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First Round: “FIRE POWER” – Pacquiao vs Cotto at Yankee Stadium

Manny Pacquiao (L) at the dais accompanied by his trainer Freddie Roach, lawyer Jeng Gacal and adviser Michael Koncz during the presscon at Yankee Stadium yesterday. (Photo credit/ Dr. Allan Recto)

Manhattan, New York City (9-11-09) – At the impressive and majestic 1.5 billion dollar, state of the art NY Yankee Stadium, serving as venue, Top Rank announced the world welterweight championship fight of current pound per pound king Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao, and Puerto Rico’s pride and three time world champion Miguel Cotto. Their mega fight titled “Firepower” will have the newly minted WBC Diamond championship belt as an exclusive award and Pacquiao will challenge for the WBO welterweight championship belt of Miguel Cotto, at 145 lbs.

It was the first round of a series of “Fire Power” Media Tour with schedule seen below.

This match-up has generated a lot of interest among boxing fans worldwide, that will take place on Saturday, November 14, at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas to be shown, live on HBO Pay-Per-View and telecast in the Philippines thru Solar Sports in cooperation with GMA.

Team Pacquiao arrived in New York City at 1:30 pm, Sept. 9th, via John F Kennedy International Airport, aboard Cathay Pacific from Manila with stopover in Hong Kong. They were then taken to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. After a relaxing night playing Beatles’ songs in the grand piano at his classy hotel suite in Midtown Manhattan, Manny Pacquiao awoke at seven in the morning yesterday ready to start his day with a morning jog accompanied by his Team at Central Park, a National Historic Landmark in the heart of New York City, after doing stretching exercises. Pacquiao prepared well for a long day busy ahead, making every New York minute count.

Team Pacquiao (L-R Roger Fernandez, Freddie Roach, Manny Pacquiao, Michael Koncz; behind is ringside physician Dr. Allan Recto and publicist Winchell Campos) strolling in front of Loews Regency Hotel in New York City after jogging in Central Park. (Photo taken by Jovy Halog/ MP Promotions)

At around 11 a.m., Team Pacquiao was picked up by two elegant chauffeur driven SUVs at the lobby of the Loews Regency Hotel in Park Avenue, where Manny took a few moments to accept brief interviews from the media, among them the NY Times.

After a 30 minute drive from the hotel, Team Pacquiao joined by Coach Freddie Roach, Atty. Jeng Gacal, Mike Koncz, Roger Fernandez, Jovi Halog, Winchell Campos, this writer, Manila Bulletin’s Nick Giongco and Philippine Star’s Abac Cordero were ushered inside Yankee Stadium thru Gate 2 guided by security and coordinator Fred Sternburg.

In a room filled with baseball legends photographs hanging in its wall, Pacquiao talked about his baseball experiences, stating that he used to play during his elementary days in school. While simulating a pitch, he remarked, “I was a left hand pitcher. I had so much fun.”

Manny mimics a baseball throw at the holding area of the NY Yankee Stadium remembering his younger days as player. (Photo credit/ Dr. Allan Recto)

Prior to the start of the event, this writer scouted the Yankee Stadium. It was indeed a spectacular place to visit. This boxing writer could imagine what it would have felt inside with a crowd of 52,325 in its maximum capacity. The turnout was amazing according to ace publicist Fred Sternburg, including the fans. Boxing fans were seated right in front of first base, some with Philippine flags and wearing Pacquiao T-shirts, but mostly filled with Puerto Ricans chanting – “Cotto, Cotto, Cotto!”

At the holding area, Miguel Cotto was sitting calmly, surrounded by Team members – his father Miguel Cotto, Sr., conditioning coach Phil Lander, his lawyer Gabriel Penagaricano, Jr. with their Top Rank coordinator, publicist Ricardo Jimenez.

This writer approached a dear friend in the crowd. “We are very excited in WBC because it is the first time ever that a true Diamond Belt is put as a trophy for the winner of this fight, “ commented Mauricio Sulaiman. The WBC Executive Secretary revealed to me. “We are very proud of both Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto. It is going to be a great fight and we are honored to be involved in it.” After actually seeing and touching the WBC Diamond championship belt, this writer was convinced it was indeed a brand new, special, elite edition crown jewel.

Bob Arum opened the press conference tracing the historic events at the Yankee Stadium. He introduced both Teams and special guests attending the event who made brief remarks. World famous and three-time trainer of the year Coach Freddie Roach assured everyone, “I’m getting Manny ready to win the toughest fight of his life. Miguel is strong and I respect him. We have a lot of work to do, but come November 14, Manny Pacquiao will be ready.”

When it was Manny Pacquiao’s turn to speak, he addressed the crowd in Tagalog and English. “I will do my best to give everyone a good fight on November 14,” he declared. “Sa lahat ng mga kababayan ko – Mabuhay ang Pilipinas. Lalaban ako hangang sa huling patak ng aking dugo para sa inyo.” (Translated – “To all my countrymen - Long live the Philippines. I will stand up to fight up to the last drop of my blood for all of you.”) He assured the Filipinos and his fans that he will again train very hard. He respects Miguel Cotto as a fighter and as a person. “He is a nice guy,” he added.

When Top Rank’s boss, Bob Arum, presented Pacquiao, he referred to him as the best fighter in the world who previously stopped different world champions like David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya and most recently Britain’s superstar Ricky Hatton, to which Miguel Cotto reacted, “I am not De La Hoya nor Hatton, I am Miguel Angel Cotto,” he forcefully mentioned for which the Latino crowd cheered wildly. He guaranteed everybody, “I will do my best against Manny!”

Welterweight Champion Miguel Angel Cotton (R) with his Dad, Miguel Cotton, Sr. (center) and conditioning coach Phil Landsman (L). Bob Arum of Top Rank is behind. (Photo credit/ Dr. Allan Recto)

Notable Predictions:

This writer was able to speak with Boxing historian Bert Sugar. He considered Pacquiao as the best Left Handed fighter in the world and the greatest Asian fighter of all times who is gunning for his 7th world title. If he wins this fight, Bert Sugar predicted cheerfully, “It puts him down in boxing history as one of the all time greatest fighter in my list. I see this fight to end by stoppage, by Pacquiao, of course!,” Bert Sugar disclosed. He thinks that the longer the fight goes, the better it will be for Pacquiao who to him is a fighter that defies explanation, winning his major world title as flyweight.

Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao shows his “Pambansang Kamao” or the “National Fist” in the new Yankee Stadium. (Photo credit/ Dr. Allan Recto)

He considers the welterweight division loaded with the best talents and currently the best division stating all the best of the best are there mentioning - Floyd Mayweather, Juan Manuel Marquez, Sugar Shane Mosley, Joshua Clottey and even Antonio Margarito, aside from the two protagonists.

What makes this fight exciting to him is that two of the best are fighting in the best division. He remembers and considers the fight of Haggler-Hearns the best fight he has ever been LIVE in person. “The first 8 minute was total war,” he told this writer and expressed amusement.

Joshua Clottey who fought Cotto in June 13, 2009 but lost by split decision commented to this writer about the upcoming fight of Cotto-Pacquiao, “This is going to be a tough fight. I think this is going to be a 50-50, an even match. Cotto’s defense when he fought me was not that good but I don’t know what it will be when he fights Manny who is a southpaw and very smart.” He finally stated his opinion of the outcome, “To me in a decision, Pacquiao is gonna win but in a knockout, Cotto is going to win!”
Paulie Malignaggi declared to this writer, “I lean towards Miguel Cotto because he is naturally the stronger and bigger man. I fought Miguel and although he is not that fast, he could time you. He could hit you in between combinations. When asked which punch hurt him the most, he answered, “His biggest punch comes from his left hand. His jabs are hard too.”

Finally, when this writer had a chance conversation with Bob Arum, he calmly said, “It’s going to be a great fight, an all action fight, very, very competitive. At this point in time, I don’t know who’s going to win the fight. When asked how the fight would end, Bob Arum confessed, “I think there’s going to be a knockout, but by whom, I don’t know!”

WBC Executive Secretary Mauricio Sulaiman (R) and Dr. Allan Recto holding on to the Diamond Championship Belt at Yankee Stadium. (Photo credit/ Jovi Halog)

Notes: After the first round of their “Fire Power” Media Tour in Yankee Stadium, Manny Pacquiao and company proceeded to the HBO Studios for more interviews and photo shoots, around 3: 30 pm. It was a thrill to witness when HBO commentator Max Kellerman made Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao sit down facing each other while he conducted his interview. That was very interesting and should be seen in the HBO 24/7 series. The next stop was ESPN sports for some pictorials and again a brief interview at 7:30 pm. Before retiring to the hotel, Pacquiao was treated at the Nike Store in SoHo, receiving many gifts from NIKE including shoes, bags and shirts. It was fashion night in the jam-packed store however Team Pacquiao was taken to the VIP room. Fans who recognized Pacquiao were ecstatic to see him and they cheered excitedly. Team Pacquiao returned exhausted but pleased at their luxury hotel around 10:15 pm.

Sept. 10 - Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
Sept. 12 - Centro de Bellas Artes de Caguas, Caguas, Puerto Rico
Sept. 13 - AT&T Park, San Francisco, California
Giants vs. Dodgers
Sept. 14 - Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, California
Sept. 15 - PETCO Park, San Diego, California *
Padres vs. Diamondbacks
*(Pacquiao Only)

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Dr. Allan Recto.

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