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Miguel Cotto: “Fighter on Wire”

By Hans Olsen

This Saturday, the MGM Grand in Las Vegas will set the stage for Showtimes Pay-Per-View telecast of Miguel Cotto vs. Ricardo Mayorga; a bout that is sure to be an all-action firefight for as long as it lasts.

Miguel Cotto and Ricardo Mayorga are rarely in bad fights; Cotto in particular has a flair for the dramatic. Any way you slice it, the cool-as-ice pride of Purto Rico and the unhinged wild man from Nicaragua are certain to bring action in this Jr. Middleweight title contest.

For Miguel Cotto, the bout represents another step to further distance himself from his brutal encounter with Antonio Margarito back in July of 2008. It was in that fight where Margarito seemingly took all but Miguel Cotto’s soul in addition to his undefeated record.

Ironically, it could also be one step closer to a much-anticipated rematch with the ‘Tijuana Tornado.’

Although questions of legitimacy concerning the gloves Margarito wore that night remain, there are no questions when we speak of Miguel Cotto’s resilience. From the horrific war with Margarito to the wins over Michael Jennings and Joshua Clottey to the challenging of pound-for-pound hero Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto has exemplified all that resilience is. The Manny Pacquiao fight in particular seemed to take away whatever was left, and some analysts even suggested we may have seen the last of him.

Remarkably, Miguel emerged like a phoenix from the flames to capture a 154 lb title from Yuri Foreman last summer. A great victory, and one surely aided by the addition of legendary trainer (and in this writer’s view the best in the world) Emmanuel Steward. Unfortunately, Yuri Foreman is not a puncher. A terrific boxer yes, but not the type of fighter that will gruel you down the stretch the way Margarito and Pacquiao did, and one who won’t test him early the way Mayorga might. Though Cotto consistently answers the questions of resilience, many still feel he is running on fumes. But a fighter’s heart can smolder for years.

It may be out of necessity…fighting may be all they have.

It may be out of ignorance…it may be all they want.

Fighters like Miguel Cotto carry their youthful exuberance through their adult years, partly because much of their growing-up was in the ring. For them to continue to evolve within themselves as people, they overcome literal hardships in the ring. We pay to see it. They pay for it.

Fighters like Miguel Cotto need to be appreciated.

Desire is something not taught. Rarer still at Cotto’s age is the combination of that desire alongside an ability to adjust in hopes of maintaining that which fulfills said desires. Miguel Cotto has accomplished more than most fighters ever do, so why does he continue to fight? What more is there to prove? In a media conference call, Miguel alluded to this:

“I feel like I’ve had a great career. It’s been very productive. I know it’s near the end of it, but I feel like it’s the beginning. I feel great and I feel like I have a lot left in me before I go.”

If a lot is left in Miguel Cotto, he had more than any of us could have hoped to have ever had.

But fighters are not normal.

And fighters like Miguel Cotto are less normal.

In 2008, the same year as Cotto and Margarito’s epic struggle, a critically acclaimed film “Man on Wire” was released. The documentary follows French wire-walker Philippe Petit in his quest to high-wire-walk between the World Trade Center towers in 1974. It is a beautiful portrayal of the realization of dreams, enjoyed through incredible odds; despite what some would perceive as pointless risks.

Miguel Cotto’s career post-Margarito reminds me of this. You don’t fight on after going through what Miguel went through in the Margarito fight without still hanging on to a dream, a desire, or a will that hasn’t been fulfilled. On the outside, we don’t understand what Miguel Cotto fights for. On the inside, we can only assume he exudes those very things in the ring. He dares to step outside of himself to accomplish all that he feels he has inside himself. Miguel Cotto walks the tight rope between a career that can still reach the highest highs, or one that could plummet thousands of feet in an instance, reaffirming the perils of chance.

In “Man on Wire,” Petit proclaimed “Life should be lived on the edge of life. You have to exercise rebellion: to refuse to tape yourself to rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge – and then you are going to live your life on a tightrope.”

Saturday night in Las Vegas, Miguel Cotto continues his high-wire-walk.

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