By Marc Livitz: As in most walks of professional sport, there are stars and then are superstars. Many would agree that far too much emphasis is placed upon a fighter’s undefeated record yet at times, a pugilist’s ever burning desire to fight the best of the best and neither take nor make excuses can allow some devotees of boxing to look past the loss column.
Miguel Angel Cotto (38-4, 31 KO’s) should be a lock for the Boxing Hall of Fame whenever his storied career comes to close. This should be the case regardless of the outcome of his June 7 scheduled bout with middleweight king, Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez. Of course, the hardwired swagger inherent in most fighters would likely call such a proclamation to be an affront to what’s been sacrificed over years of sweat and pain in the gym. Miguel Cotto is no different and as he returns to Madison Square Garden in New York City, he will not only look to become the first Puerto Rican boxer to win world championships in four weight classes, but also look to solidify his place amongst the greats who have made the Caribbean island so proud.
Such names as Wilfredo Gomez, Felix “Tito” Trinidad, Wilfred Benitez and Hector “Macho” Camacho are but a few of the names that many would recognize, yet Cotto himself takes the high road when discussing his place beside such heroes. “I’m just waking up everyday looking to do my best in every opportunity that I have. I don’t want to be the one to decide who the best Puerto Rican boxer is. It’s for the fans to decide and those who know boxing”, said Miguel earlier today on an international media conference call. “It’s a personal matter and one of achievement. It doesn’t mean that I’ll be better than Gomez, Trinidad or any of the boxers that Puerto Rico has had. It’s just very important to me and I’m looking to win.”
Miguel Cotto has been able to take the four losses in his career (Antonio Margarito in July 2008, (since avenged), Manny Pacquiao in November 2009, Floyd Mayweather in May 2011 and Austin Trout in December 2012) in a very slow stride and admits that there are nights when the shots may not land as intended or even when one finds himself on the receiving end of a blunt force beat down. Cotto insists that he’s ready for the rangy, gangly and difficult Sergio Martinez at all costs. “Maravilla” Martinez has not fought in over a year since he clawed his way to a hard earned unanimous (some claim hometown) decision win over Martin Murray in front of 40,000 fans in his native Buenos Aires, Argentina. The right knee injury he suffered in his epic war (mostly confined in round twelve) with Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. in September 2012 seemed to resurface in his bout with Murray, yet Cotto remains adamant that the papers have been signed to fight at the Garden and he will not accept any excuses once he is (as expected) declared the victor.
Miguel had four trainers since he turned pro in 2001 before he found a spot at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, California with legendary boxing wizard Freddie Roach. Each man agrees that the jump up to the 160 pound class to challenge its master will not be an issue. Roach implied, “We’ve brought the weight up some and put on some more muscle. He (Martinez) may be taller, but we’ll be stronger and much more physical on the inside.”
“If he’s not mobile, then we’ll catch him a lot earlier than later. If not, then we’ll catch him at his best and beat him at his best.”
Cotto’s last ring outing was in October 2013 and many would say that a new version of the Caguas, Puerto Rico native was present in the ring that night as he tore straight through the usually tough and game Delvin Rodriguez in hardly three rounds in Orlando, Florida. It appeared that under the guidance of Freddie Roach, a new fighter had been born. Cotto elaborated on his relationship with Roach and the addition of size to his frame.
“I never thought about going up to 160 lbs., but after the knockout in October (over Rodriguez), we began to consider it more. We agreed to just move up and move on. I’ll just work hard to get my job done. I feel that at this weight I don’t need to cut anything out to make the limit. It’s important me to stay fit. It allows my body to recuperate much quicker as well”, said Miguel. He added, “When you are a guy how has power like me, then the weight doesn’t matter. You can go up in weight and you’ll take the power with you.”
“I feel great. I’m 33 years old and I won’t get much more muscle onto me. I’m okay with what I have. I have been following everything that Freddie Roach says.”
Following his close and competitive loss to Austin Trout, Cotto made the switch to Roach, who himself knew that he could help the boxing superstar to not only regain his form, but to establish a new one as well. “I think he can control the ring a lot better now. We’ve worked on the ring generalship a lot more,” said Freddie.
“I didn’t see the (Austin) Trout fight, but I knew that Miguel could do a lot better. We’ve just been more scientific in our approach to this fight. He’s come a long way in just our second fight together. We’ve got a great rapport with each other as well.”
So, as June 7th rapidly approaches, Miguel Cotto continues to prepare for battle against one of the top fighters on the planet. Sergio Martinez (51-2-1, 28 KO’s) has many proponents on his side who can argue that only one of the two blemishes on his professional record fall into the legitimate category, which was a knockout loss to Antonio Margarito over fourteen years ago. His other (a contested majority decision defeat to Paul Williams in December 2009), produced a rematch eleven months later, which in itself produced one of the most jaw dropping knockouts in recent boxing history. His resume includes wins over such names as the aforementioned Williams, as well as Kelly Pavlik and Matthew Macklin. Such statistics are all but immaterial to Miguel Cotto.
“I’ve trained for twelve hard rounds of war”, said the former world champion. “We’ve had a training camp to figure out how to fight this guy. That’s why I have Freddie (Roach) and he’s figured something out. You have to counter this guy and be aggressive. I have to listen to my corner and all the work I’ve put in during my time in Los Angeles over the past ten weeks will help me. I just want to do my best. The championship is very important and it will be great for my career.”
What worries, if any does Miguel have for the upcoming bout? His answer is quite simple. “The biggest rival in my career has always been myself”, said Cotto. Time will tell if he can get past himself in order to get past a certain “Maravilla” Martinez.
May 22, 2014