Pacquiao targets new record

LAS VEGAS (Reuters) — Manny Pacquiao, widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, is poised to go where no boxer has gone before when he challenges Miguel Cotto for the WBO welterweight title on Saturday.

Victory at the MGM Grand Garden Arena would give the ‘Pacman’ from General Santos City a seventh world title belt in an unprecedented seventh weight division.

”If I win this fight, it will be history for boxing and for the Philippines,” Pacquiao, 49-3-2 (37 KOs), told reporters on Wednesday.

The Filipino southpaw currently holds the IBO light-welterweight title, which he won with a stunning second round knockout of Britain’s Ricky Hatton in May.

He has previously held titles at flyweight, super bantamweight, featherweight, super featherweight and lightweight.

It has been a remarkable procession for a man who began his professional career fighting at 105 pounds — 40 pounds lighter than the contracted weight for Saturday’s bout.

”Now to be welterweight, I can’t believe it,” Pacquiao said. ”I just thank God every day for what he gave to me.”

He acknowledges, though, that the more powerful Cotto will provide him with the toughest challenge of his career.

”This is the most important fight of my career,” Pacquiao said of the Puerto Rican who has an enviable record of 34-1 featuring 27 knockouts and a world title every year since 2004.

”He believes he’s stronger and bigger than me. And of course I believe in myself.”

Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum says his fighter’s renowned popularity has soared in the wake of recent victories over Hatton and boxing great Oscar De La Hoya.

The Filipino appears on this month’s edition of Time magazine Asia and, according to Arum, he will always be the people’s champion because of his endearing personality.

”Lots of boxers get successful and then become high-falutin’ and lose touch with the people,” Arum said. ”They read their own press clippings. But Manny has stayed the same humble person he’s always been.”

Pacquiao embraces the support of his countrymen and boxing fans in general.

”I’m fighting for the Filipino people but I’m also fighting for people who love boxing, who want a good fight,” the 30-year-old said.

”I want them to feel: ‘Oh that fight is good.’ I don’t want them to be disappointed after the fight. I always like to give happiness to people who watch boxing.”

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