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Freddie Roach: Miguel Cotto not the same since knockout

Manny Pacquiao came back strong after losses, Cotto looks for same

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Steve Marcus

Manny Pacquiao laughs with trainer Freddie Roach during Wednesday’s pre-fight press conference at the MGM Grand Hotel.

Ending With Firepower

Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto and their camps share their final thoughts leading up to the final major boxing match of the decade.

Pacquiao, Cotto press conference

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman poses with Manny Pacquiao, left, of the Philippines and WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico after presenting them with ceremonial keys to the city during a news conference at the MGM Grand Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009.  Pacquiao and Cotto will fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday. Launch slideshow »

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As he has done in the past, Freddie Roach offered a $1,000 award to any of Manny Pacquiao’s (49-3-2, 37 KO) latest sparring partners who could knock down the Filipino during preparations for his WBO welterweight title fight with Miguel Cotto (34-1, 27 KO) this Saturday.

During Wednesday’s pre-fight press conference, Roach said that even after 141 rounds of sparring in Pacquiao’s recent camp, his money is safe.

“I told each sparring partner if they could knock him down, they’d get a $1,000 bonus from me — the money is still in my pocket,” Roach said. “He did get shook once though, he did. (Shawn) Porter hurt him one time, and Manny came back on the next combination and dropped him.”

The incentive offered by Roach might surprise some, considering the trainer’s beliefs on knockouts.

Roach has said many times that Cotto hasn’t been the same since taking the worst beating of his career in an 11th-round TKO loss to Antonio Margarito on July 26, 2008.

That loss, the only blemish on Cotto’s professional record, came under scrutiny when plaster was found in Margarito’s gloves in his next fight against Shane Mosley in January.

According to Roach, whether Margarito had cheated in his fight with Cotto is irrelevant — the impact on Cotto’s mentality is the same.

“It doesn’t matter if Margarito did it in that fight or not, a fighter is still not the same following a knockout like that,” Roach said.

When asked what it takes to get over a devastating knockout, Roach simply answered, “Time.”

If there is an example that contradicts Roach’s theory, it can be found in his own fighter.

Pacquiao has been knocked out twice in his professional career. Filipino boxer Rustico Torrecampo knocked him out in the third round in 1996 and Medgoen Singsurat did it again in the third round in a WBC flyweight title fight in 1999.

Pacquiao responded both times by stringing together double-digit win streaks, although he did admit that both were initially difficult to overcome.

“After the (Singsurat) fight I was thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to stop boxing because maybe boxing doesn’t like me,’” Pacquiao said. “But then I started thinking to use them to focus harder for my next fights.”

By the time Pacquiao met Roach for the first time in 2001, he was two years removed from the second knockout and made a promise to his new trainer when the issue came up.

“He showed me both knockouts,” Roach said. “The first time he got knocked out, one of his countrymen hit him with a good shot and he was out. The second time he didn’t make weight and had lost his WBC title on the scale. He fought anyway and got knocked out by a body shot.

“I asked him, ‘Do these still bother you?’ He said, ‘Nah, they are no big deal. It will never happen again.’”

The final verdict on whether Cotto has lost something from the Margarito fight might reveal itself by the end of Saturday night’s event inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Some agree with Roach that the 29-year-old fighter looked different in a 12-round split decision with Joshua Clottey at Madison Square Garden in June.

It was the first split decision ever in Cotto’s career and just the third time in his last 14 wins he hadn’t stopped his opponent.

Others believe Cotto, who says the fact he won the Clottey fight is enough to prove he’s put the knockdown behind him.

“The Margarito fight is out of my mind, out of everything about me,” Cotto said. “If it was still in the way, I wouldn’t have made the comeback I already made this year.”

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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