LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - Manny Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach says the Filipino southpaw has never been in better shape and has predicted a knockout when he challenges Miguel Cotto for the WBO welterweight title on Saturday.
Pacquiao, widely regarded as the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighter, is gunning for a seventh world title in an unprecedented seventh weight class.
“This week is the sharpest I have ever seen him in my life,” Roach told reporters at the MGM Grand on Thursday.
“We were doing the mitts (training) on Tuesday and every time I was about to tell him something, he made the move before I could say anything.”
Roach believes his fighter’s renowned hand and foot speed will be a significant factor in the hotly anticipated clash at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“Manny’s speed is so effective whether he’s coming or going. It’s his footwork, he’ll feint you out of his socks,” he said.
“We’re definitely going to dictate the pace of the fight. I respect Miguel, but he’ll get knocked out in this one.”
Cotto’s trainer Joe Santiago countered by saying his man would control the tempo of the scheduled 12-round bout.
“You have to,” he added. “You have to decide what’s going to take place in the ring from the beginning. We’re going to dictate the pace.”
Santiago predicted Cotto, 34-1 (27 KOs), would match Pacquiao’s speed, citing the Puerto Rican’s victories in 2007 against Americans Zab Judah and Shane Mosley.
“He showed us he can deal with speed, against Judah and against Mosley, and he did it very well,” he said.
Pacquiao, 49-3-2 (37 KOs), is a 3-1 on favorite with Las Vegas bookmakers, a fact that surprises Santiago.
“I can’t understand why Pacquiao would be the favorite,” he said. “Look at who we’ve fought, and the guys he’s fought. He fought a couple of guys who were over the hill.”
Roach, however, believes Cotto is on the downside of his career, and that he is still feeling the after-effects of a brutal 11th-round stoppage by Antonio Margarito in the same MGM Grand ring in July 2008.
“I think he’s slowed down since that Margarito fight,” Roach said. “If you see his fights pre-Margarito or post-Margarito, I think he’s a different fighter, I really do.
“When you’re undefeated and you’re a world champion and then you’re knocked out for the first time in your life, it’s going to affect you.”
Roach acknowledged Cotto was a dangerous opponent, though, and that he and Pacquiao had made specific plans to avoid the Puerto Rican’s vaunted left hook to the body.
“That’s what everyone says about Miguel,” Santiago said with a broad smile. “They all say: ‘We have to stay away from that hook and prevent it landing.’
“And he ends up landing it every time. It’ll land.”
Editing by Julian Linden
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