Boxing


The Two Lives of Miguel Cotto

riddick boweCommentary by P.H. Burbridge - Miguel Angel Cotto is in a great position to achieve what he craves most. His one time conqueror, Antonio Margarito has been disgraced for attempting to cheat against “Sugar” Shane Mosley and ended up taking one of the most humbling beatings we’ve seen in a long, long time. What a difference a year makes. In that time Cotto has rebuilt his career and signed an extension with Top Rank Boxing. He signed that extension because Bob Arum was able to deliver an opportunity to achieve the thing he craves most.

Redemption!

It starts and may end with the biggest fight of his career against another history hungry fighter in his own right, the current P4P King Manny Pacquiao..

A win and Cotto will become the new “IT” fighter as well as emerge as the next logical opponent for Floyd Mayweather Jr in the biggest fight that can be made. Obviously beating Manny Pacquiao won’t be an easy task. The betting odds are against it and there’s an overwhelming sentiment that Cotto’s best days are behind him.

Behind him? At 28 years old? Even Shane Mosley who is 38 years old himself says that Miguel Cotto is coming down the other side of the mountain. It’s the same thing they said about Shane after his two defeats to Vernon Forrest and his loss to Winky Wright. Mosley feels that he, Antonio Margarito and Joshua Clottey have “taken it” out of Cotto. Is this wishful thinking on Mosley’s part or just another half hearted slight from a fighter obviously disappointed that Pacquiao is fighting Cotto rather than himself? Probably the latter. Mosley may have beaten the man who beat the man but he also got beat himself by the man! AND, Cotto also has an advantage Shane will never have. He shares a promoter with Manny Pacquiao.

Welcome to the cooler, Shane!

However, Mosley isn’t the only one saying that Cotto has seen better days its also the odds makers and a decent segment of the boxing community who are picking Manny Pacquiao to win by a landslide.

I understand their logic. This is clearly Pacquiao’s time. He’s had three great performances in a row and the last two have been of the highest visibility. He’s now going for high profile win number three. But, it puzzles me that so many disregard Miguel Cotto’s accomplishments or acknowledge that he’s still one of the best fighters in the world. Miguel Cotto IS the toughest challenge of Manny Pacquiao’s career. Bottom line! Once you review their careers and list of opponents that becomes abundantly clear. The fact that Freddie Roach has twice amended his original statement that Pacquiao would win by KO to simply that he’ll win by decision and then back to he’ll win by KO indicates to me that Freddie doesn’t know how or IF he’ll win at this point. I very seriously doubt that Roach could even come to such a conclusion this soon into training camp. Two weeks ago Roach said he’d win by decision and apparently within that time period Manny has developed enough power to KO the strongest fighter he’s ever met. After 2-3 sparring sessions with 1 or 2 young middleweight range fighters with the BIG gloves on?? Really, Freddie?? I get that he looks sharp but Manny has looked sharp in the past and I’m sure you’ve seen this version of him before. Is this all rhetoric? I think so and take Freddie’s comment with a grain of salt. You have to give him credit for his correct predictions on the manner in which Manny beat Oscar and Ricky but at the same time you also have to recognize that he’s been WRONG just as much as everybody else.

Roach certainly realizes what they’re up against and I’m sure somewhere in the back of his mind he’s at least considered the possibility that Manny may find out like Juan Manuel Marquez did against Floyd Mayweather Jr that size PLUS skill actually does matter. Cotto doesn’t appear much larger when they stand side by side but he clearly IS! Not in terms of physical dimensions but in terms of overall strength. Sure, that’s what they said about Ricky Hatton right? Anyone who would compare Ricky Hatton to Miguel Cotto in any way shape or form loses all credibility especially in these terms. Could Ricky Hatton survive Joshua Clottey? Could Ricky Hatton stand with Shane Mosley? Cotto’s shown the ability to absorb shots from guys who are melting themselves down from middleweight to compete at welterweight. Remember Cotto took 11 ROUNDS of punishment from a MUCH bigger Antonio Margarito and he may have done so under “questionable” circumstances as well. Margarito hit Cotto with some hellacious shots before the end of that fight and Miguel only went down from an accumulation of damage. No one shot did it. He also went the distance with the hard hitting Shane Mosley and Joshua Clottey. He kept his composure in the Clottey fight even though he suffered a severe cut that clearly hampered his vision. He’s a proven commodity that can overcome adversity and an opponent’s superior power. That shouldn’t even be questioned here.

Miguel Cotto may have NO problem absorbing Manny’s punches. People should prepare themselves for that very real possibility.

In my view, this fight requires perfection from Pacquiao. Frankly, if anyone had suggested this match up shortly after his destruction of David Diaz most analysts including me would have thought it was a suicide mission for Manny. If you suggested this match up before Miguel Cotto was beaten by Antonio Margarito people would have looked at you as if you were absolutely crazy.

BUT, not now. After his over the moon performance against Oscar De La Hoya and the explosiveness he showed against Ricky Hatton many now feel Miguel Cotto is ripe for the taking and that his size and strength are no longer a concern. He’s “damaged goods”! The burning questions are have Manny Pacquiao’s last two victories created a sense of invincibility in the general publics mind and are his success born more out of circumstance than out of true accomplishment? Also, can the same thing be asked about Miguel Cotto just in the reverse? The platform for this fight appears to be the general impression that one guy is going up while the other is going down?

I think that might be partially the case but only partially. That’s what makes this such an intriguing match up in my mind.

From a practical standpoint this fight boils down to three things #1, History, (Aka, the selling point! MP becoming a 7 weight division champion) #2, Bob Arum bringing in the most revenue possible to Top Rank by pitting his biggest money maker against his possible replacement and #3, the re-signing of Miguel Cotto. (Not necessarily in this order!) There’s no question for Arum and Company that this fight is the most lucrative possible. They won’t have to share any of the promotional proceeds with Golden Boy or Mayweather Promotions. They were on the verge of losing Miguel Cotto due partially to his disappointment in Arum showing so much support for Antonio Margarito during and after the plaster-gate scandal exploded. There were rumblings that he was “looking forward” to his contract expiring with Top Rank. Those rumors were further amplified by a golf game played between Cotto and Golden Boy CEO, Oscar De La Hoya in Puerto Rico.

But, Arum had an ace up his sleeve. Cotto immediately signed once Arum created a path to Pacquiao.

It’s clear that Arum values Cotto more than originally thought and part of the reason may be statements coming out of the Pacquiao camp that imply Manny intends to end his career in the next 1-2 fights. That being the case it’s time for the company to start thinking about life after Pacquiao. How can Arum take some of Pacquiao’s heat and transfer it to his next in line? This fight is the only way to do that legitimately. I’m not saying that Bob Arum is completely confident Miguel Cotto will be beat Manny Pacquiao. I’m saying this is a win-win for Top Rank but should Cotto emerge with the “W” Arum will then have a longer term business solution than he would should Pacquiao win. Either Manny emerges as a historic figure leading into a tough negotiation with Floyd Mayweather Jr or Miguel Cotto emerges as the hottest fighter in the sport leading into a tough negotiation with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Also on the back burner for Cotto is the rematch with Antonio Margarito which Bob Arum could deliver with one phone call.

Maybe just maybe Bob Arum is looking at Miguel Cotto as the future of the company and that’s why he didn’t let him go to Golden Boy. It doesn’t sound like Bob Arum thinks Miguel Cotto is damaged goods. If he did he would have let him go.

So, what can we expect to see in this fight?

First off, Pacquiao will be forced to show a side of him self that we’ve only seen in the Oscar De La Hoya fight. Conventional wisdom tells us that he will not challenge Cotto to an inside battle. I don’t think Roach is even capable of making such a terrible strategic blunder regardless of his recent KO prediction. If Manny is capable of delivering a KO in this fight the odds are it will take place much later in the bout. Roach will definitely send Manny out to box and to use his legs. BUT, that alone still may not be enough. Though many might disagree I believe Cotto is the more fundamentally sound fighter and is capable of stopping Manny’s forward advancement simply by using his jab and superior boxing skill. Cotto’s size and strength would also lead us to conclude that Pacquiao will fight in a style that he’s not all together comfortable with and one that generally goes against his natural instincts and talents as a fighter. The question is can the master fighter become the master boxer because that’s what he’ll need to be. Can he control and maintain distance throughout ignoring his natural instinct to stand and try to inflict punishment? Can Cotto successfully cut off the ring and keep him engaged or will Manny be able to deliver a finesse fight? At some point they’re going to clinch. Manny doesn’t want to get in to too many wrestling situations because it will sap his strength. He’ll definitely feel the difference in raw strength probably from the first clinch on. Both guys have shown a tendency to cut and bruise (Cotto vs Clottey, Pacquiao vs Marquez II) but hopefully that type of a situation will not impact the outcome of this fight.

The basic fight plan is simple in theory for Pacquiao. No inside exchanges (at least not early), everything on the move, keep your man turning and BOX, BOX and BOX some more! Power boxing. That’s the key. DON’T let Cotto get set to fire off his punches. And, DON’T LET YOUR BACK TOUCH THE ROPES!! This is a high energy fight for Pacquiao and his conditioning will tell the tale. In anticipation of that Freddie Roach desperately wanted to train at the highest altitude possible which would have been the mountains of Toluca, Mexico but was overruled so the bulk of training is taking place in Baguio in the Philippines. For his part Manny never allows himself to get too far out of shape in between fights and is always 100% committed once he does get in to camp. But my sense is that Roach still feels THIS fight requires a whole new level of conditioning.

Tactically, Freddie has mentioned Cotto’s performance against Shane Mosley as a point of reference in preparing his fight plan. Against Mosley, Cotto was able to neutralize Shane’s greater hand speed by attacking him using angles and out punching him in key exchanges. Roach has studied that performance no doubt concerned that Cotto was able to find a way to address his opponent’s greater speed and was able to make the correct technical adjustments to win. In that fight he showed versatility and intelligence and although many disputed the outcome I felt that he clearly won that fight. He landed the harder shots and dictated the pace. It was very impressive and a reminder of how versatile he is. That’s not lost on Roach. Cotto keeps his hands up high and works behind a very hard jab. He’s also known for maintaining his composure when he hurts his man and typically finishes an opponent with precision punching. If he hurts Pacquiao I tend to believe that he’ll finish him because Manny has never had to develop those type of survival skills. Even early in Pacquiao’s career when he was knocked out it was by single shots. He’s never had to fight his way through a bad stretch because he never made it back to his feet. His ability to survive is a big question mark. No amount of work in the gym can prepare you for that. You simply won’t know what will happen until you’re actually in that situation in a real fight. There’s no way to simulate the “fog” in training. Getting buzzed by your sparring partners is not the same. Cotto on the other hand has had to develop that skill over the years and in real time by picking himself up and holding on to his man until the rotation of the earth slowed. For better or for worse he knows how to survive.

The Zab Judah fight was also another strong indicator of Miguel’s ability to deal with a fast strong southpaw. In that bout Cotto displayed the approach that made him a fan favorite by stalking Judah round after round until he finally caught up with him in the 11th. It was a systematic and methodical dismantling of a world class fighter. Where he showed a cerebral approach in beating Mosley he showed an equally impressive and brutally calculated approach in the Judah fight.

Two world class, talented, fast handed fighters beaten by two different versions of Miguel Cotto.

I think Roach was right for emphasizing the enormity of this challenge in his initial statements.

In my opinion, this at best is a pick ‘em fight.

A win for Miguel Cotto and he will immediately begin a new life as the hottest fighter in the world with a whole new legion of fans and emerge as Bob Arum’s #1 fighter!

His narrative will change from “damaged goods” to that of overcoming adversity by facing his demons head on.

And for Cotto that has a much nicer ring to it!

(Please feel free to contact P.H. Burbridge via email at PHBboxing@yahoo.com with any comments or feedback.)

Article posted on 02.10.2009



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