BOB ARUM: It is unquestionable that Miguel Cotto is the most popular fighter in New York. He has demonstrated that year after year with tremendous crowds at Madison Square Garden and now he has the honor and privilege of fighting at the Home of Champions. Everybody in New York is talking about his fight with Yuri Foreman. The publicity, in the newspapers and the full-page article in The Wall Street Journal, has been enormous. Miguel’s opponent Yuri Foreman is the first Israeli champion. People all over New York are talking, who don’t normally talk about boxing, are talking about this fight. This is a tribute to Miguel Cotto and all he has put into boxing and how he has endeared himself to his fans in the city of New York.
EMMANUEL STEWARD: Everything has gone way, way better than I have ever expected. It is a phenomenal experience for me at this stage of my life to be working with a great fighter like Miguel. What he had done in the junior welterweight division, he fought everyone and did the same in the welterweight division. After working with him I was very surprised at the talent that he has. One thing Bruce Trampler told me was that Miguel is his favorite fighter because he never complained about any opponent and fought all of them. He gives the best to the fans, which is why he is one of the most popular fighters in boxing. This fight between Miguel and Yuri represents two of the largest ethnic groups in New York. I have been all over the world for big fights but nothing like this. He is like my Tommy Hearns type of a fighter, which means he is not fighting for his own personal victory but he carries the weight of a whole country. Not only the Puerto Rico fans in New York but for Puerto Ricans everywhere. It is a fight we are putting a lot of effort into and there is a lot on the line and his training has been phenomenal – over 100 rounds of boxing with very sharp and fast young fighters. I am very happy with his conditioning.
No one has sold more tickets in the last 10 years than Miguel Cotto. What is it like coming back to New York the week before the Puerto Rican Day Parade?
MIGUEL COTTO: First of all I would like to thank all of the Puerto Rican fans that have come to the arenas over the past years to watch my fights. I am very excited about fighting in Yankee Stadium and all of the fans that will go to the Bronx to watch.
You’ve been in a lot of wars. What would you say to us how you are the same boxer you were a couple of years ago?
MIGUEL COTTO: I wouldn’t be in this position right now, going to Yankee Stadium without that and fighting against a world champion Yuri Foreman. It is amazing for me and I am always training to be at the same level. I agree with Emanuel, we are working very hard in training camp, more than we expected. We are waiting for the night of the fight to show and prove to everybody what we have done in the gym and the fans are going to love it.
Your last fight was very tough against Pacquiao. How much did that fight take out of you?
MIGUEL COTTO: Like I said, we trained pretty good for this fight. We came in with no mind except for this fight and to come in against Yuri and I am more than 100% sure we are going to be the new WBA champion this time.
How will it be for you to put on the extra weight?
MIGUEL COTTO: It is the same when I jumped from 140 to 147 and now to 154. We worked pretty good with the strength and I feel more than good. There are no worries.
Emanuel, can you address that?
EMMANUEL STEWARD: I have never trained Miguel before but all I can go by are the comments from the people in the gym since we are training in the exact same gym where he trained for the Pacquiao fight. The people that are watching say he looks totally different from what they have seen before. His balance and movements and combinations are better so I can’t say too far beyond that. After watching so many of his rough fights, back to Margarito and even the fight with Joshua Clottey and Shane Mosley were all totally hard fights…and Manny Pacquiao. Sometimes you are going to cross a person that has changes. When I worked with Evander Holyfield after his first fight with Riddick Bowe and his other fights, I was told he was too slow and too old but he turned out to be a different individual, not only to retain the title but also to have some great fights after that for his fights with Mike Tyson. I feel very good about it. I’m always going to be honest with you guys because I am part of the media. Miguel’s boxing and energy level have been fantastic. His weight is a normal weight. He is finishing up his boxing, after 10 or 12 rounds, having never been exhausted in a very hot gym and his weight has been staying around 159. That means without any extra effort he could fight at 154 or 147. He looks wonderful. You could see that Juan Manuel Marquez, who was training for Floyd Mayweather, you could the weight was very squeezed into a small frame. Miguel doesn’t look that way. He looks very normal. In fact, I think ’54 would be even better than 147. His best weight is 150 or 151 so he could fight in either weight division. He looks very comfortable and very natural and hasn’t done anything to try to keep the weight up or weight down and he’ll come in at 154. You have to remember 147 or 154 it’s only seven pounds, which wouldn’t make that much difference. He told me he was 160 pounds when he was 10 years old.
What concerns you about Yuri’s style of moving?
EMANUEL STEWARD: Everyone is focused on what Miguel has left and his style. Regardless of what preparation you have, Yuri is a very talented and underappreciated fighter who has an extremely difficult style for anyone and recently when I was in Vegas for the Mayweather-Mosley fight and I was speaking to Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns and they said I got my hands full. As good as Miguel will look it will always be a tough fight because of his style. We are more concerned about the opponent so he needs to be in great condition and Miguel looks excellent. The opponent is very difficult, but in the past, Miguel has had great success with speed opponents by cutting down the guys, whether it was Zab Judah or Paulie Malignaggi. All of those guys he had great success against by cutting off the ring. Miguel told me, “Mr. Steward, don’t worry, I will be able to cut off the ring and pressure. I am not going to worry.” So I am not worried but I have a lot of respect for the opponent. I think Yuri is a very talented fighter and on this night he is going to be so wired up with the Jewish fans and he is looking at his chance to become a big star with the New York crowd and the boxing world so I feel he is going to fight the best fight of his life. Right now, the way Miguel has been looking, it is going to be very hard for Yuri to stay away from Miguel for 12 rounds because Miguel is looking very fast with his feet right now and his combinations are wicked and his punching is awesome so I think it’s going to be a great fight, maybe in the mode of a Dempsey and Tunney situation. I think Miguel is a lot faster than a lot of people will expect from this fight. We know that Yuri is fast but Miguel is going to surprise a lot of people wit his speed.
Do you feel because Yuri only has 8 knockouts, that you have more power than him?
EMANUEL STEWARD: I don’t feel that he has great punching power but it is much better than people give him credit for. I was at a lot of his fights…the fighters he didn’t knock out were the fighters no one was knocking out. I think he is a much better puncher than people give him credit for. Any time a fighter has fast hands and can close his hands a little bit, it creates power. Paulie Malignaggi is the guy I was thinking about. Paulie has fast hands but he doesn’t have his hands closed so it is a little different. Yuri closes his hands and punches very fast to be dangerous. You can make a mistake coming in and get hit with a clean shot with one you don’t see. He punches much better than his record indicates.
EMANUEL STEWARD: Any time you are coming in with a fighter that has some very rough fights, you are concerned with the physical damage as well as mental damage. Some guys their coordination and reflexes are totally shot from the combination of the tough fights and emotions. But I did not see that from Miguel. I was very surprised in the first two days because his balance was so bad and his feet were spread so far apart and his head was down and he wasn’t throwing combinations, just one punch at a time. I made his just drop his hands and dance back and forth with his weight evenly balanced and he caught onto it and from that point on he went to a whole other level. His boxing has been superb and all of us have been very impressed. I didn’t make any major changes, just subtle changes. He had to be doing something right to be where he is so I didn’t try to make him be a whole new fighter. Just improve on a few areas, mainly the balance and the speed and maintain balance while he is punching in combinations.
MIGUEL COTTO: We are going to try and bring balance. My balance was awful before this camp and now it is much better than we expected. We have trained very hard with the balance and now we can throw punches and maintain the balance. That is one of the things we have worked very hard on in this camp.
EMANUEL STEWARD: I feel the same way. We cannot expect to come into this fight and win by being on our toes and winning a boxing match with a guy that has the boxing skills of a Yuri Foreman. Don’t misunderstand that we are going to come in on our toes like Muhammad Ali and win a boxing match. Miguel is going to have to come in and apply good pressure while boxing. He will come in and throw seven and eight punch combinations and maintain balance while doing it. We are not going to be dancing all night. We are going to do what we have to do to break down Yuri but not get out of position.
Does he feel he needs to knock him out or can he win a decision?
EMANUEL STEWARD: I believe we don’t need to let Yuri get out in front. Yuri is a fast guy that will get out in front and his style of fighting – there could be a lot of butting involved. The way he moves, even though he is 5’11’ even though he moves around good but when he punches he bends his head when he runs in to punch. He throws a punch then he clinches. We don’t want to get behind on points figuring we can wear him down then have a cut or injury then have to stop and go to a scorecard. So we are going to have to be prepared to win every round from the first round on.
Do you feel you can win a decision?
EMANUEL STEWARD: Yes
MIGUEL COTTO: We trained hard to put on a good show on June 5th. I don’t know what is going to happen on that night, but I’m pretty sure, no matter what way, when it is over, I’m going to be the winner of the fight.
Miguel, what does it meant to you to fight in Yankee Stadium?
MIGUEL COTTO: It means a lot to fight in the legendary Yankee Stadium. I go to that place every year and I am very proud of the fans. I am going to feel like a Yankee on this night. I am going to feel like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter.
BOB ARUM: You are absolutely right. In March when we did the fight in Cowboys Stadium with their tremendous electronics, with that big screen, everybody wrote up that boxing was coming to Cowboys Stadium. Of course, Cowboys Stadium did not have that history connected with boxing that this fabulous Yankee Stadium does. The greatest fights in history became great events in history. The Louis-Schmeling fight is a major, major event in the history of the world and that took place in Yankee Stadium. Anyone writing about the Second World War and the events leading up to the Second World War always mention the symbolic nature of the Louis-Schmeling fight. Now something new starts in this fabulous new Yankee Stadium with Miguel Cotto and Yuri Foreman. Anybody who has any kind of appreciation for history and tradition is taken in by the fact that this event is happening in Yankee Stadium.
Why do you think Cotto and Foreman were good choices for this first fight back at Yankee Stadium?
BOB ARUM: Miguel Cotto, over the last ten years, has sold more boxing tickets than any other pugilist in New York. He is the New York attraction. He proves it year after year. Yuri Foreman, his whole history, he has lived in Brooklyn for a long while and is part of the very large Jewish ethnic population in the city, he is an observant religious Jew who is going to become a rabbi – he fits in New York City better than he fits in Tel Aviv.
How does a boxer lose his balance?
MIGUEL COTTO: When you talk about balance, it is the way you throw punches and stay right on your feet. That is the balance we are talking about. Sometimes you can throw more than two punches and stay there. And stay there after the punches.
I never really had a problem to reach 147 pounds. Boxing is a business. If we have a better opponent at a lower weight, we can always go back to 147 without a lot of trouble. To fight in Yankee Stadium? There is a lot of pleasure for me to fight there. Like I said, a lot of good things happened over the years for the Yankees there. To be the first fight in this new place is more than an honor.
EMANUEL STEWARD: We have a lot of respect for Yuri Foreman. I always speak very honest and Yuri Foreman is a very difficult opponent and just last week we went to Yankee Stadium and it was very emotional and Miguel went to a whole different level. I feel that Miguel has the edge going into the fight. A few weeks ago I thought it was a 50/50 fight but this last week Miguel has been sensational in his boxing. Starting last Thursday and Friday his workouts have been so that he would be extremely competitive with any welterweight or super welterweight in history and done extremely well.
MIGUEL COTTO: When you talk about devastating knockouts, you talk about the guy never getting up. That’s a devastating knockout. I always do the most I can in my fight. I am really motivated because that’s the way I work. That’s what my family expects from me. They expect a lot from me and I get paid to do my work.
What has your father meant?
MIGUEL COTTO: He is with me. He is not here physically. On January 3rd, the day my father died, he is still by my side and he is going to be with me the night of the fight.
Emanuel, did it take much persuading to get you to take on this job?
EMANUEL STEWARD: No, I have always been a big fan of Miguel’s. I had agreed to work with Yuri Foreman but not in a great capacity – head trainer or anything of that nature. I was in Austria training with Wladimir Klitschko and I saw on the internet that I would be working with him for maybe a couple of weeks, but clearly not as the head trainer, which was something I never expected anyway. I said to Murray evidently there must be some hostility and I said I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes. They have done a great job getting Yuri Foreman to where he is and I was going to show him some moves that would help him with his punching power. I told him if we can’t work comfortable, I will just work with Miguel because I have always been such a big fan of his. I don’t like working with a boxer that I don’t have a strong feeling for and that’s why, like with Klitschko and Lennox, after meeting his people and we were all very comfortable. I haven’t made any drastic changes taking over his training camp; I work within his system he was working with. I just changed some of his sparring partners that had speed and balance. He has a great conditioning program. I work with him and I talk with him and I added experience to the camp. Joe Santiago has been working very well with me and we discuss strategy before the workouts. I am still a great friend of Murray Wilson and some of the comments he made hurt me so much and I told him you let certain guys say things and then call me up asking for a response to send traffic to their web site. He’ll have a great night of boxing then go back to his restaurant. I have been in camps where there is backstabbing and this is the camp where I am happy. It is a major challenge to me at this stage of my career, being a hired gun like I did back in the 90’s with Holyfield and Oliver McCall and Oscar De La Hoya, so this is a big challenge for me. I know that Yuri Foreman is going to be very wired up for this fight, as well as Miguel.
EMANUEL STEWARD: When I was leaving the arena in Atlantic City after the Pavlik-Martinez fight, I was bombarded by so many Puerto Rican fans, many of whom hadn’t even come to the fight, but they were waiting for me and I never had any idea that this man was so popular with the Puerto Rican fans, even though I had known of his record crowds at The Garden. I had to tell Larry Merchant and Jim Lampley to go ahead and I had to walk on the boardwalk, in the rain and by the time I got the hotel, which is normally ten minutes away, and it took over an hour to get there. They were telling me that Miguel was all that they have and it really has put a burden on me. So I have put my heart and soul into this training camp, not just to win the fight – there is a lot on the line in this fight for Miguel Cotto. It is a very emotional fight in a lot of ways for our camp.
What did you do to help Miguel regain his balance?
EMANUEL STEWARD: Any fighter you see of mine is going to have good balance and distribution of weight. What I did with Miguel, make him drop his hands ad move to the left and the right, is what I have done with all of my fighters. When I did it with Klitschko he started to laugh because that’s what he did when he was 14. That’s why they are dominating fighters because they teach balance in the European countries. Eventually Miguel got to the point where he was throwing seven or eight punches and his feet were working at the same time and his weight was evenly balanced. I always operate behind the jab and good timing, regardless of the height. I was even surprised that Miguel’s coordination was better than Chavez and some of the other fighters I worked with. I feel very good about the fight as it is getting close and we are very excited to get to New York and I think it is going to be a very dramatic fight because a lot of emotions are going to be brought into the ring that night and the fans are going to get their money’s worth.
BOB ARUM: It should be a great fight on Saturday, June 5 and certainly a wonderful night for boxing and don’t overlook the semi-final, two undefeated junior middleweights Vanes Martirosyan faces Joe Greene which should be a terrific fight – one of them is going to lose his 0, and it should be a great night of boxing.
EMANUEL STEWARD: I am excited about myself being in Yankee Stadium and a big crowd makes a good fight a great fight. The fighters will feed off the energy of a big crowd.
MIGUEL COTTO: I am very excited abut this fight on June 5 and this is our last week or training and I can’t wait to go to Yankee Stadium to put on a good show for all the fans and go back to Puerto Rico as champion with another belt.
Cotto vs. Foreman will headline “Stadium Slugfest” — the inaugural brawl at Yankee Stadium, Saturday, June 5. It will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing, beginning at 10:15 p.m. ET / 7:15 p.m. PT.
Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Miguel Cotto Promotions and Yankee Stadium, remaining tickets to Cotto vs. Foreman, priced at $400, $300, $200, $100, $75 and $50, can be purchased at the Yankee Stadium box office, all Ticketmaster outlets and Ticketmaster.com. To charge by phone, 800-982-2787. For more information on Cotto vs. Foreman, go to www.TopRank.com.