Cotto is next?

PNS — AFTER Ricky ‘The Hitman’ Hatton, it’s welterweight champion Miguel Cotto for Manny Pacquiao.

Top Rank boss Bob Arum confirmed on the last day of Pacquiao and Hatton’s media tour in England recently that he is leaning towards a match with the Puerto Rican ring sensation after the Filipino’s May 2 fight against the British slugger at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.

Arum said that fighting Cotto, who recently snatched the WBO welterweight crown, will be the more practical move for Pacquiao instead of luring Floyd Mayweather, Jr. out of retirement to fight the top pound for pound fighter in the world.

Arum made the announcement in an interview with ABS-CBN while Pacquiao and Hatton were making their media tour in London where the lightweight champion, surprisingly, was warmly welcomed and even got more media mileage than the Manchester-born Hatton.

Although fighting Cotto (34-1, win-loss) could end up as another lucrative payday for Pacquiao, perhaps even bigger than the $12 million he stands to receive against Hatton, the bout definitely is expected to be much tougher for the General Santos pride.

Cotto has a record of 27 knockouts. His last fight on Feb. 20 at the Madison Square Garden in New York was so one-sided that he beat Michael Jennings via fifth-round technical knockout.

Cotto’s only loss was suffered at the hands of Antonio Margarito, who dealt the Puerto Rican a stunning 11th-round technical knockout loss last year to seize the WBA welterweight title.

Margarito, however, didn’t last long as a champion, losing the title to Shane Mosley, the American fighter who also wants a crack at Pacquiao.

Pacquiao left from London to the United States yesterday as he begins training for his next fight in a bout more popularly dubbed as ‘East vs West.’ This early, Pacquiao has been tagged as the slight favorite over Hatton, whose only loss in 46 fights was against Mayweather, Jr.

While a Pacquiao-Cotto fight may be highly possible at this time since the words directly came from the mouth of Arum himself, Top Rank may be drawn into another mega-buck fight.

Juan Manuel Marquez, the smart Mexican boxer who fought Pacquiao already twice, is again asking for a third match after winning – in classic style — the lightweight belt via a 9th-round knockout win against Juan Diaz, a fighter 10 years younger than Marquez.

Marquez salvaged a draw against Pacquiao when both fighters met for the first time in 2004. Marquez was knocked down three times in the first round in that fight. The second time ended in a split decision decision victory for Pacquiao.

Even Freddie Roach, the man who molded Pacquiao to what he is now, wants a third fight between his ward and Marquez if only to settle all the talks that the 35-year-old Mexican was robbed of a win in the second fight.