By Paul Upham: Top Rank’s new rising star Miguel Cotto returns to the ring this Friday night against Sammy Sparkman headlining a card at Coliseo Guillermo Angulo in Carolina, Puerto Rico, televised live on Telefutura.
Cotto, 7-0 (5), won his seventh straight fight in January with a second round stoppage of Joshua Smith in his hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico. It was an impressive performance considering the shocking car accident that Cotto found himself in on August 18, when driving to a 5:30 am. workout, he fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a concrete wall. The 21 year-old boxer sustained serious hand, arm and shoulder injuries and his was car destroyed.
“It was a very grave accident,” said Cotto. “I broke my arm and shoulder in four different places. But I feel 100% now.”
Cotto walked into the Bairoa gymnasium in Caguas, Puerto Rico in 1990 with the sole intention of losing weight. “I started boxing to lose weight as I was very heavy at 11 years old, but I got hooked on it,” said Cotto.
Admiring his older brother, Jose Miguel Cotto and cousin, Jose Juan Cotto, who are also professionals, young Miguel pursued his amateur boxing career and went on to become the 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 Puerto Rican National amateur champion.
Competing at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Cotto lost his first bout by decision 17-7 at 139lbs against Mahamadkadyz Abdullaev of Uzbekistan, who went on to win the gold medal.
“I felt that I did as best as I could at the Olympics. Unfortunately some judges don’t see it that way. But I was very happy with my performance and I felt that I won that fight,” said Cotto.
A very mature individual who is dedicated to the gym and learning more and more English every day, Cotto has been married to wife Melissa for nearly two years and has a young family of his own with two boys and one girl. He enjoys tremendous support in Puerto Rico and is looking forward to fighting in front of his fans on Friday night.
“It has been very good for me. Many fans here in Puerto Rico have followed me since I started my amateur career very closely. I feel really good any time I can fight in front of them,” said Cotto, who knows very little about his opponent Sammy Sparkman, 12-6-1 (7), from Columbia, Tennessee.
“I only know his name and record,” said Cotto.
It would be easy to make a comparison of Cotto with the young Mexican Olympian Francisco Bojado who suffered his first defeat two weeks ago on Showtime after receiving tremendous hype and media attention.
Cotto defeated Bojado twice as an amateur and does not want to make the same mistakes as the young Mexican by rushing into anything that he is not ready for. “Yes, I think so. He was going way too fast. He is only nineteen and I think he has a lot of time left in his career to be rushing like that,” said Cotto, who has a simple plan for his own fights.
“I try to win the round. Every fight I am in, I just try to win each round. But if the situation presents itself, I will go for the knockout.”
Promoter Bob Arum is very excited with Cotto’s progress already and makes comparisons to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the way the Puerto Rican impressed as an amateur. “Miguel Cotto is one of our really big future stars,” said Arum.
“I think he is the best thing I have seen out of the amateurs since Floyd Mayweather Jr, who we knew right away had this unbelievable talent and would end up being a star. Miguel Cotto’s style is completely different from Pretty Boy Floyd, but he is a polished kid for seven or eight fights. This is a real phenomenon.
“The one thing that we don’t have to worry about with Cotto is his lifestyle. This Bojado kid apparently put on 30 lbs. between fights, Cotto goes to the gym every day. He really is a dedicated young man and he has all the talent in the world.”
Cotto reciprocates with the praise for promoter Bob Arum and the team at Top Rank who are helping him with many opportunities to fight at the start of his career.
“I am very thankful for them. Everything they said they were going to do for my career they have done so far and even exceeded it. I am very happy where I am with them and looking forward to a great career with them,” said Cotto.
Now rated No.16 by the WBC at junior welterweight, Cotto is unsure when he will be ready for a world title fight, but intends on being properly prepared when his opportunity does arrive.
“I don’t know when. But I feel that in maybe a year or a year and a half I should be ready for it,” said Cotto. “I think 135lbs. is where I would like to start winning a world championship and then go up in weight.”
Cotto aspires to become a multi-division world champion, but most of all he wants to carve his own niche on the sport. “Like every professional boxer, I want to win a world championship. To be a great champion of course and to be honest with you, I want to win a lot of money,” he said.
Does Cotto want to be another great Puerto Rican champion like Felix Trinidad? “I do want to get to that level, but I don’t want the people to say that I am like Felix Trinidad. I want them to say this is Miguel Cotto,” added the talented young fighter.
Thank you to Ricardo Jimenez from Top Rank who helped with the translation for part of this interview.