LAS VEGAS?He likened himself to a tiger. Actually, he could have referred to himself as a boxing deity and no one would have argued.
Manny Pacquiao, scoring two early knockdowns and unleashing furious, calculating punishment the rest of the way, stopped Miguel Cotto via a 12th-round technical knockout to become the first fighter to collect world crowns in seven weight classes on Saturday night at the MGM Grand?s Garden Arena.
?He?s the greatest fighter of his era, for sure. 100 percent,? Pacquiao?s American trainer Freddie Roach said when the slaughter ended.
Pacquiao floored the Puerto Rican ex-champion in the third and fourth rounds, and then systematically annihilated him until referee Kenny Bayless mercifully pulled the plug on the match 55 seconds into the final round, crowning the Filipino the new World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight champion.
?I was like a tiger,? Pacquiao said in Filipino after the match. ?Cotto just kept on running.?
A tiger in seventh heaven. Although with his latest accomplishment, he is being referred to as the GOAT?the greatest of all time.
Better than Ali, Leonard
?I know I get carried away a lot,? Top Rank chief and fight promoter Bob Arum said after the match. ?But Manny Pacquiao is the best fighter I?ve ever seen and that includes (Muhammad) Ali, Sugar Ray (Leonard) and (Marvin) Hagler.?
Cotto?s wife and child, who were at ringside, left after the ninth round, unable to watch the beating any longer. They later accompanied Cotto to a local hospital for a post-fight examination.
Pacquiao added Cotto?s title to the six he had already captured: Flyweight, super bantamweight, featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight and light welterweight.
He also filed Cotto?s name in the list of elite fighters he has destroyed: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya.
In manhandling yet another future Hall-of-Famer, Pacquiao validated his claim to boxing?s mythical throne.
He is still pound-for-pound king.
Rain of hard punches
Sporting mean cuts around his eyes, a bloodied nose and a fat lip, Cotto later agreed that Pacquiao was special.
?Manny is the best fighter I ever fought,? Cotto said.
?I tried to bring all I could for these boxing fans,? he added. ?Tonight, it didn?t go my way. The jabs I threw were landing but he was too much.?
Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KOs) dominated Cotto (37-2, 27 KOs) with power punching from all angles, landing 276 bombs out of 560 attempts (49 percent) while not giving the Puerto Rican much of a target with his movements. Cotto connected on just 93 of 300 power punches thrown (31 percent).
Pacquiao?s hand speed was evident and he was raining hard punches at a dizzying rate from almost everywhere so that Cotto finally learned firsthand the dogma Team Pacquiao has preached for the longest time?speed kills.
Didn?t know what hit him
?I did not see where [the punches] were coming from,? admitted Cotto, who was brought to the hospital as a precautionary measure.
?We wanted to put pressure with our punching,? trainer Freddie Roach said. ?We wanted to break Cotto down with our speed and that?s what we did.?
?It was a tough fight,? Pacquiao said. ?I?m pretty sure the people in the Philippines are celebrating now and they?re very happy.
For a while, though, they were tense.
Cotto started slow in the first two rounds with laser-guided jabs that snapped Pacquiao?s head and prevented the Filipino from charging off to a fast start as planned.
Cotto had Pacquiao pinned on the ropes and even connected on combinations that included his killer left hook. Pacquiao, though, claimed he was allowing the barrage to happen so he could test just how much power Cotto carried into the bout, which was fought at a catch weight of 145 pounds.
?I wanted to test his power, I wanted to get hit,? Pacquiao said.
Later on, though, he admitted that he ?was actually pretending it didn?t hurt, but it really hurt, you know.?
?His camp said he was bigger and stronger and I wanted to be aggressive and I wanted to go toe-to-toe with him,? Pacquiao added.
?I was worried. We were on the ropes which was exactly what we prepared for not to happen,? Roach said. ?But Manny said he could handle it and I told him to prove it.?
Things changed, though, in the third round that Cotto dominated early on.
Pacquiao landed a right hook that floored Cotto for the first time in the fight, sending the Pacman side of the 16,000-strong audience into a delirious celebration.
Cotto continued to connect with his jabs in the fourth round but Pacquiao got off a left uppercut that sent the 29-year-old two-division champion down again?this time more emphatically.
Fighting on pure heart
Cotto began losing steam after that.
?That changed the game right there,? Roach said. ?I didn?t think the fight would continue very long.?
It did, but mainly because Cotto was fighting on pure heart from then on.
Cotto landed a smacking uppercut in the fifth round and willingly engaged Pacquiao in early exchanges in the sixth. Late in that round, however, he started getting into trouble again.
Cuts were starting to appear around the area of his eyes, and one gash was bleeding freely as Cotto was now relying on his staying power.
By the ninth round, Cotto was also bleeding from the mouth and from the nose, his face swelling and his game plan ripped to shreds by the rapid-punching southpaw who was in front of him, beside him and behind him almost all at once.
The beating was so severe that after the ninth round, Cotto?s wife and their children were seen leaving the arena.
It looked like Cotto wanted to do the same thing and only the ropes of the ring restrained him from bolting the arena altogether. Several times from the 10th round onward, Pacquiao would freeze and drop his hands and stare frustratingly at Cotto, who started jogging away out of the 30-year-old Filipino?s range.
In the 11th, Pacquiao managed to corner Cotto and unleash mean combinations, it almost seemed like the fight was going to end there.
?I really thought they were going to stop the fight in the 11th round,? Pacquiao said. ?I?m surprised they continued.?
Cotto?s inexperienced corner came under fire for letting the Puerto Rican fight on, with Arum calling the decision questionable.
But Cotto admitted his 32-year-old trainer Joe Santiago, handling just his second major fight, wanted to stop the bout in the 11th, but Cotto insisted they continue.
?I told Joe I wanted to continue fighting,? Cotto said. ?It was my decision.?
Judge Adelaide Byrd scored it 109-99, Duane Ford saw it 108-99 and Dave Moretti had it 108-100 all for Pacquiao by the time the bout was stopped.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer had it 108-99 for Pacquiao through 11 rounds, giving Cotto just two rounds.
Bring on Floyd
Pacquiao refused to answer questions about his future boxing plans, saying he would go on vacation with his family first to allow his body to rest and heal.
But the crowd pointed the Filipino to one direction.
After the victory was announced, Pacquiao?s supporters chanted: ?We want Floyd!?
They were, of course, calling out undefeated American Floyd Mayweather Jr., who critics say has been hiding behind money issues to stay away from a fight with Pacquiao.
?I want [Pacquiao] to fight Mayweather,? Roach said. ?That?s the fight everybody wants to see now.?