Cotto determined to put lights out on the mighty Pac Man

MIGUEL COTTO will step into the ring tonight determined not to become another footnote in Manny Pacquiao’s rise to boxing superstardom.

The WBO welterweight champion from Puerto Rico will have more than his title on the line when he faces Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KOs) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Cotto (34-1, 27 KOs) faces a man regarded by many as the best pound-for-pound boxer on the planet following his eight-round demolition of Oscar de la Hoya 11 months ago and last May’s brutal second-round knockout of Ricky Hatton.

Both De la Hoya and Hatton were bigger men than Pacquiao and backed to make the little man regret venturing way above his normal domain at 130lbs. However, De La Hoya at welterweight and Hatton at light-welterweight were stunned by a tenacious southpaw who belied his super-featherweight frame and Cotto has no intention of becoming the third big name to be offered a bit part in the Pacquiao success story.

That is certainly the way Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach sees the fight playing out.

“I don’t know if it is his biggest challenge,” Roach said of the Cotto threat. “We have fought some great fighters like (Erik) Morales, (Juan Manuel) Marquez and Oscar De La Hoya.

“He’s a very good fighter and he is champion of the world. Manny is moving up a weight class but we fought Oscar at this weight.

“I am very confident in my guy and we are 100% ready for the fight. Manny, with the power he is punching with right now at this weight, I feel that he is going to knock Cotto out.

“I look forward to the win.”

The scepticism about 29-year-old Cotto’s ability to beat Pacquiao stems from a debilitating defeat, the only one of his professional career, to Antonio Margarito in the summer of 2008.

Cotto, then WBA champion, took a battering before being stopped in the 11th round, although the validity of Margarito’s victory has since been thrown into doubt after the Mexican was caught and subsequently banned following the discovery of illegal wraps around his hands prior to his fight with Shane Mosley in January.

However, Cotto has failed to shake off the perception in some quarters that the Margarito beating has left him past his sell-by date and a routine victory over Britain’s Michael Jennings in February and a bloody war with Joshua Clottey in June have done nothing to dissuade his detractors.

On Wednesday, Cotto even heard his promoter Bob Arum, the president of Top Rank, claim: “Psychologically, in this fight, he is not the star.

“He knows it and I know it but Miguel Cotto, as Miguel will attest, is the biggest obstacle in Manny’s path.”

Cotto is unruffled.

“What they say and what they do does not concern me,” he said. “They know what they have in front of him (Pacquiao).

“He better be focused on what they will have in front of him in Miguel Cotto.

“Forget about Freddie Roach. He can only train Manny the best he can. He may say and think Manny will knock me out, but at the end of the day, it is just Manny and Miguel Cotto in the ring. It’s really not important to me what the boxing world wants to see.

“Once I beat Manny Pacquiao they can continue their plans and do what they want but I am not going home without winning this fight.”

Pacquiao, of course, has other ideas as he tries to become a recognised world champion in a sixth different weight division.

His victory over Hatton in the same ring six and a half months ago added the Ring light-welterweight crown to titles previously won at flyweight, super-bantamweight, super-featherweight and lightweight.

“This is the most important fight of my career,” Pacquiao said. “(Cotto) believes he’s stronger and bigger than me. And of course I believe in myself.

“If I win this fight, it will be history for boxing and for the Philippines.”

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