Can Cotto Keep Pace with Pacquiao?

The diminutive Pacquiao, boxing's acknowledged pound-for-pound king, will move north in weight once again to fight Cotto, the current WBO welterweight champ, at an agreed-upon catch-weight of 145 pounds. Can Cotto Keep Pace with Pacquiao? Those questions still haunt Cotto's career more than a year later. HBO commentator Max Kellerman agrees that the verdict is still out on Cotto. He sees the fighter's best blueprint for beating Pacquiao in Cotto's victory over Shane Mosley in December 2007, but wonders whether Cotto has that kind of fight left in him. "The dominant question here is whether Cotto can handle Pacquiao's speed," Kellerman says. "And the good news for Cotto is that his timing was able to offset Mosley's speed, and Mosley's lightning fast. But is this the same Cotto who beat Mosley? He cuts more easily now, and he doesn't seem as quick as he once did. And in Pacquiao, he's going to have to offset a guy who at this moment is faster than Shane, and who's a southpaw, and who has just shown us that he can really punch, even at these higher weights." There's no doubt that Pacquiao presents a frightening package to any opponent right now, but he's not without question marks himself, particularly when faced with a proven heavy-handed puncher of Cotto's size and caliber. "The question for Manny is, 'Can he take a shot from a guy who has more than respectable power as a welterweight?'" Fischer says. "Because I think Cotto has the ability to catch Pacquiao and hurt him." "Pacquiao has looked great in his last three fights," says RingTV.com's Doug Fischer, "but he's also fought the perfect opponents, the perfect guys to make him look like a million bucks." Of course, whether Pacquiao could handle the power of naturally bigger men has been the primary subplot heading into his three most recent fights, and each time he answered with a resounding "yes" and with increasingly spectacular emphasis. Last June, in his first fight above 130 pounds, he dominated then-WBC lightweight champ David Diaz. Six months later, he moved all the way up to 147 pounds and destroyed Oscar De La Hoya in an explosive performance that catapulted him to superstardom. Then in May, he followed up his De La Hoya masterpiece with a crushing second-round knockout of junior welterweight champ, Ricky Hatton. It was an astonishing trio of victories that, taken as a whole, would seem to pose quite a convincing response to any doubts about Pacquiao's ability to cope with the size and pop of just about anyone. Still, doubts linger. The Cotto fight should put those doubts to rest one way or the other. "If Cotto still has it, Pacquiao is going to be in there against a natural welterweight in his physical prime with a lot of pride," Kellerman says. And then we'll find things out."


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