Miguel Cotto: 'I am ready'

The former three-division champion faces a must-win situation Saturday

Originally Published: October 4, 2013
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Miguel Cotto likely will be enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y., someday. He has had a tremendous career, one filled with big wins and big fights.

Cotto came out of the 2000 Olympics, where he represented Puerto Rico, and has won world titles in three weight classes -- junior middleweight, welterweight and junior welterweight -- fought a who's who of opponents (Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Shane Mosley, Zab Judah, Paulie Malignaggi, Antonio Margarito), made tens of millions of dollars, and has been one of the most popular attractions in the sport.

He is one of the best fighters in the rich history of his homeland, but he also has been in many hard fights, spilled a lot of blood and taken a lot of punches. He is only 32, but in boxing years, it's an old 32.

He is also coming off back-to-back decision losses, one a spirited battle with Mayweather, the pound-for-pound king, in their May 2012 megafight, and to Austin Trout in December, a particularly painful defeat because it was the first time he had lost at New York's Madison Square Garden, essentially his home arena.

"

Miguel Cotto I work in the most peaceful and comfortable camp and that's the way I will be in the fight. I trust in my conditioning. I trust everything I do in the camp and I am ready.

" -- Miguel Cotto on training for his fights against Delvin Rodriguez

But despite the tough times, Cotto, who split from trainer Pedro Diaz in July, believes he has another title run left in him, and seemingly has done everything necessary to put himself in position, including two months of hard work with new trainer Freddie Roach, the Hall of Famer, at Roach's Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif.

"Freddie took the best from me and the best from him, that's what we did in training camp," Cotto said after Thursday's final news conference. "I need a person who can see what I can't do inside the ring, people who can tell what I have to do in the most correct way. That was Freddie."

Roach was equally enthusiastic about his new pupil.

"Miguel is a great student," said Roach, who trained Pacquiao for his knockout win against Cotto in 2009. "His work ethic is unbelievable. I am looking forward to Miguel fighting with us for the first time. His progress is great and his punching power is coming back to where it once was. Miguel has been one of the best students I have ever had."

But will the pairing pay dividends? That won't be known until after Cotto faces 33-year-old Dominican Republic native Delvin Rodriguez (28-6-3, 16 KOs), who lives in Danbury, Conn., in a scheduled 12-round junior middleweight bout Saturday night (HBO, 9:45 ET/PT). The fight headlines the first boxing card at Amway Center, home arena of the NBA's Orlando Magic and in an area with one of the largest Puerto Rican populations in the United States, outside of New York City.

Trainer and fighter both boast that the camp has been everything each had hoped for when they began working together during the summer.

Roach, having done numerous training camps with Pacquiao and other champions, said forcefully at Thursday's news conference that his time with Cotto had been the single most enjoyable camp of his training career.

Cotto (37-4, 30 KOs), who appeared to be in great shape, also seemed happy and relaxed heading into the fight with Rodriguez, an all-action fighter and two-time title challenger.

"I work in the most peaceful and comfortable camp and that's the way I will be in the fight," Cotto said. "I trust in my conditioning. I trust everything I do in the camp and I am ready."

Some of the work Cotto and Roach have done together -- along with strength coach Gavin MacMillan -- already has paid off.

[+] EnlargeAustin Trout, Miguel Cotto
Elsa/Getty ImagesMiguel Cotto, left, has lost two fight in a row, including a junior middleweight championship bout against Austin Trout in December.

"Miguel woke up [Thursday] two pounds under [the 154-pound weight limit]. He is so happy," Roach said. "He told me, 'Everyone hates me because I was always so miserable on fight week because I was always having problems cutting weight. I feel great.' "

Roach said he spent a lot of their time together working on getting Cotto to rediscover what he always did best but got away from, including using his electric left hook more and working to the body.

"I'm not really bringing things back, I am just trying to remind him of what worked best and to use it more," Roach said. "He knows how to do it, he had just gotten away from it a little bit, so it is really just a reminder of what works best. It is there naturally. It is part of his mechanics. It's just fundamentals -- how to cut the ring off and how to control the ring a little bit better. We are working really well together.

"I watched the Trout fight and we talked about why he thought he lost that fight. He thought he wasn't busy enough and I want to bring back that work to the body -- his bread and butter. That's what got him to where he is today. I am not going to change him, of course, because he is a great fighter as he is. We just need a reminder of the fundamentals of boxing."

The scheduled 10-round co-feature pits a pair of undefeated lightweight contenders, Terence Crawford (21-0, 16 KOs), of Omaha, Neb., and Andrey Klimov (16-0, 8 KOs), 31, of Russia. Crawford, 26, is the mandatory challenger for titleholder Ricky Burns, and a victory will pave the way for a world title shot.

HBO will open the telecast with a replay of heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (60-3, 52 KOs) making his 15th defense against mandatory challenger and secondary titleholder Alexander Povetkin (26-0, 18 KOs), in a meeting of former Olympic super heavyweight gold-medal winners in Moscow.

Cotto and Roach can talk about how great the camp went, but they also know it is results that are going to count, especially with Cotto coming off two losses. A third loss would seriously dent his ability to land big fights and command premium money. But Cotto said he is not thinking about the losing skid.

"I am just thinking about being in the best shape possible, and we have no doubt that we will prepare the best," he said.

Roach, on the other hand, put Saturday's fight in more stark terms.

"We are in a must-win situation, for sure," he said. "That's why we are working so hard and we are working well together. We know what the situation is."

A victory would put Cotto in a superb situation. Although he returned to career-long promoter Top Rank for this fight after a two-fight hiatus -- both defeats -- it is a one-fight deal. Cotto and his team also said that HBO has no future options on him, meaning he would be free to fight for any promoter or television network.

That means he could potentially parlay a victory into a possible rematch with Mayweather -- their fight sold a massive 1.5 million pay-per-views -- or a showdown with Mexico's Canelo Alvarez, which would undoubtedly mean big money and hype. Mayweather and Alvarez are both with Showtime and work with Golden Boy Promotions.

But Cotto is not one to look ahead. Asked directly about being a free agent, Cotto was diplomatic.

"People can talk and say whatever they want. I just stay focused on Delvin," Cotto said. "After that, we can sit and talk about the rest. We have a relationship with [Top Rank president] Todd [duBoef]. It's strong.

"We're going to sit after this fight and talk about what's next."

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