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Philip H. Anselmo Asks: MIGUEL COTTO: CAN HE WIN?

The biggest question going into the Miguel Cotto-Yuri Foreman fight is not whether Cotto can win, it’s how much left is there of the former WBA/WBO welterweight champ? Is his chin permanently dented? Is there any way he can reclaim, or refine his boxing style under the tutelage of Emanuel Steward enough to both, win the fight and/or do it in impressive enough fashion to legitimately be “back” as a viable threat at Jr. middleweight?

Yuri is an awkward fighter coming off of his most impressive victory to date, defeating tough Daniel Santos over 12-semi-scrappy rounds to become the WBA Jr. middleweight title-holder. In that fight, the normally defensive-minded Foreman let his hands go with surprising effectiveness. Coming off of a win like that, the champion should be very confident of his chances against Cotto, a fighter who’s better days seem to be behind him.

Enter Emanuel Steward, trainer of champions. To take on the training duties of Cotto is a risky move by the veteran strategist, and so far, he sees the fight two ways.

“First of all, I don’t like this particular fight style-wise (for Cotto). This kid Yuri is all wrong for him. He’s (Foreman) a very defensive fighter by nature, so he’s hard to get to. He hasn’t been in any grueling fights, so he hasn’t taken much punishment, as opposed to Miguel, where he’s taken not only beatings, but prolonged beatings. He’s (Foreman) the fresher fighter. I’ve got my work cut out for me, and so does Miguel.”

Thinking about this fight in depth, it seems to me that Yuri’s lack of power and defensive tendencies could work against him. If Cotto sticks to the game plan, which would be to outbox his opponent, instead of looking for the one-punch KO, he could possibly win easily.

Think about it; fast combinations consisting of 3, to 4-puch volleys and quick in-and-out movement via slick footwork could work, providing Cotto is in condition to do so. If Miguel keeps the fight in ring centre and beats Foreman to the punch early, the champ could very possibly go into a purely defensive mode. Activity during the rounds should be one of the main objectives from that point on. For Miguel, putting rounds in the bank is imperative. Yuri is a fighter whose style can lull an opponent to sleep, thus taking control of a fight. It’s up to Miguel to keep the fight at an up-tempo pace.
In other words, the fighter who’s doing the most work should sway the judges. And Cotto has the style to execute this very game plan to a “T”, once again depending on what he has left. Steward sounds surprisingly encouraged with what he’s seen of Cotto recently…

“Miguel has surprised me to say the very least. Not many people know this, but he’s actually been training himself these past few years. I told him, ‘you fight like you’re 4-11”, bending over all the time, open for an uppercut’. He’s been listening to everything I’ve told him and he’s a tremendous worker. I’m delightfully surprised.”

Steward agreed that work rate would be the key to winning the fight.

“That’s exactly what we’ve been working on. I want Miguel to take the fight to him. If the KO comes, so be it, but I’d rather see him earn it (a KO) only if it presents itself. We want to be ready to fight 12 hard rounds.”

But Foreman won’t be an easy night’s work, despite his apparent lack of punching power. His counter-punching is sneaky, and if he lets his hands go like he did in last fight, and lands, how much punch resistance does Cotto have left? Similar to what James “Buster” Douglas did against Mike Tyson in Tokyo, if Yuri were to steadily touch Cotto, little-by-little-, round-after-round, would the accumulative punches equate to “chopping the tree down” in Cotto’s case? It’s not hard to envision such a scenario if in actuality the fight were to take that route.

And once again, think about it: Cotto has taken prolonged beatings in both losses, but the Antonio Margarito fight sticks out in particular. Who’s to say Miguel wasn’t battered, a la Billy Collins with the infamous loaded gloves of Margarito? If that was the case, Cotto’s elongated thrashing could’ve been even worse for him than anyone has even fathomed. Fighting, and losing badly to the PFP fighter on earth, Manny Pacquiao couldn’t have helped either. So the question remains: How much does Cotto have left, and what level of punch resistance does he have at this point in his career?

At this juncture, nothing’s a safe bet either way, but Cotto could very-well fight the perfect fight against the light-hitting Foreman and redeem himself, as well as pick up another world title in a different weight class in the process. Cotto should be aggressive, but also remember the first law of boxing: Hit and not be hit. After all, as far as TRUE, natural boxing talent is concerned, Cotto, at his best, has the overall edge, but will we see Miguel’s best?

I’ll know more in the coming weeks how things are going at The Kronk, and the more I find out, perhaps, the more we’ll know.

One thing’s for sure though—this fight is far from easy to call right this moment, especially until we hear more about how Miguel is coming along. We know what Yuri’s going to bring to the table… but in truth, despite what Emanuel sees so far in camp, we won’t really know what to expect from Cotto until about the 4th or 5th round on fight night.

Does the best Miguel Cotto beat the best Yuri Foreman? Absolutely. Does a shell of Miguel beat a confident world champ in Foreman? No, probably not.

But the fact that Steward is taking on the task of fine-tuning and sharpening the dormant skills Cotto may’ve lost along the way says quite a bit about his re-dedication to improving.

Remember, Steward has taken on cases similar to this when he trained Evander Holyfield for his rematch with the much bigger, superbly skilled (at the time) Riddick Bowe, who’d just beaten Holyfield comprehensively for the heavyweight championship. Say what you will about Bowe’s shape coming into their 2nd fight, but with Steward in his corner, Holyfield could not be denied that night.

Lets face it, this fight could make-or-break either fighter, but in Cotto’s case, a loss would be a huge batch of nails driven directly into the proverbial coffin of his career. Look for Miguel to be in the best shape of his life and fight the smartest fight possible to earn a victory. Anything less could prove disastrous.


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