Manny Pacquiao has a chance to win a major title in a record seventh weight class when he faces welterweight titleholder Miguel Cotto on Nov. 14 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, or 41 percent of the 17 weight divisions.
That probably doesn’t rival Henry Armstrong’s feat of holding the featherweight, lightweight and welterweight titles simultaneously but it certainly is remarkable.
Pacquiao has won titles as a flyweight (1998), junior featherweight (2001), featherweight (2003, THE RING), junior lightweight (2008), lightweight (2008) and junior welterweight (2009, THE RING), which equals Oscar De La Hoya’s six-division record.
And boxing historian Cliff Rold pointed out that Pacquiao is the only fighter in history to win four lineal titles (112 pounds, 126, 130 and 140), which descend directly from the original champions.
“It would be unbelievable,” Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, said on a conference call Wednesday. “Manny is a throwback, like a Henry Armstrong type of guy. You don’t have guys moving up to win championships in all these different weight divisions. He’s carried his punch, power and speed up with him. He’s getting better and better.
“This is one of the greatest achievements ever. … He’s in the elite category. He’s in the Top Five best fighters of all time of any era.”
Pacquiao was typically understated when asked about the prospect of a title in a seventh weight division.
“It’s a good honor for me and to my country, bringing history to my country,” he said.
Could he make it eight divisions one day? Probably not.
“I don’t think so,” Roach said when asked whether Pacquiao could fight above the welterweight division. “We’re close to our limit at 147. We have to feed him five times a day to keep weight on him. I think this will be his final stop.
“You never know, though. The right guy might come along at 154 and maybe we’ll go there.”
Revisionist history? A reporter suggested that Cotto might be the first true welterweight Pacquiao will have faced. That includs Oscar De La Hoya, who many believe was a shell of what he had been.
Roach bristled at that perception because of how it reflects on Pacquiao’s victory over De La Hoya.
“Before the fight, they said he’d kill Manny,” he said. “Manny would’ve beat him on his best day. Why do people say Oscar had a bad night? Why not look at it as Manny having a good night?
That begged the question: If Pacquiao destroys Cotto, who most observers believe is a legitimate threat to the Filipino icon, will the critics then say, “Well, he was damaged goods because of the beating he took from Antonio Margarito?”
“Of course you will,” said Roach, referring to the media. “… That’s the way the world is. I look at it in a different way. I look at Manny as the greatest fighter in the world today and I think he’s going to prove it again.”
Pacquiao wouldn’t get into the fray, saying simply, “It’s their right to think what they want.”
KO coming? Roach stuck by his prediction that Pacquiao will knock out Cotto.
“Working the mitts with Manny this week … he’s punching much harder than he has,” Roach said. “He’s getting used to the weight; he’s very used to it now. He’s just punching fast and hard. I think Miguel Cotto’s defense is not good enough; he’s hittable. And people Manny can hit he knocks out.
Roach said he believes Cotto has bounced back nicely from his knockout loss to Antonio Margarito in July of last year, building confidence in victories over Michael Jennings and Joshua Clottey in his subsequent two fights.
He doesn’t want to allow Cotto to build any more confidence against Pacquiao.
“The fight with Margarito, he did take a beating in that fight,” he said. “In his first comeback fight, he fought an average guy and didn’t look great. Being knocked out for the first time takes confidence away, though. He looked better in the Clottey fight. … That gave him more confidence back.
“We want to take that away from him right away. That’s why we’re going to start quick.”
That might also be why Roach has boldly predicted a first-round knockout, although he didn’t state a round in the conference call.
Pleasantly surprised: Roach had been leery of training in the Philippines because of distractions but was satisfied with the work he and Pacquiao did over a month in Baguio in spite of typhoons. That wasn’t the case when they moved camp to Manila, where distractions abounded.
However, Roach liked what he saw from Pacquiao in his first sparring sesson in the U.S. on Tuesday.
“There’s still a little bit of jet lag,” he said. “I didn’t expect a great day (from Pacquiao) with the jet lag. He gave me 10 great rounds yesterday, though. He’s back on track. He’s very close to being ready for the fight.”
“I feel I’m in 100 percent condition,” he said. “I can’t wait until Nov. 14.”
Roach has dismissed sparring partners Jose Luis Castillo and Urbano Antillion but will continue to use Shawn Porter. He also brought in once-beaten welterweight Rashad Hollway and junior middleweight Ray Beltran.
“I think Manny was getting a little bit too used to the sparring partners he had, Castillo and Antillon,” Roach said. “They went home. We got some fresh guys to liven it up a bit, to keep Manny focused.”
Pacquiao vs. Ali and De La Hoya: Arum was asked how Pacquiao’s popularity compares to that of Muhammad Ali and Oscar De La Hoya, both of whom he also promoted.
“Ali was a proponent of a political position and also … became a spokesman for the civil rights movement at a time when it was really emerging into everyone’s vision,” he said. “So Ali had tremendous political impact, particularly his stance on the Vietnam War. He was able to come back and fight. People idolized him.
“Manny Pacquaio doesn’t have that major political statement; he’s not controversial. But he’s engaged in politics in the Philippines. And everything that he does is very pro-humanity. So he’s really loved by the people of the Philippines and the U.S. and all over the world. To that extent, he’s really crossed over into the American public. People know who Manny Pacquiao is and he’s genuinely admired. I’ve never, ever seen anything like the adulation, the way he’s treated by Filipinos in the Phillipines and all over the world. That’s something Ali never really had, that type of frenzy, with 90 million people in the Philippines and 11 million Filipino people around the world.
“As far as Oscar goes, he was popular in the U.S. He was good looking, charismatic, a good fighter. His popularity was pretty much limited to the U.S. That made him an awful lot of money. But he around the world, he didn’t’ have the recognition of either Ali or Pacquiao.”
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at RingTVeditor@yahoo.com