LAS VEGAS – Manny Pacquiao, just after weighing in at 144 pounds for his welterweight title fight against Miguel Cotto, slipped on a pair of custom Nikes. Cotto, who came it at the 145-pound limit, didn’t.
So when the two fighters were squared off in front of a delirious crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, it was Pac-man who appeared to have the slightest of height advantages, staring just a little down his nose at the bare-footed Cotto.
The difference was the shoes, of course. Cotto stands 5-foot-7, Pacquiao is 5-6 by most measurements.
To further the visual allusion, Pacquiao had his pants pulled up high, so his waist line matched Cotto’s, who actually had his pants sagging a bit.
Whether the choice in footwear and pant length was just a coincidence or a planned intimidation tactic is unknown.
Considering Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, rarely misses a chance to play head games in title fights, we’ll go with the latter. If Cotto doesn’t get to enjoy the 28 or so hours between weigh-in and fight knowing he is clearly the bigger man, then that’s a small win for Pacquiao.
This is a fight about size. Or, at least, the prefight hype is about size. Everyone is wondering just how much bigger and stronger Cotto will be than Pacquiao and whether that is enough to offset Pacquiao’s speed and precision advantages.
The bigger man doesn’t always win, but it sure doesn’t hurt.
Take away the shoes and Cotto was bigger at the weigh-in. Only a pound separated them but Cotto was thicker through the chest and shoulders, a disparity that should only increase Saturday night.
If Cotto regains weight as expected, he should enter the ring weighing as much as 155 pounds. Pacquiao, who’s never fought at a weight this heavy, is unlikely to top 148. He is what he is, a guy who started his career at 106 pounds.
“(Cotto) will eat what he needs to eat,” said Cotto’s conditioning coach Phil Landman. “I have a meal plan set up for him. When he gets into the ring he’ll be at a comfortable weight no matter what he weighs. I don’t care what he weighs.”
Pacquiao’s skill set has made a mockery of bigger fighters who thought they could bully him. He’s deftly moved up weight class after weight class and maintained his blinding speed.
Most recently, in December of 2008, Pacquiao stepped up to fight Oscar De La Hoya at 145 pounds. However, De La Hoya, who’d fought as high as 160, so drained himself in cutting weight that he was unable to bounce back. He entered the ring that night dehydrated and at 147 pounds, according to HBO. He was actually outweighed by Pacquiao, who was at 148.5
That shouldn’t happen with Cotto, which makes this latest step up dangerous for Pacquiao. You have to wonder when too much is too much.
“My strength is too much for (Saturday) night,” Cotto said after the weigh-in before adding, “I’m hungry.”
Pacquiao, of course, was unconcerned. He is forever unflappable. He waved to the throngs of Filipino fans who screamed for him during the weigh-in. He then encouraged them to attend a post-fight concert at Mandalay Bay where Pacquiao promised to sing eight songs with his band. Cotto had an equally sizeable group of fans on hand.
The fight is for the World Boxing Organization welterweight belt, although the weight limit was 145, not 147. The bigger prize is another likely mega-fight, this time in 2010 against Floyd Mayweather Jr. At the weigh-in, Floyd Mayweather Sr. said his son would likely fight the winner.
The two fighters offered no ill will to each other, each coolly confident. The fireworks came courtesy of the trainers, Roach and Joe Santiago.
When Cotto weighed in, Roach stood very close, bent over and got his eye right on the scale. He nodded when Cotto made weight, but it was clearly some kind of head game (it wasn’t like the Nevada Athletic Commission was going to screw up the weigh-in.)
The scene angered Santiago, who had listened to Roach bash him repeatedly in the press for being inexperienced and just a figurehead in the Cotto camp.
“It’s 145, (expletive),” Santiago shouted at Roach.
The (expletive) set Roach off and incited a back-and-forth shouting match. Eventually both trainers had to be separated as they jawed at each other.
Meanwhile, amid the commotion, Pacquiao put on his Nikes for the stand-off – just one head game to the next at the biggest fight of the year.