The chants began as soon as Manny Pacquiao was declared the new WBO welterweight champion Saturday night.
“We want Floyd! We want Floyd!” many in the sellout crowd of 16,200 at the MGM Grand Garden demanded.
But in the wake of Pacquiao’s overwhelming 12th-round technical knockout over Miguel Cotto, Floyd Mayweather Jr. might want to think long and hard before deciding to get in the ring with Pacquiao. For if he does, he likely will face the battle of his life.
Pacquiao, who fought at 144 pounds Saturday, the heaviest he ever had weighed for a fight, dominated Cotto virtually from start to finish. He showed Cotto no mercy as he pounded away and eventually put the Puerto Rican champion away to become the first boxer to win seven world titles in seven weight classes.
Referee Kenny Bayless, seeing that Cotto had taken enough punishment for 11-plus rounds, stopped the fight 55 seconds into the final round.
“It’s an honor to win a seventh title,” said Pacquiao (50-3-2), who earned $7.5 million for the victory. “It’s great to make history and to have a Filipino do it.
“It was a hard fight tonight. I needed time to test his power. I knew we practiced fighting a disciplined fight in training camp, and that was my key to victory tonight, staying disciplined and not panicking in the ring.”
Cotto (34-2), who earned $4 million, paid homage to Pacquiao in defeat.
“It didn’t go my way in this fight,” Cotto said. “The jab didn’t do enough damage. Miguel Cotto will always fight the best fighters in the world, and Manny Pacquiao is one of the best boxers I ever fought.”
Pacquiao, who was as high as a 31/2-1 betting favorite, was bet down to minus-280 by fight time as the Cotto money poured in (he was plus-230).
Cotto started well, using his defense to thwart Pacquiao. But in the second round, Pacquiao started to pick up the pace and find the range. He began to hit on his combinations, stunning Cotto with four- five- and six-punch flurries.
Cotto’s reliable left hook was there as he tagged Pacquiao on the chin. But Pacquiao showed he could take a punch and responded with yet another flurry.
“Manny fought Cotto’s fight too much in the beginning,” said Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach. “He stayed on the ropes too long. But as the fight went on, Manny’s speed was too much for him.”
In the third round, he overwhelmed Cotto and with Cotto losing his balance, his knee hit the canvas, constituting a knockdown, called by Bayless.
With 22 seconds to go in the fourth round, Pacquiao sent Cotto down again. This time, it was clearly decisive — a huge left hook that caught Cotto flush on the chin. Cotto was fortunate so little time was left in the round or he might not have survived.
Cotto was struggling to deal with Pacquiao’s quickness. His hand speed was overwhelming at times. Yet Cotto’s warrior mentality was evident as he fought back and he was going to make Pacquiao earn it.
Yet he couldn’t hurt Pacquiao. Meanwhile, Pacquiao continued to flail away with both hands. Cotto was taking many more shots than he was returning and it was tough for him to win the rounds.
“(Pacquiao) hit harder than we expected,” Cotto’s trainer, Joe Santiago, said. “He was stronger than we expected.”
Pacquiao was following Roach’s game plan to perfection. He kept the fight in the middle of the ring, got in and out by using his superior speed and didn’t let Cotto cut the ring on him, pin him on the ropes and work the body.
Cotto injured his shoulder in the eighth round but refused to quit. Pacquiao tried to finish it in the ninth, one of three rounds Roach had bet that his man would score a knockout (He also held tickets on KOs in the first and 10th rounds). Pacquiao did everything but KO Cotto. Somehow, Cotto survived, though he was bloodied and battered as he returned to his corner after the round.
“Cotto showed he had better speed than he did against (Josh) Clottey, but Manny’s speed was too much,” Roach said. “His in-and-out motion was too fast. Manny broke him down, and when Cotto starting backing up, I knew the fight was over.”
Cotto’s lone hope for victory was a knockout, and Pacquiao wasn’t going to be careless enough to allow Cotto to do that. He kept fighting his fight to the end and earned his way into the history books.
A fan held up a sign that said: “De La Hoya TKO 8, Hatton TKO 2, Cotto TKO 12 — Floyd Mayweather Jr., You’re Next!” When asked if he’d like to fight Mayweather next, Pacquiao deferred to his promoter, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum.
“My job is to fight in the ring,” Pacquiao said. “My promoter makes the fights.”
But Roach wasn’t ducking the question. “Sure, we’ll fight Mayweather next,” he said.