Sunday, June 14, 2009 | 4 p.m.
Every once in a while, Manny Pacquiao would lean over to Top Rank boss Bob Arum and whisper something, perhaps giving the promoter a blow-by-blow analysis of Miguel Cotto’s welterweight title defense against Joshua Clottey.
Then again, the pound-for-pound king may have been describing how he’d handle Cotto himself.
The pride of Puerto Rico bruised his way to a split decision over Clottey on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, with Pacquiao seated just a few feet from the ring. Cotto’s bloody win may set up a big-money fight between them this fall, although there will be others lining up for a chance at one of the most exciting fighters in the game.
“The people have to wait until I rest a little bit,” Cotto said after the fight, a deep gash over his left eye heavily bandaged. “I’m on vacation.”
Cotto was evasive in discussing the myriad of potential opponents lined up before him, leaving that task to Arum, who made it clear that Pacquiao is at the head of the pack.
“This fight showed me that Cotto and Pacquiao is a dead-even fight,” Arum told a group of reporters seated ringside. “I think it’s a very competitive fight. Cotto-Pacquiao is the fight I want to make. It’s the fight I really want to make.”
It’s a fight that should be quite simple to make, considering both are promoted by Top Rank. But there are still plenty of details to be decided: when the fight will be held, where it will take place, how the purse will be split, and at what weight they’ll meet.
Arum said November is a possibility, but the venue is another matter. Cotto has fought mainly on the East Coast and didn’t fare well out west, losing a now controversial bout to Antonio Margarito in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Pacquiao has made Sin City his home-away-from-home. He’s waged his last five fights there, including his destruction of Oscar De La Hoya and brutal knockout of Ricky Hatton.
Both fighters will feel as though they’re the marquee attraction, which could make the negotiations sticky, but the weight appears to be the other big hangup.
Cotto is a strong welterweight, and hasn’t fought below 140 pounds since 2006. The former junior welterweight titleholder would have a considerable size advantage over Pacquiao, whose first title more than a decade ago was in the flyweight division.
“People think this would be like leading the lamb to the slaughter,” said Arum, who confided that they might agree to fight between 142 and 145 pounds. “I don’t see that.”
Many people said the same thing when Pacquiao fought De La Hoya at 147 pounds, and again when he fought Hatton at 140. Both times the charismatic Filipino champion used his superior speed and punching ability to negate any size difference.
All that said, there are other options for Cotto.
The WBO titleholder could face WBA champ Shane Mosley in a rematch of their 2007 bout, or he could fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. But a bout with Mayweather may take longer, after he postponed his fight next month with Juan Manuel Marquez because of a rib injury while training.
“Mayweather won’t fight anybody who can beat him,” Arum said, quickly dismissing a Cotto matchup. “Psychologically, he cannot take a defeat.”
The leaves one other serious contender for Cotto’s next fight: Margarito, who dealt him his only loss.
The former champion from Mexico brutally beat Cotto when they fought last year, but a few months later Margarito was found to have a substance that resembled plaster-of-paris on his hand wraps before a subsequent loss to Mosley. That made some question whether his win over Cotto was also tainted.
Margarito and his trainer Javier Capetillo had their boxing licenses revoked by the California State Athletic Commission, and it would take reinstatement for the fight to go off.
“After a questionable loss, I never said anything about it,” Cotto said. “Everybody wants to think he used illegal things with me. That’s all right. I have to think he fought me the correct way.”
Arum called a potential rematch with Margarito, whom he also promotes, “a huge fight.”
“The Margarito fight is a possibility when he comes back after his suspension. I will take him on,” Cotto said. “Like always, I want to fight the best, so whoever is out there and willing, I am here.”