[PHOTO AT LEFT - Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto pose during the Giants-Dodgers game at the AT&T Park in San Francisco as they promote their upcoming showdown in Las Vegas. Abac Cordero]

BEVERLY HILLS, SEPTEMBER 16, 2009 (PHILIPPINE STAR) By Abac Cordero  – Conditioning coach Alex Ariza liked what he saw at the Beverly Hills Hotel here yesterday.

No, it wasn’t the elegance of the “Pink Palace” (as the hotel, built in 1912, is affectionately called), not its scroll of past celebrity guests like Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne or John F. Kennedy, and neither those gorgeous ladies walking the premises.

What caught Ariza’s sharp eyes was the shape Miguel Cotto was in, in the last day of the press tour that carried the Puerto Rican champion, and Manny Pacquiao, the reigning pound-for-pound king from the Philippines, to New York, Puerto Rico and San Francisco and LA over the last five days.

“Did you see him out there? He must be weighing 160 pounds,” said Ariza who came into the picture with the promise that he can keep Pacquiao moving up in weight and adding up more power without losing his speed. He introduced the Pinoy icon to the special program of plyometrics.

And they’re been extremely successful so far with big knockout wins over Diaz, Oscar dela Hoya and Ricky Hatton.

He said Cotto weighing as much (the WBO champion said a few days ago he was at 159 lb) gives him the feeling that the wide-bodied Puerto Rican might find it quite difficult making the catchweight limit of 145 lb. Pacquiao is just a little over 150, and with two months left is safely there.

“He (Cotto) must be 160 pounds and we’re fighting at 145 with only two months left. He’s got a lot more work to do than us. We also have work to do but Cotto has got to lose a lot of weight,” said Ariza, who’s hoping that at 145 lb, Pacquiao could be as sharp, as fast and as strong as he was in his last fights.

Cotto said he plans to climb the ring at 160.

“He weighed in at 142 for the Oscar dela Hoya fight (which was fought at 147 lb) and climbed the ring at 148 1/2. Now if we can put him in that shape I don’t see anyone who will be able to take his punches. He really looked exceptionally well at 142,” said Ariza, who’s coming over to Baguio City for the training.

Ariza said he’s not concerned at all that some people feel that Pacquiao is lagging behind Cotto in training. While the Puerto Rican is into his fourth week, Pacquiao will mark day one of his training on Sept. 21 at the earliest.

But Ariza said it doesn’t really matter because eight weeks have proven to be the perfect formula, and anything more or less than that won’t bring out the best in him.

“Believe me, once he’s in training nothing can disrupt him. And once he’s ready, he’d climb the gate just to fight,” he said.

At the press conference, Pacquiao said when he climbs the ring against Cotto he will prove the world “who Manny Pacquiao is.”

The 30-year-old icon is gunning for a record seventh world title in different weight classes.

Cotto capped the press tour by saying there’s nothing else to do now but train, and make sure that when the fight comes “you’re in your best shape.”

Cotto is scheduled to fly back to Puerto Rico, and in just a couple of days will be in Tampa, Florida for the big grind. Pacquiao, on the other hand, motors to San Diego today to do the ceremonial pitch in the Padres’ game before heading back to Manila later in the evening.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved