Cotto, Pacquiao pound out their differences

What a difference a couple of pounds can make.

Given how the rest of the summer has panned out so far, the boxing world braced for the inevitable — that the fall would be without its biggest fight.

Two pounds almost stood in the way of Miguel Cotto and Manny Pacquiao looking for someone other than each other to fight later in the year. Two pounds threatened to become the latest negative storyline in a summer already flooded with bad news.

In the end, two pounds gives the boxing world something positive to talk about — and for its writers to type about.

The storylines were running thin, other than the same recurring theme — yet another fallout. It was about to become this week’s subject, after Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. became the latest to have his name scratched from a summer schedule that reads more like an E.R. log-in sheet. A rib injury forced the oldest son of Mexico’s most famous fighting family off Saturday’s “Latin Fury 10” pay-per-view telecast, this on the heels of undefeated Yuriorkis Gamboa being scratched last week.

Then came Cotto-Pacquiao — or Pacquiao-Cotto, depending on your viewpoint.

Two pounds is the difference between the fight taking place at the traditional welterweight limit, where Cotto (34-1, 27 KOs) has campaigned full-time since December 2006, and the 145-pound catchweight at which the combatants will meet.

Barring his coming in heavy for the prefight weigh-in, 145 will be the lightest Cotto will officially weigh for a prize fight in more than three years, when he was drying out in order to make the junior welterweight limit. The Puerto Rican boxing superstar has weighed between 146 and the divisional limit of 147 for each of his eight welterweight fights to date.

Money wasn’t of concern so much as the demand from Pacquiao that the fight takes place at an even lower limit. It was an issue in which Cotto refused to budge, not out of stubbornness, but for his own medical safety. Let Pacquiao enjoy the favorable end of the purse split; all Cotto asked for was something more in line with what his nutritionist would consider a realistic compromise.

Two pounds.

It is the difference between the fight’s contracted weight and the 143-pound mark Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KOs) originally pursued.

Some found the request unbecoming of a reigning pound-for-pound king, that the sport’s very best should be willing to take on all comers under any and all circumstances. Not to mention that it would become the latest in an already far too long list of catchweight fights that continue to compromise the significance of having weight classes in the first place.

Others sympathized with the Filipino’s cause. Having begun his career just north of the strawweight limit 14 years ago, the pending clash with Cotto would be just Pacquiao’s fourth fight above 130, all coming in the last year and change.

After having captured the lineal super featherweight crown last March, Pacquiao has since spent one fight each at lightweight, junior welterweight and welterweight. His pit stop at lightweight resulted in an alphabet title winning knockout over David Diaz.

Six months later, he cemented his claim as 2008’s Fighter of the Year by forcing Oscar De La Hoya to quit on his stool — and ultimately from the sport altogether — after eight brutally one-sided rounds.

The event was marketed as a welterweight fight, though Pacquiao came in at 142 well below the division limit. It was just two pounds more than the next division in which he would campaign, dropping down to junior welterweight for his super-fight with Ricky Hatton this past May.

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Pacquiao came in two pounds below the division limit, but carried heavyweight power in blitzing Hatton in two rounds to make boxing history in becoming the only fighter to capture lineal titles in four weight classes.

The two-pound compromise for the Cotto fight gives Pacquiao a different historical angle in which to pursue. Cotto holds an alphabet title at welterweight, which means a Pacquiao win could make him boxing’s first ever to capture hardware in seven weight classes, if in fact a title is at stake.

Those who still lend credence to the alphabet sanctioning bodies will no doubt run with that story line as the fight draws closer. Others will take the fight for what it is — a titanic collision between two of the very best in the sport today — and perhaps draw parallels to other significant pound-for-pound matchups from yesteryear and beyond.

Simply put, the angles on which to cover this fight are endless. All of them figure to be explored between now through Nov. 14, and more than likely beyond if the fight comes anywhere close to living up to the already exceedingly high expectations.

A compromise on two pounds was all it took, to make the fight and save a boxing year that was threatening to become known for all of the wrong reasons.