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The Generation's Best



By Steve Kim
(Photo © Chris Farina/Top Rank)


There are many times when you can accuse promoter Bob Arum of hyperbole or exaggeration. But you cant really blame him, after all, that’s his job. But what was once considered another brash statement by the Harvard educated pitchman, must now be considered seriously. Last Wednesday night on a certain internet radio show (where he hung up when some smart-ass host asked him about his ’spectacular’ undercard’) he stated that Manny Pacquiao was the greatest fighter he had ever seen. This from a man who has promoted the likes of Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard.
 
It seemed like boxing blasphemy at the time. But after Pacquiao’s systematic and brutal dispatching of Miguel Cotto over 12 rounds this past Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, you can no longer roll your eyes or snicker when such utterances are made.
 
"The best fighter I have ever seen," Arum, said once again, at the post-fight press conference.

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Some of you will still believe that Arum is exorbitant in his praise. But this much is clear, as that famous saying goes: the class he’s in, it doesn’t take too long to conduct roll call. I don’t know where he ranks all-time( I’m still waaaay to young to make those observations) but you can certainly make the case that he’s the best fighter of this generation. And perhaps that’s the only fair comparison to make. The bottom line is that the sport and the business of boxing has changed. Fighters simply don’t perform nearly as often as they used to. And it’s difficult to compare boxers with well over 100 fights, to those who now perform twice a year. Then there is the proliferation of weight classes and title belts, which many believe have diluted the sport.
 
Nobody has accomplished what Pacquiao has in the past couple of decades. Winning titles in seven weight classes, from flyweight to welterweight. And in between engaging in a heated round-robin with the ’Three Mexican Musketeers’( Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez) and then moving up in weight to physically dominate the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and now, Cotto. Against those aforementioned names- several of whom are locks to have their fists encased in Canastota, one day- his record is 8-1-1 with six stoppages to his credit and at least a dozen knockdowns.
 
He’s the most mesmerizing combination of speed and power the game has.  As he started to let his hands go in the second round versus Cotto, he reminded you of Bruce Lee with his hard, striking, accurate combinations that bruised and battered the body and head of Cotto, who skipped the post-fight presser to get a full body scan at a local hospital.  It wasn’t that Pacquiao just hit hard, he hit often. To a point where Cotto was getting deluged by a torrent of leather that he was unable to fend off. After Pacquiao’s second knockdown in the fourth round( after scoring one in a back-and-forth third frame), Cotto was visibly stunned and from that juncture unable to hold off this Filipino storm. Just as typhoons had ravaged his country, Pacquiao would do so to Cotto, with almost the same devastating effect.
 
But what was perhaps the most stunning aspect of this conquest was that in the early rounds Cotto seemingly had Pacquiao where he wanted him- retreating and with his back to the ropes. And Cotto, a noted body-puncher, banged away downstairs with violent force. It’s one thing to allow sparring partners to beat on your sides as if you’re a heavy-bag, it’s an entirely different to let Cotto do it. His trainer, Freddie Roach didn’t like this tactic." I yelled at him every time.’Why are you fighting his fight?’"
 
But Pacquiao, perhaps on his own instinct, was doing his own version of the rope-a-dope. "I heard that he’s a stronger man than me. I wanted to test his power," he explained. Psychologically, he showed he could absorb whatever the supposedly bigger man could dish out without flinching. As he was hit to the body, he did his best to mask any pain. He stated that he was fighting this battle,"In my mind." But make no doubt about it, this was as physical a fight as Pacquiao has ever been involved in. There was a price to pay for this strategy. His right ear was bandaged up afterwords and there was noticeable swelling and bruising all over his face. We knew a lot about Pacquiao before, on this night we found out he also has a world-class set of whiskers. He’s tough as he is talented.
 
From a tactical standpoint, Pacquiao began to find counter-punching opportunities on Cotto, who Roach believed gave away his punches, specifically his left-hook, as he shifted most of his weight to his front foot. Also, with his elbows so flared out, he gives up what they call in hockey, ’the five hole’- in other words, an opening right up the middle. The ’boxing master’, as he was called by his pupil, studied Cotto’s life-and-death struggle with DeMarcus Corley, at great length. The right-hook and uppercuts would be vital to their game plan. And while the hand-speed of Pacquiao gave Cotto fits, there was also a great disparity in foot-speed. While Pacquiao could dart in and out with ease, and change directions, Cotto simply could not deal with the angles provided by Pacquiao.
 
As the on-slaught continued, the fight had a familiar quality to it for Cotto. As the damage mounted and he began to retreat, this looked more and more like his loss to Antonio Margarito last summer. The body language said it all from ringside. This was no longer about winning, but surviving. It was a bit stunning to see the supposedly bigger man, in a full-blown back pedal, circling the canvas. When Cotto gets up on his toes, it’s not so much boxing, but an attempt to run out the clock.
 
The fight was mercifully waved off by referee Kenny Bayless in the 12Th and final round as Pacquiao delivered another hard left that had Cotto buckling on the ropes. A very good, proud fighter, was simply beaten down by an all-time great. Cotto, should be lauded for his courage, and unfortunately, his corner, led by a novice- Joe Santiago- should be chastised for being much too courageous on behalf of their boxer. Because by the late rounds, what was once a great fight in the early rounds had become a landslide.
 
To see the technical improvements in the last year or so from Pacquiao is startling. There was a time when he was viewed as crowd-pleasing, yet flawed fighter. He was an offensive force with his left-hand but considered predictable and one-dimensional. Now he is a two-fisted wrecking machine with greatly improved defense and balance. And under the tutelage of Roach, his boxing IQ has risen exponentially. There have been some legendary duo’s in this sport, from Chappie Blackburn and Joe Louis, to Angelo Dundee and Muhammad Ali, it’s not a stretch to include this dynamic duo. These two are like Johnny Sakko and his Giant Robot. Whatever Roach tells him to do, the marching orders are executed to frightening efficiency with a wide variety of weapons at his disposal. The only difference is that Roach whispers into Pacquiao’s ears during the fight and not a wristwatch.
 
Who knows where Pacquiao goes next. You get the sense that despite the chants that were heard from the rafters of the Grand Garden Arena( WE WANT FLOYD!!! WE WANT FLOYD!!!) that a hook-up with Mayweather wont come to fruition immediately. But where he certainly isn’t going is up any more weight classes. He stated unequivocally,"This is my last weight division." Which is too bad, this is the one guy capable of getting either Klitschko into an entertaining fight.( OK, OK, admittedly, THAT is hyperbole.)
 
The man who had enough hubris to schedule a post-fight concert at the Mandalay Bay, still considers himself, ’ordinary’ as a fighter. Which prompted his trainer to correct him." Manny, you’re not an ordinary fighter," said Roach.
 
He later added," He’s the greatest of this era, that’s for sure."
 
I wont argue with that statement.
 
THE FINGER
 
After Yuri Foreman won the WBA jr. middleweight title from Daniel Santos on the undercard, Arum would go over towards press row and yell out," Dan!!! Dan!!!" and the proceed to flip-off ESPN’s, Dan Rafael, several times, vigorously. But I have to admit, if he would’ve seen me, he probably would’ve given me the same digit, too. But I am jealous, hey Bob, where’s my finger?
 
But seriously, Foreman-Santos was not as bad as I expected( of course, I expected something  awful) and it was actually Santos who did more than his part to stink it out. Foreman, is who he is. A boxer who will use his legs, employ lots of lateral movement and then pot-shot from the outside with his right-cross. It’s not entertaining, but it is effective. He is not an easy out for anyone in that division.
 
I wonder now how Top Rank will move him and just how much of an attraction he can become on the east coast.
 
JUNIOR
 
Anyone else as sick of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. as I am? I don’t even have a problem with him not being anything like his father as a fighter, but here’s a kid who is continually given great opportunities and instead of relishing them, has a sense of entitlement and is continually bailed out by his handlers.
 
No matter what I’ve said in the past about Foreman, I respect the fact that he works hard and gets everything out of his ability. I don’t think the same can be said for Chavez Jr., who was mediocre in out-pointing Troy Rowland over ten rounds as the semi-main to Pacquiao-Cotto. The more I see and hear, the less impressed I am.
 
He reminds of that guy who’s the son of the CEO, and despite a poor work ethic and shoddy performance on the job, is continually given promotions because, well, he’s the son of the CEO.
 
FINAL FLURRIES
 
Let’s all pray that Z Gorres can make a full recovery. It was stunning to see what took place on Friday night. That fight he had wasn’t especially taxing, outside that knockdown he suffered in the final seconds of that fight....I thought the bout between Alfonso Gomez and Jesus Soto-Karass was just heating up....Can you believe the way Stanford man-handled USC at home? Toby Gerhart is the modern day John Riggins.....Uh, oh, is it happening again to Randy Shannon and the Canes? Are they in for another late season fade?....Yes, Antonio Margarito was in Vegas this past weekend. He looks like he’s in great shape.....Any questions or comments, please direct them to me at k9kim@yahoo.com.....Twitter.com/stevemaxboxing.....
 


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