Friday, Nov. 6, 2009 | 2 a.m.
If You Go
- Who: Manny Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KOs) vs. Miguel Cotto (34-1, 27 KOs)
- What: 12-round welterweight title fight
- When: Nov. 14
- Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena
- Tickets: Sold out
- TV: HBO pay-per-view, $54.95
- Don’t sleep on Manny Pacquiao, trainer warns (10-30-2009)
- Manny Pacquiao happy with Philippines camp, now in U.S. training (10-28-2009)
- Cotto faces test of size, sizzle (10-22-2009)
- Pacquiao vs. Cotto on the minds of fight fans (9-23-2009)
- Pacquiao-Cotto set for Nov. 14 at MGM (7-20-2009)
- Pacquiao-Cotto tentatively set for Nov. 14 in Las Vegas (6-15-2009)
- Cotto ready for Pacquiao, anybody (6-14-2009)
- Mosley trying to finalize deal with Pacquiao (6-3-2009)
- Boxing/UFC/MMA coverage
On orders from Miguel Cotto, the heat was turned way up inside the Pound 4 Pound Gym on La Cienega Boulevard this week.
The strategy was to replicate the hot and humid conditions in Tampa, Fla., where Cotto spent the bulk of his training camp before a late swing to the West Coast.
Here at the Pound 4 Pound, a clean, well-lighted place that kisses L.A.’s historic South Carthay neighborhood, Cotto was putting the finishing touches on preparations for his Nov. 14 showdown against Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand.
Joe Santiago, having been thrust onto boxing’s worldwide stage just seven months after he was named Cotto’s trainer, was fielding questions from reporters who had come to see his fighter, the WBO welterweight champ and one of the sport’s most fearsome boxers in any weight class.
Despite the heat, Santiago wasn’t going to let them see him sweat. Speaking Spanish, he was economical with his words and body language, mostly staring straight ahead.
Handling the translation was Bryan Perez, Cotto’s best friend and, with his round physique and affable manner, the Turtle of Cotto’s entourage.
“Manny Pacquiao is a strong fighter at 130 pounds,” Santiago was saying. “But he’s coming up to our division. He is not big enough or strong enough for us.”
A lot of the queries had to do with Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, Santiago’s more celebrated and loquacious counterpart in the biggest fight of the year.
“Freddie Roach can say whatever he wants,” Santiago said. “We don’t let it enter our minds. We want to be the best pound-for-pound fighter, not to be the best trainer. We’ll bring the title of best pound-for-pound fighter to Puerto Rico, and that’s when people will know we’re the best trainer.”
Santiago played down the results of Pacquiao’s two most recent fights, emphatic victories against Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya.
“You’re talking about Ricky Hatton, who doesn’t have any defense,” Santiago said. “You’re talking about Oscar De La Hoya, who was at the end of his career. Cotto is a totally different fighter. He is in his prime and at his peak.
“Not only is he in top physical condition, he’s 100 percent mentally.”
Cotto’s mental state is the sharpest it has been in years, promoter Bob Arum said.
After his loss to Antonio Margarito last year at the MGM, his lone pro defeat, Cotto did some soul-searching. He opted to take a rebound fight against Michael Jennings in February, after which he fired his uncle Evangelista Cotto as his trainer. Their relationship, often contentious, had deteriorated to the point where they were barely on speaking terms.
Cotto promoted Santiago to lead trainer from an assistant’s role. He moved his camp from Puerto Rico to Tampa before his June fight against Joshua Clottey, which Cotto won by split decision. By then Cotto had agreed to terms to fight Pacquiao, contingent on a victory against Clottey.
“Miguel is more relaxed and more at peace because his training camp has gone so well,” Arum said. “He doesn’t have the distraction of the friction with his uncle. Now there’s a continuity in the camp, which is a big thing.
“People say Santiago is a new trainer. Well, that’s not true. When Evangelista wasn’t talking to Miguel, it was Santiago who was Miguel’s trainer all along.”
Cotto compared the relationship between a boxer and his trainer, with its intimacy and potential fragility, to a marriage.
“If you have good communication, you’re like a couple in a relationship,” he said. “That’s the kind of relationship we have. We have a great team with great communication.”
Cotto has been asked repeatedly about the loss to Margarito and its lurid aftermath. After his next fight, against Shane Mosley at the Staples Center, Margarito was suspended for a year in California because a plaster-like substance was found in his hand wraps.
Addressing the issue of whether Margarito got away with using loaded gloves against him, Cotto said a great deal in a few words.
“Nobody knows, just Margarito,” Cotto said. “But the fans in boxing, they know a lot.
“Sometimes when you lose, you win. After the loss to Margarito, good things came to my career, including this fight.
“Answer this question yourself. Where’s Miguel Cotto now and where’s Antonio Margarito?”
In exile, was the unspoken answer. In disgrace.
Like his trainer, Cotto was cool in the face of questioning about Pacquiao’s blinding speed, which he has used to win world titles in six weight divisions, and about Roach’s brash prediction of a ninth-round knockout victory.
“Freddie Roach is not the guy who is going to climb into the ring,” Cotto said. “If he prepares Manny Pacquiao for just nine rounds, there are still going to be three rounds more.
“People talk about the speed of Manny Pacquiao. On the night of the 14th, the question will be if Manny Pacquiao will have the strength of Miguel Cotto.”
Meanwhile Santiago, once his translator and the microphones had dispersed, surreptitiously took a balled-up tissue from his pocket and used it to dab his brow.