Miguel Cotto and Yuri Foreman meet in Yankee Stadium tomorrow night in a fight that has as many questions going in as an episode of the X-files or Twin Peaks.
Cotto is coming off of a gruesome beating at the hands of Manny Pacquiao last fall and Yuri Foreman is a walking brainteaser. He may have become a minor media celebrity because of his rabbinical studies and his funky hats, but no one knows what to expect when Foreman enters the ring at the highest levels of the sport. The question here is whether Cotto can still be considered among the best boxers in the world. If Cotto has faded dramatically as a result of hard fights over the last few years, then Foreman becomes a legitimate threat to pull an upset. He might be in the right place at the right time, and, more importantly, he might actually know it.
Miguel Cotto is one of a handful of boxers over the years who deserve recognition as throwback fighters. In a sport notable for its addiction to smoke and mirrors, Cotto has been the real thing: a professional prizefighter to the core. Even during his worst moments he brought to mind what Jean Renoir once said about Orson Welles: “I like his work so much that I even like him when he is not good, becomes at all times he remains an artist.” Cotto, winning or losing, has always put his best effort forward against some of the best competition available. But at 29, and with a history of bruising fights behind him, Cotto is reaching the end of the sidewalk. He has already spoken about retiring and recently formed his own promotional company in Puerto Rico. There is a sense of the past surrounding Cotto these days, and tomorrow night might be one of the last times Cotto laces up the gloves.
Miguel Cotto is a battle-scarred veteran, but Yuri Foreman, on the other hand, has rarely been tested as a pro, having won most of his fights by lopsided decision, and is relatively fresh. Only Anthony Thompson came close to beating him in a fight so dreadful that it makes watching knotweed sway in a summer breeze exciting by comparison. In his next bout, Foreman lost his focus momentarily after getting cut early by Andrey Tsurkan in 2007, but regained control in a fight not nearly as close as the judges had it. Foreman, Brooklyn, New York by way of Belarus, also appeared to be stunned by an under-trained Daniel Santos before going on to smack Santos around the ring for a lopsided decision. For the most part, however, Foreman, 28-0 (8) with one no-contest, has managed to dominate virtually every opponent in the opposite corner since he made his pro debut in 2002.
Needless to say, Cotto, 34-2 (27), probably would have walked through Foreman a couple of years ago, doubling hooks to the body and bringing them back up to the head, suffocating Foreman with pressure, and pinpointing hard shots with deliberation. Now, after terrible punishment absorbed against the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Joshua Clottey, and Antonio Margarito, Cotto may not be up to the task for a demolition job against an opponent a full two or three levels below his peak form.
Besides the spectacular hurt Cotto has endured in recent fights, he will also be moving up in weight, faces substantial disadvantages in height and reach, cuts and bruises more than ever, and will be wearing 10 ounce gloves for the first time in his career. Add to this bitter mix the fact that Foreman will not make anything easy in the ring with a dizzying style calculated to cross eyes–not blacken them–and you have all the ingredients for an upset at hand.
Even so, Foreman will have to fight with the kind of care Philippe Petite uses on the high wire. Cotto, Caguas, Puerto Rico, may not be able to punch as hard as he did when he was a junior welterweight, but Foreman, even after 29 fights, has not proven much about his chin against a world-class fighter.
In addition, defensive guile is not one of his attributes. He does not move his head enough and can be hit fairly easy whenever he gets into range. In spite of these limitations, Foreman, 29, is a difficult puzzle to solve simply because of a style that has not been seen in pro boxing rings on a regular basis since the days of Pal Moore. Even noted runners like Andre Dirrell and Terrence Cauthen adjust their styles occasionally, but Foreman is a pure perimeter boxer who looks like he suffers from restless legs syndrome. Against Cotto, staying out of reach is probably Plan A, B, and C. Everyone from River Avenue to Wakefield knows what Foreman is going to do: skip, circle, jab, skip, jab, circle, right hand, skip. An occasional left hook might shock the crowd in Yankee Stadium, but Foreman will no doubt stick to his usual routine. Whole swaths of time will pass with nary a punch thrown. In that case, his predictability is an advantage to Cotto, who can
focus on chasing down his man with few surprises. Cotto will have to cut off the ring, chase Foreman down, work the body, and exploit Foreman in the clinches.
Can he do it? Certainly he has done it before against fighters superior to Foreman, but “before” is a long time ago in boxing. The likeliest outcome, at least on paper, is Cotto by decision, but X-factors will be out in full force tomorrow night.
Maybe Foreman can take solace in an old Yiddish proverb: “If a man is destined to drown, he will do so even in a spoonful of water.” If Cotto is in a downward spiral, then Foreman is in a pick ‘em fight the moment he steps in the ring. If you can find at least 1 to 3 on a sports book, why not pick Foreman? Cotto is too much of a pro to let it bother him.