By Kirk Jackson
Miguel Cotto takes on the biggest challenge of his career, when he faces undefeated five division champion Floyd Mayweather at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, this upcoming Cinco de Mayo weekend.
Cotto has participated in some of the biggest box office fights boxing has to offer over the past couple years, his other most notable fight arguably coming against the likes of another multiple division champion, Manny Pacquiao. Looking back at the fight, you can argue that Cotto was not at his best. Some may argue the same now, going into his fight against Mayweather, but he seems to be in a better place now than what he was in back in 2009 when he suffered a devastating technical knockout loss against Pacquiao.
Leading up to his fight with Pacquiao, Cotto had a falling out with his then trainer/uncle Evangelista Cotto. They had a tumultuous on-and-off relationship leading up to the dismissal. Cotto’s longtime assistant Joe Santiago, who lacked experience, served as the lead trainer in the fight. Cotto was also coming off a difficult string of bouts. He suffered a career-changing, comprehensive beat-down from Antonio Margarito, who many speculated may have laced his gloves with “Plaster of Paris”.
After defeating Michael Jennings for a vacant belt seven months later, Cotto went up against Joshua Clottey, and had a life and death battle against him. Perhaps being awarded the fight based on his name recognition and fighting in front of a home crowd at Madison Square Garden, in New York on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, Cotto won by split decision. Either way, Cotto did not resemble the same menacing fighter we had come accustomed to seeing.
Enter Manny Pacquiao. It’s difficult enough facing one of the best fighters in the world, but snowball onto that recent struggles in fights, the loss of your trainer who you have had your entire professional boxing career, and your opponent, Pacquiao adding the request of fighting at a catch-weight.
Even though Cotto is the defending champion, he had to fight for his own championship belt at a welterweight catch weight of 145 pounds. And because of his initial refusal to put his belt on the line for this catch-weight bout, his own promoter Bob Arum who he shares with Pacquiao, persuaded his friend Francisco ‘Paco’ Valcárcel, President of the WBO, to strip Cotto of his WBO Welterweight belt. Even if Cotto were to win, the belt would be vacated. With all of those factors leading into the fight, it was a long shot for Cotto to pull out a victory.
Fast forward to now. Entering this fight with Mayweather, Cotto has moved up in weight to the super welterweight division (154), is on a three-fight win streak, which includes wins against Yuri Foreman, Ricardo Mayorga and perhaps the most satisfying win of his career thus far, a rematch TKO stoppage of Mexican rival Antonio Margarito.
Cotto exacted his revenge, his confidence is at an all-time high. He has a good new trainer in Joe Luis Diaz, who is a former professor at University Sports in Cuba, has worked with former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal and heavyweight Odlanier Solis and is a former member of the Cuban national team. Cotto worked with Diaz in his last fight against Margarito and they obviously worked well together, scoring the late stoppage.
Perhaps the most important thing for Cotto right now is he is at a comfortable weight. In fact, Mayweather is the one that has to move up in weight to 154, and may not be as comfortable. With a solid relationship with his trainer, confidence and a good winning streak, Cotto aims to take this momentum moving forward into the biggest test of his career.