LAS VEGAS (AP) — Manny Pacquiao spent long, hard weeks getting ready for one of the biggest nights of his life. Hundreds of hours sparring in sweltering gyms, nearly as many on morning runs through deserted streets.
Not to mention all those nights rehearsing with the band.
Many in boxing think Miguel Cotto will be Pacquiao's toughest challenge when they meet on Saturday in a highly anticipated welterweight fight for Cottoi's WBO title. But after trading punches he has to please another kind of crowd when he takes the stage to sing with his band later that night down the Las Vegas Strip.
His trainer would rather he concentrate on the immediate task at hand. But Freddie Roach understands by now that Pacquiao can't keep still in the ring or out.
"I'm against the concert, of course," Roach said. "But he does a lot of stuff. He's multitasking all the time."
The stuff includes everything from helping victims of the recent typhoon in the Philippines to starring in an action movie called "Wapakman." The father of four — who named one of his daughters Queen Elizabeth — has so many things going on all the time that even his ever expanding entourage has trouble keeping track.
None of it matters, though, if he doesn't take care of business on Saturday when he again carries the weight of a nation on his shoulders in the latest in a string of fights that have made him wildly popular far beyond his home country.
Pacquiao expects it to be his first knockout performance of the night.
"For me boxing is a kind of entertainment," Pacquiao said. "You have to entertain people. You have to earn their trust."
Pacquiao has done just that in his last two fights, giving Oscar De La Hoya such a beating that he retired and dropping Ricky Hatton with one huge punch. He's gone from being a top-tier fighter to being widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and beating Cotto would give him an unprecedented seventh title in as many weight classes.
It also would set up a bout with unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. in one of the biggest fights in boxing history. That's assuming, of course, that Pacquiao can focus on his most important duty of the night.
"I set aside everything that can distract my mind," Pacquiao said. "This is the important fight of my life. To win seven titles means 20 or 30 years ago you won't forget my name. Manny Pacquiao will still be there."
Though the fight will be for a lightly regarded piece of the welterweight title, it is being held at 66 kilograms (145 pounds) at the insistence of Pacquiao's camp because Cotto is a natural at 67 kilos (147 pounds) and Pacquiao has fought only once above 63½ kilos (140 pounds). The bout at sold-out MGM Grand arena will be shown on pay-per-view.
The fight has the potential to be one of the most entertaining of recent big bouts, if only because Pacquiao fights in a frenetic style and Cotto loves nothing better than to move forward while throwing a relentless swarm of punches. But there are still questions about Pacquiao's chin against a bigger fighter as well as how much Cotto has recovered from the beating he took last year at the hands of Antonio Margarito.
Oddsmakers make Pacquiao a 2½-1 favorite partly because the betting public is going by his last two performances and partly because he seems to have accomplished the hardest task in boxing — bringing both his speed punch with him as he moved up in weight in a pro career that began at 48 kilos (105 pounds.
"We believe we have an advantage in speed and in power, too," Pacquiao said. "My speed is still there and if you have speed you can create power."
Hatton found that out when he was on the receiving end of Pacquiao's left hook, his best punch. But Roach has helped Pacquiao develop a decent right hand in the last few years, too, so opponents can no longer look for just one punch.
The fight plan is simple for Pacquiao: Take command early and don't give Cotto a chance to build his confidence.
"If we let him win the first few rounds he'll begin to think he can fight with Manny," Roach said. "My job is not to let that happen."
Cotto's left hook is his best weapon, too, and until Margarito — with the possible help of some suspect hand wraps — stopped him in the 11th round last year, Cotto was a rising star himself. Cotto struggled in his last fight to win a bloody split decision over Joshua Clottey and Roach, for one, believes he has slowed and is no longer the same fighter he once was.
Cotto will make just half of Pacquiao's $13 million guarantee for this fight. He will also have to deal with having a new and untested trainer in his corner and the possibility that his cut against Clottey will be reopened in this fight. The crowd also will be against him.
"It's just a fight," Cotto said. "I'm not mad that people want me to win this fight or not. If he thinks he is going to win seven titles in seven weight divisions now, he has picked the wrong moment, the wrong fighter and the wrong opponent. If he thinks he is going to win the seventh title against Miguel Cotto, he is very wrong."