Boxing: Miguel Cotto

Five things we learned

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
1:08
AM ET

After an exciting doubleheader at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, featuring knockout victories from a pair of unbeaten titlists on the rise, here are five things we learned from the card titled “Mexican Style”:

1. Golovkin is ready for true crossover stardom

Although Gennady Golovkin’s second-round knockout of veteran middleweight Marco Antonio Rubio on Saturday proved somewhat anticlimactic, it was no fault of the “Kazakh KO King.”

Golovkin’s 18th consecutive knockout and 12th straight defense of his 160-pound title only escalated American boxing’s love affair with the grinning, humble fighter wielding dynamite in both hands. Golovkin (31-0, 28 KOs) has not yet fully made the leap into the conscious of the general sports fan, but he doesn’t appear to be far off.

Plain and simple, he delivers on the action promised in a time when fans haven’t consistently received an equal payout for their money spent. With the brands of boxing’s incumbent kings growing tired due to factors such as age and unwillingness to make the best fights available, Golovkin, 32, is a breath of fresh air to the sport.

While his few remaining critics are quick to remind that he has yet to face true A-level competition, his insistence on staying busy and being willing to fight anyone over a span of three weight classes has more than compensated. The Tysonesque buzz that has followed Golovkin from one devastating knockout to another is real. It won't be long now before the rest of the American sports world begins to fully take notice.

2. California debut proves GGG’s brand has closed the gap

Mixing his danger with his lack of a native fan base made it an easy justification for Golovkin to become boxing’s most avoided fighter. But prospective opponents can no longer make the excuse that GGG is not a marketable draw.

[+] EnlargeMarco Antonio Rubio, Gennady Golovkin
AP Photo/Alex GallardoGennady Golovkin, left, scored his 18th consecutive KO victory by stopping Marco Antonio Rubio in Round 2 on Saturday.
Golovkin made his West Coast debut in front of a sold-out crowd of 9,323 at a venue that repeatedly opened extra seating in the lead-up to the fight. Three months earlier, he made his debut in the big arena at New York’s Madison Square Garden to spectacularly knock out former titlist Daniel Geale in front of more than 8,500 fans.

GGG is ready to fill the big arenas and make the leap onto the pay-per-view level for the right fight in 2015. What that will do is dramatically enlarge the name-value of his potential opponents.

With Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez signing a long-term deal to return to HBO, along with his promoter Golden Boy showing a newfound willingness to play nice with others, big fights are on the horizon at middleweight.

By the time the winner of a possible spring 2015 showdown between Alvarez and middleweight champion Miguel Cotto has his hand raised, Golovkin -- who became Cotto’s mandatory challenger in winning a vacant interim title Saturday --- should see his brand further developed.

Although that won’t make him any less dangerous for the winner to face -- especially if his knockout streak continues -- potential Golovkin opponents can no longer contend fighting him isn’t a smart move, financially.

3. Bad weekend for Rubio

Despite entering the fight as a heavy underdog, Rubio (59-7-1, 51 KOs) was expected to challenge Golovkin in ways other recent opponents were unable to do.

Rubio, 34, entered the fight with height and reach advantages over Golovkin, along with respected durability. With 51 knockouts in 59 victories entering the fight, he also represented arguably the hardest puncher Golovkin had seen.

But the native of Mexico lost both his interim belt and his ability to challenge Golovkin for his full title the day before the fight, when he weighed in over the middleweight limit at 161.8 pounds. Despite having two hours to shed the extra weight, Rubio never made it back to the scales and forfeited $100,000 of his $350,000 purse.

To make matters worse for Rubio, along with his unprofessionalism, he failed to live up to his end of the bargain inside the ring. Despite a solid opening round in which he pressured Golovkin and landed a mixture of left hooks and body shots, Rubio folded quickly once he tasted GGG’s power in Round 2.

Golovkin set up Rubio’s exit with a perfect right uppercut that sent him reeling and running for cover along the ropes. Golovkin swooped in and capped off a flurry with an overhand left to the top of the head that sent Rubio to the canvas.

Rubio sat up quickly but took his time getting up, as referee Jack Reiss counted him out with Rubio appearing to not want any more.

4. A featherweight star is born in Walters

Secondary beltholder Nicholas Walters entered Saturday’s bout against 126-pound titlist Nonito Donaire known mostly for his power, which stopped 10 of his previous 11 opponents.

But the native of Jamaica left the bout with a memorable knockout against the biggest name in a loaded, red-hot division.

Walters (25-0, 21 KOs), 28, announced himself to the boxing public in his first appearance on American television by outworking and ultimately stopping Donaire in Round 6.

Out-jabbing Donaire to the tune of 44-4 according to CompuBox, Walters set the stage for his devastating power. Donaire was floored in Round 3 for the first time in his career on a beautiful uppercut that opened a cut above his right eye.

By Round 6, Walters was simply wearing him down as the bigger man and finished him with a right hand to the side of the head that sent Donaire to the canvas face first, moments before referee Raul Caiz Jr. called off the fight.

The victory also showcased Walters’ humility and the respect he held for Donaire during their postfight interview. Walters not only doesn’t lack for confidence, but he’s also a potential handful for any of the other titlists in the division, including two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko.

5. The end is near for Donaire

Donaire gave Walters full credit for the victory and said he entered at his best and never trained as hard for a fight in his career.

But what Donaire’s loss illustrated was that, at 31, the former four-division titlist is no longer the guy who captured fighter of the year honors in 2012. It also gave credence to the thought Donaire had moved up one weight class too big.

Either way, the future of his career, at least against elite opponents, appears to be over. While Donaire refused to take the bait when HBO’s Max Kellerman suggested retirement after the bout, his comments spoke volumes.

“I have to go back to the drawing board,” Donaire said. “I know I can’t compete with guys like Walters. He was just overwhelming me. I succumbed to his size and power and his overwhelming aura.”

Miguel Cotto still has it

June, 8, 2014
Jun 8
11:03
AM ET

NEW YORK -- After a surprising, dramatic and one-sided bout in front of a rapturous Madison Square Garden crowd in which Miguel Cotto captured the world middleweight championship from Sergio Martinez, here are five things we learned:

1. Miguel Cotto still has it
We knew an inspired Cotto under trainer Freddie Roach had the potential to be competitive with Martinez despite giving away size, speed and power. But could any of us have predicted an absolute drubbing from start to finish? Not likely. While the impact of Martinez’s age and injuries certainly played a factor, that wasn’t the prevailing storyline. This was simply a different Miguel Cotto, who entered the ring with a renewed level of confidence that he wielded like an ax to the tune of three stunning knockdowns in Round 1. Cotto set the tone for his workmanlike dismantling of Martinez by his stealth ring entrance -- set to silence with the house lights dimmed -- and put on a vintage performance at age 33.

2. The Cotto-Freddie Roach marriage is a success
Cotto has never been immune to allowing outside-the-ring drama affect his performance inside of it. He also has never been afraid to switch things up in his corner at any time. Yet throughout his career, a happy Cotto has often meant a successful one, and there’s undoubtedly a unique comfort level between him and Roach -- a “player’s coach” who has gained Cotto's respect and focus.

Not only was Roach successful at resurrecting the Cotto of old, he appears to have melded the attacking style of Cotto’s younger dyes with the more refined boxer he became in recent years under the tutelage of Cuban trainer Pedro Diaz. The result was a version of Cotto who was equally adept at using his footwork to avoid Martinez -- never allowing him to develop his swagger by getting into a rhythm -- as he was able to stand and trade with him to destructive results. Cotto landed an astonishing 54 percent of his punches and did much of his damage with a looping left hook to the head that repeatedly exploited Martinez’s tendency to keep his hands too low. Roach’s preparation in terms of conditioning also prevented Cotto from the kind of late-fight fade that played a factor in each of his four defeats.

3. The end is very near for Sergio Martinez
Martinez showed tremendous heart to survive the storm of three first-round knockdowns and keep coming until his corner had seen enough before the start of Round 10. But this simply wasn’t the same fighter whose speed and elusiveness defied his advancing age in recent years. With his twice surgically repaired right knee compromising his mobility, Martinez looked every bit of his 39 years of age. The end is often abrupt for fighters such as Martinez, who rely on athleticism and a Houdini-like style above sound technique (see Roy Jones Jr.). Roach’s postfight comments were a harsh yet accurate summation of his growing vulnerability: “[Martinez] is a great athlete, yes. But I never thought he was a great boxer. You can’t fight with your hands down and think you’re going to be able to win fights.”

With one fight remaining on his lucrative deal with HBO, you can expect to see Martinez at least once more in some form of an orchestrated farewell. Martinez stayed true to form as a stand-up champion and person by offering no excuses in defeat, but his brief and memorable run as an unlikely middleweight king and one of the sport’s true elite has come to an end.

4. The Garden is still the mecca of boxing
After taking more than a year off for renovations, Madison Square Garden made an epic return to big-time boxing as Cotto once again headlined the big arena on the night before New York’s Puerto Rican Day parade. There’s still a certain level of electricity about a big fight between two stars at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” that can't quite be duplicated in Las Vegas or beyond. And with Cotto, the arena’s No. 1 tenant, able to reawaken his career at the highest level -- along with the rise of a potential replacement and possible future opponent in middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin -- one can expect to see MSG pick up where it had left off. Cotto’s raucous welcoming committee, fueled on by his unexpected trio of early knockdowns, provided the soundtrack for an intoxicating atmosphere that was boxing at its very best.

5. Boxing is simply better with Cotto in the mix
Boxing is a sport whose potential for crossover appeal relies almost exclusively on the dynamic qualities of its stars and their ability to make marquee fights. And with the majority of the biggest names pushing closer to 40 than their absolute prime, the arrival of a resurgent Cotto on Saturday can only be viewed as a positive for the sport. Fresh off a historic victory and armed with one of boxing’s few remaining glamour titles as the lineal middleweight king, Cotto has plenty of attractive options moving forward. Not only does his status as a promotional free agent make it easier for fights to get made, the Puerto Rican star brings with him one of the sport’s most passionate fan bases. Whether it be a crossroads showdown with rising star Canelo Alvarez in another chapter of the epic Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry or a marquee rematch with pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr., Cotto will satisfy fans' desire for the kind of significant fights between stars that attract a casual following. And with a new division of potential opponents in his future, his willingness to dare to be great and take on the very best provides Cotto with a throwback quality that fans covet.

Cotto-Martinez by the numbers

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6
7:24
PM ET

On Saturday night, Miguel Cotto attempts to become the WBC middleweight champion when he faces top-10 pound-for-pound fighter Sergio Martinez at Madison Square Garden in New York City. While the battle is called Cotto-Martinez promotionally because of Cotto’s status in boxing and at the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” Martinez is the champion and has won his past seven bouts.

Here are the numbers you need to know for the fight:

7: Victories by Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden since 2005. Four of those seven victories have come on Puerto Rican Day Parade weekend (all by knockout). Cotto defeated Joshua Clottey in 2009, Zab Judah in 2007, Paulie Malignaggi in 2006 and Mohammad Abdullaev in 2005. Cotto lost his most recent MSG bout by unanimous decision to Austin Trout.

4: Martinez is one of four men from Argentina to currently hold a world title. Omar Narváez is the WBO junior bantamweight champion, Juan Carlos Reveco is the WBC flyweight champion and Jesús Andrés Cuellar is the interim WBA featherweight champion. If Cotto wins the title, he would become the only fighter from Puerto Rico to hold a world title.

2: This is Cotto’s second fight with six-time BWAA Trainer of the Year Freddie Roach. Roach is the fourth trainer Cotto has brought into his camp since 2009, along with Pedro Diaz (3 fights), Emanuel Steward (2 fights) and Joe Santiago (2 fights).

15: A victory by Cotto would make him the 15th boxer to win world titles in four different weight classes. Cotto won his first title in 2004 at light welterweight. He then moved up to welterweight and had two reigns as champion, first from 2006 to 2008 and again in 2009. Finally, he won the junior middleweight title in 2010 and held the title until 2012. Cotto would become the first Puerto Rican boxer to win four world titles in four different weight classes.

3: Martinez has been knocked down in three consecutive fights. Matthew Macklin dropped Martinez in the seventh round of their fight in 2012, but Martinez knocked Macklin down twice in the 11th. Against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Martinez was in control but was knocked down in the final round. In his last bout against Martin Murray, Martinez was knocked down in Round 8 but was up on the cards and won a unanimous decision.

41: According to CompuBox, Martinez has landed 41 percent of his power punches in his past five fights, above the middleweight average of 37.8 percent. Despite being over the average, Martinez’s connect percentage with power punches has gone down from 50 percent landed against Macklin to 30 percent landed against Murray.

49: According to CompuBox, the past three southpaws Cotto has faced (Trout, Manny Pacquiao, Zab Judah) landed 49 percent of their power shots. Cotto went 1-2 in those bouts, losing to Trout and Pacquiao.

9: In the past five bouts for each fighter (10 fights total), nine fights have gone eight rounds or later. Martinez’s past four fights have gone to the 11th or 12th round, while Cotto had two decision losses before his third-round TKO over Delvin Rodriguez.

Cotto: 'I will find a way to win'

June, 4, 2014
Jun 4
8:55
AM ET
Puerto Rican superstar Miguel Cotto has nothing but history on his mind as he enters his June 7 showdown with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.

Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs), a titlist in three weight classes, will look to become the first Puerto Rican fighter to win a title in a fourth division when he faces Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs) on Cotto’s home turf, at Madison Square Garden in New York (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET).

Looking reborn under new trainer Freddie Roach in his previous bout, Cotto, 33, will be making his 160-pound debut against the 39-year-old Martinez.

How will you use your power and movements to sow down Martinez? Chavez couldn't hit him for 11 rounds. How do you hit Martinez?

"I have followed every single direction that (trainer) Freddie (Roach) has given me. We have been working really hard to get into this fight in our best. Everybody knows the fighter that I am and what I'm capable to do in the ring. Chavez is Chavez but Miguel Cotto is Miguel Cotto.

"As everyone in boxing knows styles makes fights. I believe my style and my experience will be very important in this battle with Sergio Martinez. I am coming to fight the way I know how to do it and it has nothing to do with how other boxers fight certain opponets.

"In the preparation for this fight I have focus on what Freddie has ask me to do and I am prepare to go 12 hard rounds and to battle every minute of every round. I have always believed that you win fights round by round. I prepare to fight my fight and make adjustments as the fight goes along and I will be ready to go to war at any time.

"All boxers are different and we all approach the fights in different ways. This fight is very important to me and I have prepared the best way that I can. I will find a way to win and take the title back to Puerto Rico.

How important is it for you and Puerto Rican boxing that you win this title and become a four-division champion?

"Puerto Rico has been a hot-bed for boxing for a long time and has given the Island some of its most memorable moments in sports. The people there love their boxing and their boxing history from the first world champion in Sixto Escobar to the more than 50 champions that have come after him. The people of this tiny island have supported us without reservation.

"My beautiful Puerto Rico for a long time has been one of the greatest boxing nations in the sport. We have a big legacy from big fighters that were the inspiration of many generations. I have always wanted to write my own history with my own hands. I will never pretend to be better than anyone. I just want to be the one who accomplished a feat that other legends could not.

"Some of our best fighters are not only Puerto Rican greats but all time-greats of the sport. Carlos Ortiz, Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfredo Benitez and Felix “Tito” Trinidad and many others have made Puerto Rican boxing what it is today and I am only an extension of their greatness, so to have an opportunity to become the first four-time world champion in different divisions is very special to me.

"This feat would not only be a great achievement for me but for all Puerto Rican greats that have come before me and for the great fans that have supported me thru out my career and the many that love their boxing history and tradition in Puerto Rico.

"This is for all the fans boxing in my country, and to have the opportunity to do it in New York in Madison Square Garden my second home will make it even more special. June 7 will be a night to remember for Puerto Rican boxing."

Training with Freddie Roach must be a different experience for you. Can you describe why he's one of the best trainers in boxing?

"Freddie is a great person and a great trainer, who understands our sport. He was a fighter and has trained some of the best boxers in the world over the last 10 to 15 years. He is a true professional that knows how to get the best out of every fighter that he trains. He makes everyone better and his preparation for each fight is second to none.

"He has a complete vision and sense about what a fighter thinks. We have both developed a great relationship based in respect for each other. He knows me very well and knows what I may think in certain moments. It has been a great experience working together with him. Ever since day one I felt very much at home with him and understood what I need to do.

"He has a great team behind him that gives me great support as well. He is able to focus on boxing because he knows that he can trust his team to get me in the best condition possible, so that I can be the best fighter possible. It’s not only about him having the boxing knowledge, but is about knowing how to apply it to each individual boxer.

"He had a big win last October in Orlando, Florida against Delvin Rodriguez, and now on June 7 in New York we will have a huge victory, that both of us will celebrate. I have put my career in his hand because I know he will get the best out me and I will give him my best during training and in the ring."

Why fight Martinez now and not four years ago?

"Everything happens at the time it needs to happen. I do not push destiny. Boxers take different paths in their career and those roads don’t always come together. If someone would have told me that I would be fighting for a world championship at 160 pounds four years ago, I would have not thought possible. But here I am looking to make history -- becoming the first Puerto Rican to win world titles in four different weight divisions.

"This is the kind of fight that always has been talked about and now is becoming a reality. I think it is a perfect timing to make it happen. We both have had our moments over our careers. I feel good and satisfied that it’s happening at this stage of my career. I feel totally renewed and with a fresh mind to come in and do my job on June 7.

"We as fighters always want to fight the best possible opponents and the best fights. We want the fans and media to be excited about the fights that we have. I now believe that this is a big fight and people want to see it. I'm not sure that was the case a few years back.

"I believe that I [was] given the fans the best fights that I can. I fought some of the best fighters at 140, 147 and 154 pounds and now here I am facing the best at 160. For me boxing has always been about challenges and competing and this one more fight proves that point.

"The fact that this fight is taking place now is just destiny, nothing to do with politics or avoidance. It's just the right time to do this fight and to enjoy two great fighters getting in the ring and showing who is the best.

"I am ready to make history and to prove once more that I am still one of the best fighters in the world."

Martinez: 'I'll prove I am one of the best'

June, 2, 2014
Jun 2
3:52
PM ET
Middleweight champion Sergio Martinez has been recovering from knee and arm injuries over the past 13 months but vows to be ready to fight Miguel Cotto on June 7 (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET) at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Martinez (51-2-2, 28 KOs), the lineal champion, has wanted to fight Cotto for the last four years but is coming off a lackluster performance in his native Argentina against Martin Murray in April 2013.

In September 2012, Martinez dominated Julio Cesar Chavez for 11 rounds, but in the 12th Chavez dropped Martinez. While the champ was able to survive and get the victory by unanimous decision, he suffered a severe knee injury. He fought Murray without being fully healed, so after the win, Martinez decided to take some time off.

In his own words, the 39-year-old Martinez discusses his desire to fight Cotto and to show he is an elite fighter.

Great Argentine fighters like Carlos Monzon and Oscar Bonavena fought at Madison Square Garden. You have fought at the Theater at MSG, but how important is for you to continue that tradition of great Argentine fighters performing at the mecca of boxing?

"It has been a major dream of mine to fight at Madison Square Garden in the big room. I never would have imagined that I would be headlining a main event over there if you asked me that 10 years ago.

"To fight at Madison Square Garden where great Argentinean boxers fought like Oscar Bonavena and Carlos Monzon is the grandest honor that any Argentinean boxer could possibly have. The Argentinean community in New York has always been very supportive of me, and I expect an incredible atmosphere similar to a world cup soccer match.

"Miguel Cotto says Madison Square Garden is his home, but come June 7th he will be evicted and I will prove that I am one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world."


After your loss to Antonio Margarito in 2000, did you ever imagine that your career would be like this? Titles, celebrity status, etc.

"My loss to Margarito was probably the best thing that happened to me. It humbled me and made me realize that this is a serious sport and I needed to mature as a fighter and as a person. It also made me realize that I needed to change. I had to cut out the negative people that surrounded me at that time and find people that would be positive for my career.

"I knew that I would return to Vegas and be a champion after that loss because I had the desire to be a champion and was willing to put the time and effort to get to that level.

"I never would’ve imagined reaching this level of notoriety. That has to be attributed to my current team of Sampson Lewkowicz, Miguel Angel Depablos and Nathan Lewkowicz, who have worked very hard in furthering my career. Without having a solid team behind you then it would be difficult to get to this level and sustain it."

Fighting with injuries (knee, elbow, wrist), how hard is it to prepare when your body hurts for any fight?

"It is not easy to prepare for a fight when you have some of the ailments that I have when preparing for a World Championship fight. I struggle with joint pains, knee pain and shoulder pain. Without my physical therapist, Dr. Raquel Bordons, I would not be able to train today and probably would’ve had to retire due to my injuries.

"Because I train six days a week for an average of eight hours a day, I am always in constant pain. There are some days when I am so sore that I cannot even walk, but I push myself because I know that I have to push myself to be the best fighter in the world. I know that I have to put in more hours than your average fighter because I didn’t grow up a boxer. I started very late in this sport, so that is why I have to train so many hours and put in a lot of work in order to perform at the level that is expected of me and for me to come out victorious."

You have been waiting to face Cotto for almost four years. Why do you think he wants to fight you now?

"Miguel Cotto believes that I am ripe for the picking and that my age has finally caught up with me. What he doesn’t realize is that for the Martin Murray fight, I had many injuries going into the fight.

"I did not want to postpone the event because it was always a dream of mine to defend my title in Argentina, so we as a team decided to go forward with the fight with Martin Murray. I still came out victorious in that fight, but Miguel Cotto thinks I’m on the decline, which is the only reason I believe he chose to face me now.

"What Miguel Cotto doesn’t realize is that I am extremely motivated for this fight. Not just because I don’t necessarily care for Miguel Cotto, but I want to prove him wrong in thinking that I’m not an elite fighter.

"Cotto is a good fighter and a future Hall of Famer, but he will not become the world middleweight champion by defeating me.

"The only way I see this fight ending is with Miguel Cotto being knocked out. I cannot see the fight going past nine rounds."

Roach believes in Cotto's bright future

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
7:07
PM ET
ORLANDO, Fla. -- No one can question the knowledge of legendary trainer Freddie Roach, and since he took over as Miguel Cotto's trainer, replacing Pedro Diaz in July, he is convinced the former three-division titlist still has enough punching power and discipline to win another title, even if he must do it against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

"Really, I've never worked with such a disciplined boxer," said Roach, during Cotto's training session for Saturday's junior middleweight fight against Delvin Rodriguez at the Amway Center (HBO, 9:45 p.m. ET). "By looking at his commitment, you can be sure that Miguel will win on Saturday, and after that, he might fight against Canelo [Alvarez] or [Sergio] Martinez, and later, he could consider fighting against Floyd Mayweather Jr. again."

So far, Cotto and his team have been relatively quiet about their future, in part due to his contentious relationship with promoter Top Rank Boxing, but the fact that Roach is openly happy and extremely optimist might be hints that Cotto could stay inside the ring beyond 2014.

Currently, Cotto and Top Rank have a "one fight at a time" deal, and nothing is carved in stone beyond Saturday's fight in Orlando. Top Rank's president, Todd duBoef, said in a recent interview with ESPN.com's Dan Rafael, "I believe in our long-term relationship, that's what it's all about."

For this fight, Cotto returned to work with Top Rank after his previous two fights, both losses, were promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. An outstanding performance in Orlando, in front of a strong Puerto Rican fan base, could lead Cotto to a blockbuster fight. But according to Roach, Cotto, 32 and currently in his 13th year as a pro fighter, must silence his critics first.

Among the rumors, none of them with solid foundation, are possible fights against Alvarez and Martinez. Roach thinks neither boxer could be a potential risk for Cotto right now.

"It's real simple: Miguel has been working really hard, taking care of all the details I pointed out as potential weaknesses," said Roach, who set up Cotto's camp in his Hollywood, Calif., gym for this fight. "I'm really pleased with Miguel's dedication. Honestly, there will be absolutely no problem for him on Saturday."

Roach also said the trainer-boxer relationship grows stronger as time goes by.

"The two of us have deep boxing knowledge, and I feel that we have a solid mutual trust level," said Roach. "He is a disciplined fighter; that's all I'm asking for."

The veteran trainer said the very first thing he did with Cotto was reshape his defense, because he was too passive inside the ring.

"You've got to create opportunities while being defensive, and since he was really passive, we had to work on that subject," said Roach.

So far, Roach is happy with what he has seen. Still, he thinks there's room for improvement.

"There's always room for improvement, and Miguel is still a young puncher," said Roach. "Yes, we can improve -- a lot."

Cotto: 'I just want to be one of the best'

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
3:46
PM ET

Miguel Cotto enters Saturday's test against Delvin Rodriguez in a spot he's never previously been throughout his 13-year professional career -- on a two-fight losing skid.

That storyline alone only adds to the narrative of what is already expected to be an exciting 12-round junior middleweight bout at Amway Center in Orlando (HBO, 9:45 p.m. ET). For as much as the fight has been categorized rightfully as a showcase bout for Cotto, he will quickly find himself in an all-action affair against the battle-tested Rodriguez, should age and attrition catch up to him overnight.

But should Cotto, who turns 33 on Oct. 29, come out with his hand raised, the talk will quickly turn to what's next. And outside of pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr., there isn't another boxer in a better spot to call his own shots than Cotto, who can circumvent today’s promotional and network cold war by signing one-fight deals with the suitor of his choice.

Cotto's name still commands respect as the best available B-side on the pay-per-view level, with his fights against Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao having sold 1.5 and 1.25 million buys, respectively. And with the attractive combination of his exciting style and the realities of his vulnerability in the ring, one could make a marketable case for matching Cotto against just about any big name between 147 and 160 pounds.

True to his form, you simply won't get Cotto to comment on any future opponents before he handles the task at hand in Rodriguez. But the fighter did confirm to ESPN.com on Monday that his days at welterweight -- where he hasn't competed since his 2009 loss to Pacquiao -- are completely behind him. New trainer Freddie Roach, who also trains Pacquiao, also has been outspoken in squashing any hope of a rematch between the two fighters.

Outside of that, the world is essentially Cotto's oyster, if he can snap his current losing streak.

"

I'm in the last stage of my career and I just want to finish it the best way possible. I don't know how much time I have left. We are going to return to the winning path in my career on Saturday.

" -- Miguel Cotto
"I'm in the last stage of my career and I just want to finish it the best way possible," Cotto said. "I don't know how much time I have left. We are going to return to the winning path in my career on Saturday."

While Cotto wouldn't bite on the notion there might be some unfinished business in terms of his legacy, he outlined the clear reason for his desire to fight on.

"It's about being one of the best, you know?" Cotto said. "It's the reason I am still here. I just want to be one of the best."

Cotto carries a clear sense of pride when talking about his May 2012 loss to Mayweather, in which he inflicted more damage on the unbeaten fighter than anyone in recent memory. Although he's quick to mention he was unable to get what he prepared for -- which was a victory -- "I made a great fight, which proved I am still hungry. For that I am proud," he said.

But the veteran fighter's tone quickly changes when the subject turns to his unexpected December 2012 loss to Austin Trout, which spoiled a prospective PPV date with Canelo Alvarez. While Cotto reflected positively on his three-fight relationship with former trainer Pedro Diaz, calling him a true professional who pushed him to work hard, it’s clear the fallout from the Trout defeat fueled the switch to Roach.

"We didn't prepare ourselves with the right strategy to beat [Trout]," Cotto said. "That was our fault for that fight."

[+] EnlargeFloyd Mayweather
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/GettyImagesCotto lost to Mayweather Jr., but he brought a great fight to the pound-for-pound king.
Cotto not only faded late against Trout, he was criticized for not going to the body -- once his calling card -- as consistently. The switch to Roach, who can be best described as boxing's best players' coach, should be an interesting experiment unto itself, but one designed to increase Cotto's confidence.

In the end, nothing helps rebuild confidence quite like winning, which Cotto is at least expected to do against Rodriguez. But it's refreshing to see a fighter who has given so many thrills in such an unforgiving sport find himself in this strong of a position regarding his future.

Quite honestly, it's a rarefied position to find himself in, and one that, unlike at times with Mayweather, is profitable for all parties in question, from the fighter to the networks, promoters and fans due to Cotto's insistence on being matched against the very best.

The twilight of the Puerto Rican icon's career promises to be as exciting and dramatic as the first 41 fights, and the next chapter will be written Saturday, where a victory would launch Cotto right back into the mix against the sport's elite.

Looking back on 10 years at ringside

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
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Time flies, and last week’s festivities at the MGM Grand brought home a sudden realization that Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s master class on Saturday night came 10 years and one day after my first credentialed fight.

There were a fair few differences between that first fight and my latest: In 2003, my credential was red (signifying I rated only a bleacher seat) instead of ringside green, my affiliation was merely "freelance," and in the identifying photo my mouth was smiling and my hair wasn’t gray. But there were similarities, too: Both bouts were at the MGM, both involved the most popular boxer in the world at the time and both were the culmination of weeks of hype and publicity.

My memories of that first fight are as fresh as though it had been fought 10 months, rather than 10 years, ago, and the passage of time has spawned reflections on the numerous notable memories from a decade of being paid to watch fights.

So here’s a list of my top 10 (12, actually, because I kind of cheated) ringside recollections -- not necessarily the best fights (although some of them were terrific) but what, for me personally, have been my most memorable ringside experiences so far.

Shane Mosley W12 Oscar De La Hoya -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Sept. 13, 2003

Shane Mosley, Oscar De La Hoya
Chris Polk/Getty ImagesShane Mosley edged Oscar De La Hoya for a decision win in 12 rounds in 2003.
Not exactly a ringside recollection, as I watched proceedings from the auxiliary section, but this was the first of what -- although I had no way of knowing it at the time -- would turn out to be more than a decade of professional prizefights for which I was credentialed.

From my seat in the bleachers, I thought the Golden Boy had eked out a decision in a good fight; most of those ringside, where the power of Mosley’s blows were more telling, seemed to agree with the official verdict. Personally, I most remember the thrill of experiencing my inaugural big-fight atmosphere, and the strange feeling of anticlimax on Sunday morning when it was all over.

Antonio Tarver TKO2 Roy Jones Jr. -- Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, May 15, 2004
The defining moment of postfight shock and awe. Jones had looked mortal in the first encounter between the two men, but that had widely been attributed to his struggles returning to 175 pounds after his brief and successful excursion to heavyweight. But Tarver had his number, and when he landed the big punch that marked the end of Jones’ era of dominance, the crowd responded with an initial roar, followed by a stunned silence, culminating in 12,000 people reaching simultaneously for their cellphones to tell friends, “Holy ****, Roy Jones just got knocked out!”

Diego Corrales TK10 Jose Luis Castillo -- Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, May 7, 2005

Jose Castillo and Diego
Donald Miralle/Getty ImagesEverybody in boxing remembers the incredible fight between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo fight in Las Vegas in 2005.
Even if this fight had been a dud, it would for me have been memorable: The previous night, the Boxing Writers Association of America's annual dinner had concluded with one of the finest gatherings of past and present champions to stand on one stage; and Gordon Absher, then the Mandalay Bay’s PR guru, had indulged my literary bent by seating me next to the great Budd Schulberg on fight night. Seriously, how could it possibly get any better? Then Corrales and Castillo started throwing punches, and the 4,000 or so souls in the arena became bound together in witnessing one of the very greatest professional prizefights ever -- a fight that effectively ruined both the combatants while leaving an indelible memory on everyone fortunate enough to be there.

Manny Pacquiao TK10 Erik Morales -- Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Jan. 21, 2006
Manny Pacquiao KO3 Erik Morales -- Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nov. 18, 2006

For reasons I can’t quite remember, but presumably related to a lack of money, I watched the first tilt between these two on TV in my cabin in Alaska. The indelible memory of their second contest, apart from Pacquiao turning around a fight he was losing and storming to a stoppage win, was the unrelenting volume inside the arena, as rival Mexican and Filipino fight fans shouted themselves hoarse. I imagined it was like sticking your head next to a jet engine. The third was much the same, and at the end of that contest the feeling was of one man reaching the end of his career and another about to launch his into the stratosphere.

Floyd Mayweather TKO10 Ricky Hatton -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Dec. 8, 2007

Ah, the Brits. My people. So very many of them, so very drunk, and singing so very loudly. For a week, Las Vegas became Manchester with better weather and colder beer, as Hatton’s fans sang constantly to remind themselves how many Ricky Hattons there are; and even when that one Ricky Hatton was stopped in the 10th round, they sang and drank some more.

Antonio Margarito TKO11 Miguel Cotto -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas, July 26, 2008
Miguel Cotto TKO10 Antonio Margarito -- Madison Square Garden, New York, Dec. 3, 2011

Miguel Cotto
AP Photo/ Ronda ChurchillAntonio Margarito demolished Miguel Cotto in their first fight, but then was suspended for alleged handwrap tampering.
During the buildup to the first fight, I was convinced that Cotto was on the verge of breaking through to the next level, to the very top echelons of pound-for-pound lists. And for much of the early going, the Puerto Rican appeared vastly superior to his opponent in every way, until Margarito ground him down and stopped him in what became a truly violent brawl. The suspicions that emerged afterward, following Margarito’s suspension for alleged handwrap tampering, led to a febrile atmosphere in New York three years later. The fact that Margarito was essentially a one-eyed man being served up for punishment concerned the Puerto Ricans in the arena not one bit, and the guttural roar when Cotto glared at his beaten foe segued into dancing on Seventh Avenue afterward.

Manny Pacquiao W12 Joshua Clottey -- Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas, March 13, 2010

The fight itself was kinda meh. Clottey spent most of his time impersonating a turtle as Pacquiao bang-bang-banged away. But there was a real sense of occasion about it all: Jerry Jones, Cowboys Stadium, that scoreboard … One can only wonder how immense it all would have been had the man across the ring been, as originally intended, not Joshua Clottey but Floyd Mayweather.

Lamont Peterson W12 Amir Khan -- Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C., Dec. 10, 2011.

For all but seven of the nearly 20 years I’ve been in the United States, I’ve lived in the District of Columbia or its northern Virginia suburbs, so to have an HBO fight in what is effectively my hometown, and with a hometown fighter -- a hometown fighter who had grown up sleeping on the streets near the arena where he was now fighting, even –- scoring an upset win over a big star, with a fevered crowd screaming “D.C., D.C., D.C.” … it was all very cool, even if a pair of point deductions by an over-officious referee (to say nothing of the later revelations of Peterson’s synthetic testosterone intake) fouled the punch bowl.

Juan Manuel Marquez KO6 Manny Pacquiao -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Dec. 8, 2012

Manny Pacquiao
Zumapress/Icon SMIIn his fourth attempt, Juan Manuel Marquez finally beat Manny Pacquiao.
If much of the world greeted the buildup to their fourth encounter with a comparative shrug, the predominantly Mexican crowd viewed it with eager anticipation, desperate for Marquez to finally secure the official victory they felt he had three times been unjustly denied. It did not matter to them that Marquez entered the ring looking like the Incredible Hulk; they wanted a win, and when it came -– with Pacquiao dropping face-first like a stone -- the tide of emotion that crashed through the arena was a mixture of delirious joy and inconsolable grief, with the fevered wailing of a distraught Jinkee Pacquiao a powerful reminder of the realities of what is at stake when two men enter the ring.

Floyd Mayweather W12 Canelo Alvarez -- MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Sept. 14, 2013

From the massive throng that spilled out of the MGM Grand lobby to watch the fighters’ arrivals on Tuesday, to the crowd that stood three-deep to catch a glimpse of even the undercard fighters working out the next day, to the incomparable weigh-in experience in front of 12,200 fans -- and, of course, the enthusiastic but ultimately futile cries of “si se puede” and “Ca-ne-lo” during the main event -- this was, from beginning to end, almost certainly the most intense big fight week I’ve yet experienced.

Note to the “this was boxing’s last big fight” crowd: At the time of my first fight, nobody would have predicted that in 10 years’ time, Mayweather Jr. would be the man carrying the sport on his back, as De La Hoya did before him, as Mike Tyson did before him. Someone out there is boxing’s next big superstar. He may already be on HBO, he may be fighting undercard six-rounders, he may not yet have turned pro. But when he hits the highest heights, his biggest fights will be true events, just as much as Mayweather’s are now. And if I’m fortunate, I’ll be there covering them.
Floyd Mayweather Jr and SrJohnny Nunez/Getty ImagesFloyd Mayweather Sr. has encouraged his son to focus on getting his rest throughout training camp.
LAS VEGAS -- After years of simmering turmoil that came to a boil with an emotional argument in front of HBO cameras in 2011, Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Jr. are -- for now at least -– reconciled, with Mayweather pčre returning to his son's corner for this Saturday's clash with Robert Guerrero.

But while the proximate cause of Floyd Sr. taking the place of his brother Roger as the younger Mayweather's trainer is Roger's declining health, the switch has also apparently resulted in a slight change of philosophy in the Mayweather Boxing Gym.

Call it "Hard Work, Relaxation."

"There's certain things only my dad may see in the camp," Floyd Jr. said in a laidback session with reporters at the MGM Grand on Tuesday. "For this fight, I made sure I got more rest. My dad said, 'You need the rest. And when you've rested, you can come back and box in the gym and you're going to look a lot better.' And he was right."

It's a situation he contrasts with the build-up to his most recent contest, a grueling 12-round win over Miguel Cotto in the same ring one year ago.

"I think I was overworked for the Cotto fight. I think I probably overtrained for the Cotto fight," Mayweather Jr. revealed.

And while he is legendary for his workouts and his fitness, he says there is one particular aspect of that camp that worked against him.

"I did more boxing for the Cotto camp. I'd come into the gym and one day I'd box 12 rounds and the next day I boxed another 12 rounds, and the next day I'd come back and do 10," he said. "And we're talking all of this within five days, so that's a lot of wear and tear on a body. But I shouldn't even have been making the mistakes I was making in the Cotto fight. I wasn't the best Floyd Mayweather. But I'm not crying or complaining. I got the job done."

Mayweather's choice is clear: Canelo

September, 28, 2012
9/28/12
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Canelo AlvarezAP Photo/Danny MoloshokWith his style, looks and roots, Canelo Alvarez is the best pick for Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s next foe.
The boxing calendar for 2012 is almost full, and recent history has taught us that Floyd Mayweather Jr. rarely fights more than once a year. With a tough fight against Miguel Cotto and a brief jail stint behind him, Mayweather might have accumulated just the right amount of excuses to call it a year and start drumming up interest in a big fight for early 2013.

With that in mind, and with the most logical opponents (Cotto, Sergio Martinez and -- dare we say it? -- Manny Pacquiao) already headed in different directions, Mayweather's choices are now limited. But there is one natural fit. All things considered, given his energy, youth and huge appeal to fans of both sexes, his enormous (and growing) Mexican fan base and an unbeaten record to boot, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez is the obvious choice.

Here are five reasons why Alvarez should be the leading candidate to pull the winning number in the latest Mayweather sweepstakes:

1. A crossroads fight for the ages: A young and feisty undefeated lion versus a crafty, experienced unbeaten fox? The meshing of styles is so apparent that it needs little elaboration. Alvarez, 22, is a freight train of a fighter who has power in both hands and the heart of a warrior, always charging forward with little regard for his safety. Mayweather is the lightning-fast consummate technician with seemingly unlimited resources and the boxing equivalent of Wikipedia downloaded to his brain. It's the old matador-versus-raging bull paradigm, and people have always paid to watch it. You can bet they'll pony up to witness this one.

2. Canelo has muchos amigos: Floyd always echoes the sentiments expressed in Muhammad Ali's famous analysis on the composition of his audience: "I think 100 percent of the people will come to see me," Ali used to say, "but 99 percent of those people will come to see me get beat because they think I talk too much." Whatever the percentages, there's a similar split with regard to Canelo. Most women come to see him win. A lot of guys watch to see him get his butt kicked. But the vast majority of Mexico will be watching, rooting for either cause. In any case, the likelihood of a new PPV record for a Mayweather-Canelo matchup is very high, and when the guy who has the final say on his opponent goes by the nickname "Money," that's a factor in Alvarez's favor.

3. A true fiesta for Cinco de Mayo: May 5 is a national holiday in Mexico and traditionally a blowout weekend for boxing. If you're a fight fan, you can circle that Saturday on your calendar and know you'll get to take in at least one of the year's biggest bouts that night. But at the risk of sounding jingoistic, last year's Mayweather-Cotto matchup -- an American against a Puerto Rican -- was like serving tacos, burritos and tequila at a St. Patrick's Day party. Give the fans what they want, when they want it. Mayweather versus Alvarez on Cinco de Mayo weekend will surely draw one of the biggest TV audiences in boxing history, in no small part due to its timing.

4. The grass is not greener on the other side: A lack of options shouldn't serve as an endorsement for Alvarez, but it's impossible to get around: Mayweather's alternatives really strengthen Canelo's case. The question is, if you don't pick the kid from Jalisco, who do you pick? Martinez is banking on milking whatever is left of the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. business while Junior is still marketable. Pacquiao still has who-knows-how-many-more fights with Marquez, plus a rematch with Timothy Bradley Jr., left to cash in. And Cotto will keep pricing (and maybe weighing) his way out of a Mayweather rematch until no one cares anymore. And with Amir Khan and Victor Ortiz on the rocks (and Roberto Guerrero still green at 147), Canelo is just what the doctor ordered.

5. Great possible card names: "The Young and the Restless" is already taken, but there are plenty of directions this one could be taken. "Sugar and Spice" clicked better for Canelo's bout with Shane Mosley, but it's apt here, too. And the pairing could lead to scores of clever headlines from the always-imaginative press row. "Money Talks, Cinnamon Swirls" could trumpet a Mayweather victory. Not enough reason on its own to put together a multi-million dollar boxing card, but it always helps to have some built-in entertainment value, eh?

Pacquiao-Cotto rematch makes sense

August, 8, 2012
8/08/12
2:20
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It's interesting how a few years can reshape perspective in the world of boxing. In a land where a fighter is only as good as his last performance, there are few truths in the sport that aren't built on perception.

So while Top Rank promoter Bob Arum spends this week in the Philippines with Manny Pacquiao picking over a list of three potential November opponents for the fighter to choose from, the best option -- for boxing, at least -- might not seem so apparent.

[+] EnlargeManny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto
Al Bello/Getty Images Whether or not it's the best option for Manny Pacquiao, a rematch with Miguel Cotto would be fantastic news for boxing.
There's the fight we think we want (Juan Manuel Marquez), the fight we know we don't want (Timothy Bradley Jr.) and the fight that we're convinced we shouldn't want (Miguel Cotto).

Yet after weighing the merits of each against the others, there's just one (surprising) choice that makes the most sense.

Mostly lost in Pacquiao's 12th-round TKO of Cotto in November 2009 -- the apex of the Filipino star's implausible run through four weight classes in less than three years -- was an opening four rounds that had the makings of an all-time great action bout.

Let's take a look back at the highlights from this high-level slugfest:

ROUND 1: While the opening round provided the least amount of toe-to-toe action among the fight's first four, it was equally intriguing. Cotto controlled the round with a thudding, accurate jab that snapped Pacquiao's head back in the opening seconds and consistently moved him backward. Cotto also established the legitimacy of his hand speed by stinging Pacquiao with counter hooks. It took Pacquiao, who rallied in the final 30 seconds, nearly two full minutes to land his first clean shot in a round dominated by Cotto.

ROUND 2: Pacquiao landed a string of lead left hands early, which slowed the use of Cotto's jab considerably. The round -- and ultimately the tenor of the fight -- hit a turning point with 1:45 to go when Pacquiao landed consecutive flush combinations. It was vintage PacMan: at his most dangerous when attacking from deceiving angles. Cotto responded immediately by stepping up his intensity, and the result was breathtaking two-way action highlighted by Cotto's hard left hooks to the side of the head (Pacquiao's right ear required draining after the fight due to a blood clot.) Cotto's premature entry into fight-or-flight mode, however, came with a cost by playing perfectly to the strength of his quicker, countering opponent. Pacquiao's granite chin was supremely tested, and it passed with flying colors.

ROUND 3: Cotto found early success by returning to his jab. Pacquiao responded in the ensuing minute with an immaculate display of boxing, darting in and out to land a series of stiff shots. The punches set up a stunning three-punch combination to the head and body (so quick that the punches appeared to land simultaneously), which Cotto never saw coming. The final punch -- a short right hook -- floored Cotto with ease, although it stunned him more with confusion than power. A resilient Cotto regained his feet and continued to brawl, snapping Pacquiao's head back with a vicious uppercut to dramatically close the round.

ROUND 4: The action was amplified as both fighters gave as good as they received for nearly three full minutes in the center of the ring. If this wasn't the most exciting round of the fight -- and arguably the year -- it was just as good as the previous two. Twice Pacquiao was forced to fight his way off the ropes in a violent, two-way drama that also proved to be Cotto's last stand as a threat to hurt his opponent. Pacquiao's half-hook, half-uppercut with 25 seconds to go nearly decapitated Cotto en route to the canvas. It was the single most devastating punch of the fight, capping a wildly entertaining four rounds.

Pacquiao went on to pitch a virtual shutout over the final eight rounds as a wounded Cotto never recovered from the early onslaught. Talk of a rematch by Arum at different points over subsequent years were rightfully dismissed by fans as a potential money-grab for Top Rank.

But time is a tricky thing, and just enough of it has gone by to help redefine what we now consider to be the reality of the fighters' current levels.

With their first fight contested at a catchweight of 145 pounds, there's no telling the impact it had on the naturally bigger Cotto. (Arum said he believes Pacquiao would be willing to do a potential rematch at 150 pounds.)

Pacquiao is also clearly not the same dynamic force who once steamrolled Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Cotto in consecutive bouts, as evidenced by his past three fights. At 33, Pacquiao not only has been unable to duplicate the same relentless pace for full rounds, which was once his staple, he also noticeably faded in the second half against Shane Mosley and Bradley.

Cotto, meanwhile, appears completely removed from the version of the fighter who had been labeled damaged goods in the aftermath of a brutal loss to Antonio Margarito, and has rebuilt his confidence at 154 pounds.
At 31, Cotto has seen his stock as a fighter soar under new trainer Pedro Diaz, with the duo fresh off an inspired performance in which Cotto roughed up Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a May defeat -- the same fight that a large portion of the general public believed Cotto would be embarrassed in.

A rematch with Bradley would do nothing to advance Pacquiao's legend or the sport. And as much as many would enjoy seeing Marquez get a chance to validate his three impressive showings to date against Pacquiao, a fourth meeting adds little to the legacy of their rivalry.

For fans of both Pacquiao and boxing, the danger in holding on too tightly to the dream of a Mayweather bout is that there's no reason to anticipate a change in the poor matchmaking that has slowly wasted a good bit of Pacquiao's prime.

In Cotto's recent bout with Mayweather, we were reminded just how exciting and galvanizing a marquee fight with two crossover stars who never fail to deliver can be for the sport. Pacquiao and Cotto have an opportunity to do the same thing.

Three years ago, they gave us a sample of an explosive meeting between all-time greats. The plotlines surrounding them may have changed, but a high-profile rematch that promises excitement just might represent the best fight that realistically can be made.

Down For The Count: Cotto's next foe

May, 19, 2012
5/19/12
12:25
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"Friday Night Fights" analyst Bernardo Osuna has the latest on Miguel Cotto's possible next opponent (hint: Could be another classic Puerto Rico-versus-Mexico throwdown), where Amir Khan goes from here and Marcos Maidana's next move.

LAS VEGAS -- Five things we learned from Saturday's Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Miguel Cotto card at the MGM Grand:

1. There's good, there's very good, and there's great

With every fight, Mayweather is moving up the all-time list. For years, one knock on his record was that, as good as he frequently looked, we didn't know how he would react when he was rocked or when he was in a real dogfight. We know now. When Shane Mosley hurt him badly in the second round of their fight two years ago, Mayweather turned it around and dominated every minute of every subsequent round. When Cotto dragged him into the trenches Saturday night, Mayweather engaged him, firing off the ropes; and when it looked like the effectiveness of that technique was waning after Cotto's blistering eighth round, Floyd changed strategies completely and sailed away with the final third of the bout.

There are plenty of reasons that those fans who don't like Mayweather will find to support their position. But his skills and ability shouldn't be among them. We are watching a genuinely great boxer in his pomp. Whatever our feelings of him as a person, we should allow ourselves to enjoy and marvel at his talent.

2. Seriously, enough's enough. It's time

For all the talk of "that" fight, for all the yapping from both sides, the prospect of Floyd Mayweather fighting Manny Pacquiao has, in the buildup to Saturday's contest, rarely if ever seemed more remote. But now, more than ever, it has to happen. Cotto was the best of the rest and he has been summarily dispatched. Outside of, say, Sergio Martinez or perhaps, in the case of Pacquiao, a fourth meeting with Juan Manuel Marquez, there's nobody left. Assuming Pacquiao makes it past Timothy Bradley Jr. on June 9, Mayweather-Pacquiao has to be next. Even as he poured cold water on the prospect of the fight ever happening, Mayweather admitted that "there's really nobody else out there for me."

3. Miguel Cotto was sold short

Even among those who gave Cotto credit for his skill and experience, who offered the caveat that against almost any other likely opponent, he would be favored, the Puerto Rican star was given next to no chance. One person who didn't sell him short, at least publicly, was Mayweather, and as he stood at the postfight news conference with his face uncharacteristically marked up, it was clear why. Cotto fought with enough intelligence and persistence that, through eight rounds, the outcome of a Mayweather fight was genuinely in doubt. He fought an almost perfect game plan; it's just that on this night, against this man, it wasn't enough.

4. Canelo Alvarez is a work in progress

There was much to be impressed with in Alvarez's victory over Mosley: He was unruffled, he was steady, he didn't panic when an accidental head-butt opened up a cut over his left eye. He planted his feet and threw compact punches with plenty of torque that thudded off Mosley's head with real impact. At the same time, there are still some areas for improvement, as is to be expected from such a young fighter. Alvarez could stand to be more active, to throw more punches, to start earlier. When he threw combinations, they were beautifully effective; he just didn't throw them enough. A case could be made that, after almost folding Mosley in half with body shots in the ninth, Alvarez should have taken it up a notch and tried to finish him. But for all the doubts and incomplete grades, this fight also highlighted the talent that is there, and the reception from the crowd underlined the stardom that assuredly awaits Alvarez as long as the wins keep coming.

5. The ride is over for Shane Mosley

Whatever doubts had been raised about Mosley's commitment to battle after the disappointing performances against Pacquiao and Mayweather, the 40-year-old erased them with his determined effort to stand and trade with the younger, stronger Alvarez. But while he was not afraid to pull the trigger, Mosley's punches lacked the speed and snap that were his trademark when he was at his peak. He looked at times almost as if he were punching through treacle. It is often said that the last thing a fighter loses is his punch, but Mosley had nothing in his arsenal with which to deter his younger foe. As Mosley admitted, when the young kids start beating you, maybe it's time to turn to promoting. Mosley has had a terrific career. It's time for that career to end on the relative high note of making a defiant last stand.


LAS VEGAS -- A single night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 26, 2008, nearly ruined the boxing career of Miguel Cotto.

Nearly four years later, he proved to everyone it didn't take the best of him.

Cotto has rarely looked the same since suffering the worst loss of his career at the (perhaps loaded) hands of Antonio Margarito in that welterweight title bout, the first meeting between the fighters.

Cotto, 31, holds a strong belief that Margarito used illegal hand wraps during that fight, and he finally exacted his revenge late last year in the form of a stoppage win in the 10th round of their rematch. He then swore he would perform better after having closed the emotional chapter on Margarito.

Few believed him. Heading into Saturday's light middleweight fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr., Cotto was listed as more than a 4-to-1 underdog and was generally given no shot against his faster, more technical opponent.

Eventually, Cotto did succumb to Mayweather's speed and defensive skills. The result was familiar, with Mayweather claiming a decision win via fairly lopsided scores.

Those who witnessed the fight, however, saw the details not recorded in the scores. Cotto pushed Mayweather, more so than perhaps any of the 42 who came before him. He cut off the ring and bloodied Mayweather's nose with punches in the sixth.

He appeared the strongest, mentally, that he has since the Margarito loss. Although he still faded a bit late, as he has been known to do, that was more attributed to Mayweather's resiliency than any break in Cotto.

"I'm happy with my fight and with my performance," Cotto said. "So is my family. I can't ask for anything else."

The Las Vegas crowd went wild after the eighth round, when Cotto forced a few exchanges out of Mayweather in the corner of the ring.

The greatest surprise, though, occurred in the moments when Cotto had success in the middle of the ring. He was still at a disadvantage in that type of fight against the quicker, more mobile Mayweather, but he wasn't thoroughly dominated, as many would have expected him to be.

Defensively, Cotto seems to be improving under head trainer Pedro Diaz. He refused to be dictated by Mayweather's jab and effectively controlled the range at which the fight took place throughout.

"Cotto shocked me," Mayweather said. "He was slow, but he was awkward. Anybody who goes in with Cotto, you better be ready. His record reflects where he's at, and he deserved to fight me."

In a way, Cotto's record does reflect where he's at -- and then it doesn't.

A 5-3 showing over the course of his past eight bouts isn't typically the result associated with a boxing superstar. Cotto was beaten badly by Manny Pacquiao over the course of 12 rounds in 2009, and his latest wins have come against inferior competition.

Saturday, however, might be the best reflection of where Cotto truly is: a fighter still improving, finally over the heartache of the worst loss of his career and still capable of competing at the highest level.
Corrales & Mayweather Tom Hauck/Getty ImagesDiego Corrales gave Floyd Mayweather Jr. a run at the MGM Grand in 2001 before falling late.
Saturday's challenge of junior middleweight champ Miguel Cotto will be Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s sixth successive fight at the MGM Grand and his ninth overall. Here's one man's take on Mayweather's five most memorable appearances at what has become boxing's marquee venue:

5. Sept. 17, 2011: Victor Ortiz

Ortiz was at a high point, coming off his dramatic win over Andre Berto, but he was no match for either Mayweather or his own lack of judgment. Frustrated by his inability to pierce Mayweather's defense, Ortiz launched his head into his opponent's in Round 4, prompting referee Joe Cortez to call time out and deduct a point. When Cortez called time in, Ortiz was focused more on hugging Mayweather to apologize than on defending himself; Mayweather clocked an unprepared Ortiz with a left and a right, putting him down for the count.

4. April 20, 2002: Jose Luis Castillo

Notable for being a fight that, in the eyes of many observers, Mayweather lost. Mexico's Castillo was able to pressure Mayweather for periods and take him out of his comfort zone, but the American won a unanimous decision on the judges' scorecards, and he did so again in the rematch across the street at Mandalay Bay.

3. Dec. 8, 2007: Ricky Hatton

Unforgettable. An estimated 30,000 Brits descended on the Strip, all but emptying the MGM of beer and constantly reminding everyone that there was "only onnnne Ricky Hatton." That one Ricky Hatton was likely seeing two Floyd Mayweathers after walking into a check hook that sent him face-first into the ring post in the 10th. And still the Brits kept singing ...

2. May 5, 2007: Oscar De La Hoya

Was this really five years ago already? Overdramatically dubbed "The Fight to Save Boxing," this was the event that turned Mayweather into a superstar. Overcoming early resistance from a stiff Golden Boy jab, Mayweather scored a split decision win in a contest that secured a record 2.4 million pay-per-view buys.

1. Jan. 20, 2001: Diego Corrales

Like Mayweather, Corrales was an undefeated 130-pound titlist, and there were plenty of prognosticators who expected him to prove too strong. But you can't hurt what you can't hit, and in what remains Mayweather's most sublime performance, Corrales could hardly lay a glove on his rival. Mayweather, by contrast, couldn't miss his, dropping Corrales five times before Chico's corner stopped the contest in the 10th.

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