Joshua Clottey and Miguel Cotto were in two totally different moods yesterday at their New York press conference. Clottey is ecstatic now that he’s finally got the major unification fight to show his skills and, as he expects, to open the doors to the big time in pro boxing. Clottey was smiling all afternoon, and could barely contain his infectious joy whenever I was near him. I can’t ever remember seeing a world champion so enthusiastically happy to be at a press conference. (Thank goodness Clottey has finally got what he deserves.) A necessary duty of the boxing business that some top champions do not enjoy in the least, is to attend and speak at press conferences, and Clottey was loving every minute of it. And it was not an exaggerated expression by the man from Ghana to convey confidence to Cotto – Clottey is just genuinely elated that he has a big summer date at Madison Square Garden.
On the other-hand, there seemed to be some somberness to the demeanor of Cotto after what unfortunately happened last week with his uncle and former trainer of 18 years. Cotto signed the contract yesterday morning to fight Clottey and though he was typically serious and polite towards his future adversary, you could not help to feel a little sorry that the mishap with Evangelista is not only still bothering him, but might even possibly be an omen of bad news to come on June 13.
Here were the words of two of boxing finest and classiest champions at yesterday’s conference held at Madison Square Garden:
Joshua Clottey, IBF Champ, 35-2, 21 KO’s: “First I want to thank Miguel Cotto for giving me the chance. (Clottey turns around and looks over his right shoulder and Cotto and goes over to shake hands with his rival. Cotto, smiles and winks, and gets up off his seat and the two share a warm handshake. A very classy gesture.) I’m really sorry for whatever happened between he and his uncle, everything will be fine (audience applauds). You know, the guys don’t want to fight me and I keep complaining about that all the time. Miguel is giving me the chance. Whatever happens in the ring I will always respect Miguel by giving me the chance for me to be on this stage to show my talents which I have for the world. And for this fight I’m really going to turn it out. And I will come to the ring with more than one representative. Because I’m always training and I know this is a very big opportunity to look good.
I’m coming to this fight to win and I know it’s going to be a very nice fight, good fight, clean fight, because we all respect ourselves. I respect every opponent that I fight. And I know too Miguel respects the way that I fight. But it’s going to be a war in the ring. Because it’s one ring and we’ve got to show what we’ve got. And I know it’s going to be a very nice fight…and I want to thank everybody, including the media, for coming. And I’m going to perform good boxing and I’m coming to win. Thank you very much Miguel.” (Applause again and the two champions again shake hands, at the initiation again by Clottey. It’s the first time I can recall ever seeing two rivals shake hands twice in the span of a minute, during one podium speech. There is no bad blood in this fight, not that it needs any anyway. Another observation was that Cotto watched Clottey speak the whole time, in the past he used to point his head down and concentrate hard on what his opponent was saying. He actually seems to like Clottey and respects him very much.)
Miguel Cotto, WBO Champ, 33-1, 27 KO’s: “It’s not one of the greatest moments of my career. But I’m going to keep walking to climb out of this bad moment in my career. I think Joshua tells you about everything that we have to talk about this fight. He’s coming to win, I’m coming to win. Only our skills will talk for us in the ring and the only person who is going to win is going to be the persons who come that night to Madison Square Garden and the persons who sees us on HBO. And that’s the only person that’s going to win this night. Thank you.”
Staredown for photographers: Both face the cameras, again Clottey is so overjoyed, one photographer actually asks him, kindly of course, to get rid of the smile and show us his fight face. At the conclusion the two are asked to face each other and Cotto puts on his deadly serious game face. There’s no love or friendship now as Cotto’s eyes resemble the cold-blooded killer of old. They stare hard in each other’s eyes. They and everyone knows this will be a fantastic battle, there’s simply no way it can not be, given the styles and mental fortitudes of both. At the end, they shake hands again and share a warm, even loving embrace as they depart from each other until June 13.
Only boxing, in a matter of seconds, can turn from savage intimidation into a heartfelt, loving embrace. Wish you were there.