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Former three-division titleholder Miguel Cotto, one of boxing's biggest stars -- but also a man who has been in one hard fight after another -- has admitted that he is in the final stages of his career but hoping to have about three more fights. Delvin Rodriguez doesn't want to let him have even that many.
"We've met before and Miguel is a great guy. He's a nice person and I respect him a lot. He is going to be in the boxing Hall of Fame one day, but once we get into the ring that respect goes out the window and I will do what I can to knock him out," Rodriguez told ESPN.com on Tuesday following the news conference to announce his fight with Cotto at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.
Cotto and Rodriguez will meet in a scheduled 12-round junior middleweight bout on Oct. 5 (HBO) at the home arena of the Orlando Magic of the NBA. It will be the first time that the building has hosted a boxing event, a big enough deal that Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer made an appearance at the news conference.
"Landing another high-profile event like this is a knockout for the City of Orlando in terms of entertainment and economic impact," Dyer said. "Whether it's WrestleMania, the NBA All-Star Game or NCAA Championship games, Orlando has proven that we have what it takes to host top-tier sporting events. We look forward to hosting what will be a thrilling fight and once again showcasing Orlando to a worldwide audience."
Cotto is from Puerto Rico but owns a home in Orlando and has trained in the city that boasts a large Puerto Rican community. Many of his fans turned out for the news conference, which was open to the public.
"I trained in Orlando for my last three fights," Cotto told the crowd. "I bought a home here. There are so many fans here I felt the right thing to do is to give back and fight here in Orlando. I have been away from the ring for a long time and the energy I feel from all the people here [Tuesday] motivates me. I want to get back into the ring."
Cotto (37-4, 30 KOs), 32, a former junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight titlist, is looking to end a two-fight losing skid in his first fight since reuniting with promoter Top Rank, which promoted every one of his pro fights except the last two -- both losses. Cotto lost both 154-pound title bouts by unanimous decision, to pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. in May 2012 and Austin Trout in December.
"Miguel Cotto has participated in some of boxing's biggest events over the past 10 years," Top Rank president Todd duBoef said. "His return to the ring on Oct. 5 will be another electrifying night for the fans watching it live in Orlando and the boxing fans throughout the world."
For this fight, Cotto split from trainer Pedro Diaz and hired Hall of Famer Freddie Roach to oversee his training. Cotto will leave Orlando to train at Roach's Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif.
"On Aug. 2 I will head to Los Angeles. On Aug. 5 I will walk into the Wild Card gym for the first time," Cotto said. "Then I will meet my new coach Freddie Roach. I have maybe three fights left in me. I know Freddie can get the best out of me. I will work hard. I hope Delvin does the same and we have a great fight."
Rodriguez (28-6-3, 16 KOs), 33, a Dominican Republic native from Danbury, Conn., has twice challenged for world titles but lost decisions to Isaac Hlatshwayo for a vacant welterweight belt in 2009 and to Trout for a junior middleweight belt in 2012.
Since the loss to Trout, Rodriguez has won two fights in a row, both by knockout, to position himself for the fight with Cotto.
Although it's not a world title fight, Rodriguez said it is the biggest fight of his career.
"The way I'm taking this fight, it is the biggest opportunity of my career," said Rodriguez, who outpointed Pawel Wolak in a December 2011 rematch on Cotto's undercard when he avenged his loss to Antonio Margarito a Madison Square Garden in New York. "It's either now or never for me. I'm so motivated for this fight, more than any other fight I have had. Miguel Cotto has fought everybody. He's a warrior like I am. For me to get the recognition I have been looking for I need to beat Cotto and I will give it all I have.
"It's gonna be a tough fight for Cotto. Once I get in with my jab and right hand he will cut. There's no doubt in my mind that I will cut him open. I'm going to go for the knockout. I will take advantage of the biggest opportunity of my life."