LAS VEGAS – The History Channel was among the many sponsors of the Manny Pacquiao-Miguel Cotto fight Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, which, in an odd sort of way, was appropriate.
Pacquiao made history on Saturday when he battered Miguel Cotto over 11-plus brutal rounds, winning the World Boxing Organization welterweight title in one of the finest performances of a brilliant career.
Pacquiao dropped Cotto in the third and fourth rounds, landed 43 percent of his punches and mercifully stopped the game Puerto Rican 55 seconds into the final round when referee Kenny Bayless jumped in to save Cotto.
Cotto's trainer, Joe Santiago, ought to be flogged for not stopping it sooner. Cotto never recovered after the second knockdown, which came in the fourth round, and spent most of the final seven-plus rounds trying to fend off a man who was far too fast, far too slick and far too talented.
Pacquiao's performance was so good that no one laughed when promoter Bob Arum said he believes Pacquiao is the best fighter he ever saw. And yes, Arum included Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvelous Marvin Hagler in that group.
The pay-per-view numbers were tracking exceptionally well, also. HBO's Mark Taffet said indications on Friday were that the show is tracking to do at least 1 million buys. Taffet is notoriously conservative, but the fight is likely to zoom well past 1 million and may approach – or even exceed – 1.5 million sales.
HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said that Golden Boy Promotions chief executive officer Richard Schaefer plans to call Arum on Monday in order to start negotiations on a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. bout that would be the richest in the sport's history.
There's little question that promoters are going to be under intense public pressure to make a match between Pacquiao and Mayweather, the two men with a claim to the mythical title of pound-for-pound champion.
Mayweather's grip weakened significantly on Saturday after Pacquiao's stellar performance, and it may weaken more if the pay-per-view results come in well above 1 million.
Arum wasn't so eager to take Schaefer's call, at least not on Monday. Given preliminary pay-per-view figures are due on Tuesday, Arum prefers to wait. Mayweather's victory over Juan Manuel Marquez in September sold 1 million on pay-per-view. "Tell Richard to wait until Wednesday to call me," Arum said.
Pacquiao's speed was the most obvious difference between the men, though it was hardly the only one. Pacquiao was once a one-dimensional, one-handed fighter with plenty of holes defensively.
On Saturday, Cotto faced a two-fisted fighter who was in command every second of the fight. His defense was tight, his ring generalship magnificent and his power was overwhelming.
"He's the best boxer I ever fought," Cotto said in the understatement of the night. Pacquiao was typically humble, refusing to compare himself to the legends of the game that Arum said he has surpassed.
"I just think I'm an ordinary fighter," Pacquiao said. "When I fight a good fighter, sometimes I can beat him."
Hearing that, his trainer, Freddie Roach, chided him.
"You're not ordinary," Roach said.
Pacquiao, who has taken to calling Roach his "boxing master," beamed.
"Sorry, Master," he replied.
It was probably the only thing he had to apologize about. Roach said Pacquiao didn't stick to the game plan in the first two rounds, backing to the ropes, a style that Cotto clearly preferred.
Roach urged him to get off the ropes. Once he did, it was no contest.
"Manny Pacquiao is just unbelievable," Roach said. "The first couple of rounds, I was a little bit worried, because he didn't follow the plan. Toward the end of the second round, he got into the program and he made it look easy after that."
Pacquiao was so good on Saturday, he was singing at the post-fight news conference and planned to head across the street to Mandalay Bay to sing eight songs in a concert.
The song he played in the ring was as good as anything that has been heard in a long time. He debunked many popular theories and took many of Mayweather's arguments away from him.
If Mayweather doesn't take the fight, he'll simply be running.
There's no other way to put it.
"Manny can punch with any 147-pounder in the world," Roach said. "He has great power and speed. He proved everything tonight."
Pacquiao has now claimed sanctioning body titles at flyweight, super bantamweight, super featherweight, lightweight and welterweight and he won the linear championship at both featherweight and super lightweight.
There's little the man can't do. And Roach, who began training Pacquiao in 2001, wasn't about to disagree much with Arum's assessment of Pacquiao's greatness.
"He's as good as anybody," Roach said. "He's the greatest fighter of his generation. I agree 100 percent."
As good as Mayweather was in September in dismantling Marquez, Pacquiao was that much better. Pacquiao fought a bigger, stronger and better man and beat him into submission.
A clash between Mayweather and Pacquiao would be one of those epic battles that come only once every 25 years or so.
And while it once seemed inconceivable that Pacquiao could ever deal with Mayweather's speed and defensive prowess, it isn't any more.
Anyone who doubts the guy now is a fool.