action fighter somewhat obscure the fact that he didn't really have fearsome one-shot power at featherweight or super featherweight. He couldn't keep Juan Manuel Marquez down despite dropping him three times in their first meeting and lost to Erik Morales in their first fight. At 130, Oscar Larios, Marco Antonio Barrera and Marquez (again) all escaped with decision losses.

Since moving up to lightweight and beyond, though, Pacquiao has stopped everyone he's faced, suggesting his pure punching power is peaking. The punch that turned Ricky Hatton's lights out was just about the perfect evidence, and the knockdown shot from this past Saturday was a great Exhibit B.

That's not to say that Pacquiao's speed and knack for throwing punches from unorthodox angles didn't bother Cotto, because they clearly did. But for a guy that had already been in with Shane Mosley and Antonio Margarito, no slouches in the power department themselves (though Tony may have had some, um, help), to be so affected by shots landed by a man who had campaigned two weight classes lower the previous year is truly remarkable.

Should the megafight with Mayweather ever becomes a reality, it's that power that very well could prove to be the x-factor. Both men are exceptionally fast, meaning any edge in speed either way will be a tiny one. Floyd gets the nod in lateral movement and ring generalship, though Pacquiao has made vast improvements in both areas over a relatively short period of time.

If Pac Man can land clean shots against Mayweather - and yes, that's a big if due to Floyd's defensive wizardry - Money may very well find that he's up against the hardest hitting welterweight he's ever faced. A week ago, I wouldn't have believed it, but it's hard to discount that line of thinking now.

Posted by The Franchise


uatu said...

are you sure about Floyd getting the nod in lateral movement?

Who would win a footrace between the two?

Who can shuffle faster side to side?

Who can change directions more quickly?

Are you sure Manny isn't as fast if not faster in that department?

Nick Tylwalk said...

No, I'm not sure, and won't be until I see them in the ring together. My gut feeling is that Manny has the slightly faster hands and Floyd has the slightly faster legs. I'm guessing the differences between them in both categories will be so slight that they won't make the difference in the fight. Things that could? Mayweather's technical superiority and defensive mastery, or Pacquiao's fight-changing power and unorthodox punching angles.

uatu said...

I believe tht Floyd has the faster reflexes in reacting to his opponent, as far as getting his head out of the way, moving his upperbody, placing his hands where he wants them when he wants them, and his feet.