LAS VEGAS: Manny Pacquiao's speed and power were way too much for Miguel Cotto's heart.
Pacquiao put on yet another dominating performance Saturday night, knocking down Cotto twice and turning his face into a bloody mess before finally stopping him at 55 seconds of the 12th round.
The Filipino star used his blazing speed and power from both hands to win his seventh title in seven weight classes and cement his stature as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Cotto took such a beating that his face was a river of red from the fury of Pacquiao's punches, but he refused to quit even as his corner tried to throw in the towel after the 11th round.
"I didn't know from where the punches were coming," Cotto said.
The fight was billed as a 145-pound classic, and in the early rounds it didn't disappoint. The two went after each other with a vengeance and Cotto more than held his own as they traded punches in the center of the ring before a roaring sellout crowd at the MGM Grand arena.
Pacquiao dropped Cotto with a right hand early in the third round, but he wasn't badly hurt and came back to finish the round strong. But after Pacquiao put Cotto on the canvas with a big left hand late in the fourth round, the Puerto Rican was never the same again.
Cotto won two rounds on the scorecards of two ringside judges and just one round on the card of the third. The Associated Press gave Cotto just the first round.
"Our plan was not to hurry, but to take our time," Pacquiao said. "It was a hard fight tonight and I needed time to test his power."
Cotto's face was marked early and he was bleeding midway through the fight as Pacquiao kept bouncing around and throwing punches in his unorthodox southpaw style. He tried to keep taking the fight to Pacquiao, but by then his punches had lost their sting and his only real chance was to land a big punch from nowhere.
"He hit harder than we expected and he was a lot stronger than we expected," Cotto's trainer, Joe Santiago, said.
Cotto fought gamely, but in the later rounds he was just trying to survive as blood flowed down his face and Pacquiao came after him relentlessly. Santiago tried to stop the fight after the 11th round, but Cotto went back out to take even more punishment before a final flurry along the ropes prompted referee Kenny Bayless to end it.
Cotto's wife and child, who were at ringside, left after the ninth round, unable to watch the beating any longer. They later accompanied him to a local hospital for a post-fight examination.
"My health comes first. I just want to make sure I'm fine, but I feel great. I'm swollen but that's all," Cotto said.
His face swollen, Cotto was bleeding from his nose and his cuts, and he simply couldn't stop Pacquiao from bouncing inside and throwing both hands at will.
"Manny Pacquiao is one of the best boxers I ever fought," Cotto said.
Pacquiao, coming off of spectacular wins over Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton, added another one against Cotto, who had lost only once and held the WBO version of the welterweight title.
Pacquiao did it in his trademark way, throwing punches in flurries and from all angles until Cotto began to slow down. Then he pursued him nonstop until the end.
The fight likely will set up an even bigger one against Floyd Mayweather Jr., and many in crowd were already chanting, "We want Floyd! We want Floyd."
"I want to see him fight Mayweather," trainer Freddie Roach said.
Mayweather may have second thoughts after Pacquiao did what no fighter has done before — win a belt in a seventh weight class. More impressive, though, is how he has fought, dismantling opponents despite moving up consistently from 106 pounds to the 144 he weighed for the fight.
The welterweight ranks will be the last ones Pacquiao conquers, though.
"This is the last weight division for me," Pacquiao said. "It's history for me and more importantly a Filipino did it."
He was so dominant in the later rounds that Cotto was fighting backward most of the way, simply trying to survive. Pacquiao was credited with landing almost twice as many punches 336-172 as Cotto.
"I knew when Cotto started backing up, the fight was over," Roach said.
Pacquiao earned a minimum $13 million, while Cotto got $7 million.
Pacquiao was favored, largely off his last two performances in which he forced De La Hoya to quit on his stool and then knocked out Hatton with a huge left hook in the second round. Some in boxing, including Roach, thought Cotto had been slowed by his devastating loss last year to Antonio Margarito and would be further slowed by having to come in 2 pounds lower than his normal weight.
That wasn't the case early in the fight, with Cotto winning the first round and fighting well. Once he was knocked down by a big left hand late in the fourth round, though, he slowed noticeably.