The mythical mantle of pound-for-pound champion is the most prestigious title in the fight game, perhaps
Right now, that man is
Since making his pro debut at a wraith-like 106 pounds, Pacquiao has climbed the sport's weight divisions with the noble defiance of
There was a furious ninth-round TKO of
Pacquiao is so fast and accurate at this stage of his career, able to fire punches from so many angles and blur the line between offense and defense so effectively, that it's hard
Throughout this career-defining stretch, Pacquiao has made the impossible appear effortless, raising his game to the enormity of one historic moment after another, conquering these challenges with such aplomb and self-possession that members of the fight press have openly wondered if Manny even has a natural fighting weight. How high can he go?
But as Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KOs) gears up for his latest challenge -- a Nov. 14 showdown with WBO welterweight champion
Make no mistake: Pacquiao, certain to be a comfortable favorite, is going to have his hands full with the workman-like Cotto, who could enter the ring as heavy as 160 pounds in November. A stingy puncher who carries on the legacy of Puerto Rican greats like
Cotto's lone defeat in 35 pro bouts came at the dubious hands of
The November bout is a megafight. Cotto and Pacquiao are an accomplished, crowd-pleasing pair. They are two of the most beloved fighters in the game, modern-day folk heroes in their respective fatherlands who inspire passionate, jingoistic followings wherever they compete. But that's only where the lofty stakes of the showdown begin.
For Pacquiao, there's a chance to claim -- along with his 50th career victory -- a title in an unprecedented seventh weight class. That's a downright outrageous haul. Sure, there weren't as many divisions in the days of
For Cotto, there's the opportunity to usurp his opponent's place atop the pound-for-pound rankings, cement his own place among the all-time greats and, perhaps most importantly, exorcise the demons from the Margarito nightmare once and for all. To defeat an international superstar like Pacquiao, one of the