Sunday November 15th, 2009

LAS VEGAS -- Features in Sports Illustrated. Front page stories in the New York Times. The build up for Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto's welterweight showdown at the MGM Grand has been likened to a mini-Super Bowl and is as big a boxing promotion as any since Floyd Mayweather Jr. fought Oscar De La Hoya.

Just imagine if these two didn't like each other.

The mutual respect Pacquiao and Cotto have for each other has been evident throughout fight week. There is no trash talk. No antagonizing sound bites delivered to the media. The only real excitement came during the weigh-in, when Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, and Cotto's cornerman, Joe Santiago, nearly came to blows after Cotto stepped off the scale. But even that situation was quickly diffused when Roach shook Santiago's hand before stepping off the stage.

That respect will vanish, however, once the first bell rings. Pacquiao is expected to come out strong and set the tempo. If history is any indicator, Cotto will do the same. Here are three things to watch in tonight's fight:

1. Who will set the tempo? Roach promises that Pacquiao will try to set the tone early and if history is any indicator, Cotto will do the same. Pacquiao completely demoralized De La Hoya early last December and Ricky Hatton was on the canvas before the end of the second round in May. Cotto won't go out that quickly but Pacquiao could put himself in an advantageous position if he can make Cotto fight moving backwards.

2. Cotto's left hook De La Hoya probably has the best left hook of any of Pacquiao's opponents, but Pacquiao was barely touched by it. He will by Cotto's. One of the reasons Cotto throws so many body shots is that it sets up his devastating hook. Roach says Pacquiao can take it, but rest assured, he's never felt anything like it.

3. Joe Chavez Who? That would be Cotto's cutman. Chavez is regarded as one of the best cut men in the business and he better be on his game. Cotto is a bleeder: in his last fight Joshua Clottey opened up a grotesque gash on Cotto's left eyebrow that nearly (and probably should have) stopped the fight. Pacquiao's laser punches are likely to open up a fresh wound and Chavez will have to be sharp to make sure it doesn't affect Cotto's vision.

11:27 p.m. ET -- Welcome back blog fans. The MGM Grand is filled to the top and it's set to pop in here. To recap the night so far: Yuri Foreman won a surprisingly entertaining decision over Daniel Santos and Julio Cesar Chavez won a thoroughly awful one.

11:38 p.m. -- There go the lights and here comes Pacquiao. A montage of all the great former champs -- Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield and Sugar Ray Leonard, among others -- precedes his music. Compelling stuff. Interestingly, all the clips show punishing knockouts. More head games from Pac-Man's team, perhaps.

11:49 p.m. -- Ding, ding, ding! The fight has started.

11:52 p.m. -- Cotto looks like the bigger fighter out there. Good jab backs up Pacquiao up. Left hook stuns Pacquiao! Good combination by Manny fires back. Cotto returns with combo of his own. Neither fighter is looking to tie up. Cotto's jab continues to look sharp. It's keeping Manny at bay. Cotto is surgical with his punches. Close round, give it to Cotto 10-9.

11:53 p.m. -- Now we are going to see if Roach really is a genius. He's going to have to work to help Manny win this one.

11:56 p.m. -- Cotto still jabbing well and counterpunching. Pacquiao jabbing but Cotto swallowing them up with his gloves. Good jab by Cotto snaps Manny's neck back. Pacquiao scores with huge combination! Monster left hook by Cotto! Pacquiao fighting on the ropes more this round. Roach doesn't want him there. Good flurry by Manny scores again. Hard flurry by Pacquiao! Give him the round. 10-9 Pacquiao.

11:59 p.m. -- Pacquiao waves Cotto in to start the round. Pacquiao's jab is so fast. A right slips in and knocks down Cotto! Not hurt but a knockdown anyway. Both men launching bombs now. Pacquiao the aggressor but Cotto counterpunching well. Good uppercut by Cotto. Pacquiao playing defense now. With the knockdown, it's a big round for Manny. 10-8 Pacquiao.

12:02 a.m. -- Cotto moving forward more. Hammering Manny with jabs. These guys came to fight. Manny goes to the body, maybe to give Cotto something to think about. Couple of tie ups ... fatigue might be setting in. Cotto desperately trying to corner Manny. Manny doing a little rope-a-dope now. Down goes Cotto! Big knockdown! He's hurt! 10-8 round for Pacquiao.

12:04 a.m. -- Blog favorite Cheapo Tony -- who will be having a cheapo wedding in February -- has checked in: "Manny is fast, but is he hurting Cotto?" Yes, Cheapo Tony, he is.

12:07 a.m. -- Cotto still jabbing away. Pacquiao's defense is pretty good though. Combination by Pacquiao sends Cotto into a crouch. Pacquiao's punches are thudding. Both men dancing a little bit more this round. Good uppercut by Cotto. It seems that punch is there when he wants it. Pacquiao is just a whirling dervish. Close round, but I'm giving this one to Pacquiao, 10-9.

12:11 a.m. -- Pacquiao comes out the aggressor. Cotto's jab coming less frequently now. Hard left hand by Manny. Cotto looks a little wobbled. More combinations from Pacquiao. Cotto's having a hard time countering a guy who comes forward as fast as Pacquiao. His right hand is slow. Hard right by Manny! Cotto may have been saved by the bell there. Another round to Manny. 10-9 Pacquiao.

12:14 a.m. -- Pacquiao teeing off on Cotto now. Cotto grabbing his head. Pacquiao waving Cotto in again. His punches are coming from all angles. Good uppercut by Pacquiao. Cotto moving more, reminscent of late rounds against Antonio Margarito. Hard jab snaps Manny's head back. It's amazing. Manny could be fighting Wladimir Klitschko and I think he would still be the one coming forward. Hard combination by Manny. Another round. 10-9 Pacquiao.

12:16 a.m. -- Remember: Cotto is landing, no doubt about that. But Manny is just absorbing them and landing 12 of his own.

12:18 a.m. -- Both men circling. Cotto connecting with the jab but Manny is waving him in again. Manny looking slow so far this round. Cotto firing combinations. Now Manny charges, buckles Cotto in the corner. Cotto eats another combination against the ropes. Cotto buckled again. Pacquiao very aggressive now. Cotto's face is reddened badly. Give it to Pacquiao, 10-9.

12:20 a.m. -- Cheapo Tony: "I hate you."

12:24 a.m. -- Cotto still fighting hard. Pacquiao is absorbing some real punishment. Pacquiao shoved against the ropes. Now Cotto is in the corner! Ties him up. On the ropes again, being chased. Cotto is a smart fighter, eludes it. Pacquiao just teeing off. Ref watching closely. He checks on Cotto. Cotto spitting blood. Coming out his nose now, too. This might be his last round. His face is a mess. Pacquiao still attacking. Cotto's hands down, this has to be it. 10-9 Pacquiao.

12:26 a.m. -- Huge mistake by Nevada commish ... should have stopped this.

12:28 a.m. -- Another slow start. It's almost as if Pacquiao lurks for a minute then explodes for two. Pacquiao chasing now. Cotto fighting with hands low. Still moving. Good jab by Cotto sends Pacquiao back. Hard right by Pacquiao. Cotto just running now. Very slow round. Pacquiao flurries ... 10-9 Pacquiao

12:29 a.m. -- Santiago should be ashamed for letting this continue.

12:31 a.m. -- Laser left by Manny opens the round. Cotto just staying out of the way. Manny taps his gloves together, as if urging Cotto to fight. Cotto cornered now. Fires back! Manny buckled! Now Manny chasing again. Fans chanting for the fight to be stopped. Manny just teeing off. Cotto just trying to survive. 10-9 Pacquiao.

12: 32 a.m. -- Unbelievable. We go to the 12th ...

12:33 a.m. -- Manny just standing there, Cotto won't fight. Just running. Ref stops it. It's over! Pacquiao scores a 12th-round TKO.

12:34 a.m. -- Classy Cotto hugs Manny in the corner. This was a hell of a fight.

12:35 a.m. -- That's it blog fans, check out my analysis on on Monday!

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