© Copyright Mark Connor, 2009
Five days before Manny Pacquiao knocked out Ricky Hatton for the IBO Junior Welterweight championship of the world, I interviewed world class trainer Dennis Presley about the fight. The conversation’s contents reveal just how insightfully Presley assessed Pacquiao’s skill and technically described how he’d win. Such accurate observations prompt me to wonder how well he’ll predict Pacquiao’s fight for the Welterweight title against Miguel Cotto. I hadn’t written an article based on the interview before watching the actual fight in May, and until now, with the Cotto fight approaching in less than a month, I just found time to transcribe it. As you’ll see in the quotes, Presley predicted the moves Pacquiao made against Hatton the same as Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, described them after the fight and explained that in the HBO 24/7 series they visibly worked on them over and over again.
Originally Presley predicted the Pacquiao-Hatton contest would “be a real interesting fight for about six or seven rounds,” but added that “the young Brit has bit off a little more than he can chew. . .” He went on to describe the technical realities missed at the time by those who gave Hatton a chance against Pacquiao, saying, “The thing that the Brit’s fans are not paying attention to is, first of all, Manny Pacquiao is a southpaw. And so the right hook will come in the open space over the top of the left hand. He’s going to be able to do things and move the young man in such a way that he’ll put him in positions that he can hit him and he [Pacquiao] won’t be hit.” He added, “I just recently watched the evening’s ten o’clock show on HBO [24/7] and they showed some of the footwork and some of the style that Pacquiao will use to defeat his opponent, and I think that he’s got the game plan and the fight plan all in hand and he’s ready to go.”
What interests me in the observation is not just that it’s close to exactly what happened, but in looking over the hype surrounding the fight and the explanations for the results afterwards given by Roach, the specific details should have been more clear to the people—from the writers to the commentators to the boxers and trainers in gyms around the country—who were discussing what would happen. Presley was telling me that Pacquiao would land the right hook because Hatton would open himself up to it, and, like Mayweather, Pacquaio would be able to move Hatton into punches he would not see. The only difference in the delivery of the right hook that first dropped Hatton from Presley’s prediction was that Pacquiao landed it while ducking under his left hook instead of coming over the top of it. I also believed Pacquiao would take Hatton apart, based not only on how well he’d handled Oscar De La Hoya but also on the totality of his career, because he’d obviously proven himself a much better boxer to that point. In fact, I thought it disingenuous for the fight to be billed as a contest to decide the pound for pound best, because Hatton, while definitely a world class fighter, has never progressed to pound for pound talent. But another indicator emerging in the lead up to the fight that proved prophetic, although I never would have seen the connection until after the fact, was the cover of The Ring Magazine previewing the match. Hatton was drawn throwing his lead left hook, and Pacquiao was throwing the right hook, the same as he did for the first knockdown of the fight. I don’t know if the artist even consciously visualized the punch landing just that way, because the drawing obviously is of each fighter in action in separate respective fights, since they’d never been in the ring together before. But it’s exactly what happened and an examination of their respective styles should have been indicative of such a probability. Realizing this, however, the question now, after Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has come back to easily dominate Pacquiao’s old nemesis, Juan Manuel Marques over 12 rounds and awaits the winner of the November 14 Super Fight, how will Manny Pacquiao perform against Miguel Cotto?
Freddie Roach has said Cotto is no pushover and he will be a more difficult challenge for Pacquiao, but that Pacquiao will still defeat him. Cotto is a serious knockout artist, though. He’s a technically sound boxer and a fierce warrior. How will Pacquiao handle him?
If Pacquiao does handle him and achieve victory, he’ll have to do it much the same way as he did against Hatton. Not that he can put Cotto down or even hurt him nearly as easily as he did Hatton. Actually, the Puerto Rican Welterweight is obviously stronger, faster, and a harder puncher than Hatton, and he wouldn’t be where he is if he couldn’t take a punch. His weaknesses, though, are similar to Hatton’s. He boxes well enough that he’s less likely to get caught with unseen punches like the ones that first dropped and then knocked Hatton out cold, but he does have the tendency to square off from the right handed stance. He switches southpaw at times, and I don’t know if that will help him or hurt him in a fight against Pacquiao, but it indicates a tendency to slug it out and loop punches, because while squaring off it becomes natural to switch stances when one’s opponent moves back or in another direction that presents the right angle for it. This would seem to indicate an opportunity for Pacquiao to implement the type of movement he utilized against Hatton. The only variable increasing the problem exponentially for the Filipino Pac Man is the one that Presley has told me will likely be the reason Pacquiao loses, and that is Cotto’s power. “Cotto is a full fledged Welterweight,” Presley told me. “If he hits Pacquiao, he can hit him hard enough to knock him out.”
Presley and I have not heretofore had a formal conversation intended to arrive at predictions for this fight, but between now and November 14 I will officially interview him for further analysis. We watched the Mayweather-Marquez fight together, though, and after it Presley did express doubts to me about whether Pacquiao can beat either Cotto or Mayweather. He also said he thought Marquez had won both of the fights in which Pacquiao was awarded decisions over him. I have to counter his thoughts on Pacquaio’s chances against Cotto, though, with a repeat of what Sugar Ray Leonard said to me about Pacquiao when I spoke of his incredible accuracy, speed, and balance.
“You hit it on the head,” Leonard said; “the accuracy of his punches; [they] are so, just, they’re timed perfectly. And he’s always there, then he’s out of the way, and he’s in great shape.”
And what about the size difference, given that Cotto is, as Presley put it, “a full fledged Welterweight.”?
“No matter how much he weighs,” Leonard said in May of Pacquiao, “he’s a little guy; and he’s able to overcome the adversities of it. I thought that Oscar had a chance to beat him, but he proved everybody wrong.” I’ll have to examine every piece of information related to this fight until the time of the opening bell, and so I may change my position before it actually happens. But for now I’m saying Pacquiao will win the fight. Presley, for very good reason, has said Cotto will. I’m always nervous when for one reason or other I don’t agree with his prediction, because as I always say Presley has a unique ability to predict the outcome of fights. An earlier misjudgment of his doesn’t necessarily make me feel that much more confident about disagreeing with him, but I remind myself at this time that, based on size as well as boxing ability, Dennis Presley originally predicted Oscar De La Hoya would beat Manny Pacquiao.