Miguel Cotto the King from Caguas
By: Kirk Jackson
Although technically from Providence, RI, Miguel Cotto represented the nation of Puerto Rico at the sport of boxing with pristine dignity and grace.
It just so happens another one of boxing’s greatest fighters joins the list of former pugilists entering the retirement home this year.
A star studded list, featuring the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Andre Ward, Wladmir Klitschko, Robert Guerrero, Timothy Bradley and now Miguel Cotto.
The first weekend of December marked the end of a great career for the boxing legend, as he bid farewell to the fans and treated spectators to one more exhilarating action-packed bout.
"Thank you fans for supporting me at every moment. I am so glad to call Madison Square Garden my home." — @RealMiguelCotto
— HBOboxing (@HBOboxing) December 3, 2017
Although his last appearance did not go as anticipated, losing a unanimous decision to Sadam Ali, the Puerto Rican star’s legacy still shines bright as he searches for other endeavors to occupy his time post boxing career.
When I think of Miguel Cotto and his contributions to the sport along with his style of boxing and persona, I envision a silent, cerebral, destructive assassin.
It’s interesting analyzing Cotto as a fighter because based off interviews and brief interactions, the general consensus is he quiet, serious and obviously dedicated towards his family and craft.
It’s suggested, Cotto’s stone-cold ring persona matched his artistic exploits on the canvas known as the squared circle.
Traits reflecting in the ring – whether it was his comprehensive, clinical beat-downs of eventual two-division world champion Paulie Malignaggi or another two-division champion from Brooklyn Zab Judah.
Or even the graphic, demoralizing thrashing like the one administered to Carlos Quintana.
One of the weapons of choice highlighted in the fight against Quintana was actually a staple in many of Cotto’s fights. His patented left hook to the body.
The gut-crushing, rib-cracking left hooks to the body; with the occasional shot to the groin (ask Zab Judah) was the bread and butter for Cotto throughout his career.
While as a fan it was aesthetically pleasing to watch, as an opponent it probably gave them nightmares and painful flashbacks.
But Cotto’s soul snatching left hooks were all set up by arguably his greatest physical tool; his left jab. As a natural southpaw, he converted to the orthodox stance, thus allowing his potent left jab to serve as a power jab.
Oscar De La Hoya and Andre Ward are converted orthodox fighters like Cotto, while Marvin Hagler and Manny Pacquiao are converted southpaws; go figure.
Not only is Cotto’s jab strong and precise, but his ability to place his jab on opponents at the right time and place is because of great instincts and timing.
Superior timing allows a fighter to be effective despite physical speed disadvantages when pitted against a quicker opponent.
The instinctive rhythm, the instinct itself is an equalizer against speed demons. This equalizer enabled Cotto to remain competitive against Mayweather when they fought in 2012. Cotto jab and innate level of timing assisted his efforts against Malignaggi, Judah and Shane Mosley as well.
Aside from Cotto’s technical prowess – highlighted by the aforementioned left hook to the body, potent jab and combination punching, his vulnerability as a fighter endeared him to fans.
Several times throughout the course of his career he was rocked, visibly stunned with birds chirpin, yet he managed to not only survive the onslaught but dished out his get-back in return.
Check his fights against Ricardo Torres, DeMarcus Corley, Joshua Clottey, Mosley, Judah and most recently against Ali if you want to view examples of determination and courage.
Along with being one of the icons of boxing along with Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao during the 2000’s and extending into the 2010’s, Cotto in particular carried Puerto Rico on his back. Much like another Hall of Famer, Felix “Tito” Trinidad.
Not easy foot steps to follow and while not possessing the same level of national admiration amongst the Puerto Rican population, Cotto still carried the country on his back with the departure of Trinidad and did so with class. He also represented well for the Nuyoricans; fighting in New York thirteen times.
“Thank you for supporting me at every opportunity,” Cotto told his fans. “I’m so glad to call Madison Square Garden my home.”
Cotto finishes with a record of 41-6 (33 KO’s) and is a six time world champion across four weight classes. He holds the distinction as the only Puerto Rican fighter with world titles across four weight divisions.
Cotto has a record of 19-5 (16 KO’s) in world title fights, along with a record of 16-5 (12 KO’s) against world titlists.
Cotto defeated the likes of Carlos Maussa, Lovemore N’dou, Randall Bailey, DeMarcus Corley, Ricardo Torres, Paul Malignaggi, Carlos Quintana, Zab Judah, Shane Mosley, Joshua Clottey, Yuri Foreman, Ricardo Mayorga, Antonio Margarito, Sergio Gabriel Martinez and Daniel Geale.
He suffered defeats against Antonio Margarito, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Austin Trout, Saul Alvarez and Sadam Ali. (There could be an asterisk with some of the listed defeats).
Against Margarito, his opponent may have used illegal “Plaster of Paris,” hand wraps which harden when wet and turns into a hard brick-like substance.
Against Pacquiao, Cotto endured the turmoil of a tumultuous relationship with his trainer/uncle and was forced to engage Pacquiao at a catch-weight of 145 lbs. to even enter the fight with the distinction as a champion. Who know what mental and physical effects that had on the fight?
Those two encounters alone showcase the future Hall of Famer battling a cheater (Margarito) and combating preferential treatment from his own promoter at the time Bob Arum.
It should be noted Freddie Roach, Nacho Beristain, among other trainers believe Cotto prevailed over Alvarez.
“Cotto, from two years ago began to become a rare phenomenon, a Mexican boxing idol. Many people spoke very well of him, after he won the fight against Canelo Alvarez and [the judges] gave it to Canelo. He’s an idol in Mexican boxing, I’m going to miss him, as I miss all the great boxers, he’s an excellent boxer, with a very refined style,” Beristain said.
Win or loss, Cotto defined what the sport should be about and his contributions will not be forgotten. Enjoy retirement.
Peace to the King representing Caguas, Puerto Rico.
Original Gangster: Antandil Khurtsidze Arrested In Organized Crime Roundup
Original Gangster: Antandil Khurtsidze Arrested In Organized Crime Roundup
By: Sean Crose
Okay, I admit that title is a bit disingenuous. The truth is that here in the United States of America, one is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Therefore, middleweight Antandil Khurtsidze, who was arrested on Wednesday in a roundup of people reputedly connected to what the United States’ Attorney of the Southern District of New York referred to as “a Russian and Georgian Criminal Enterprise,” has done nothing wrong in the eyes of society. Still, the man is now up on charges and his upcoming title bout with Billy Joe Saunders is at least temporarily kaput. That does not constitute a good day.
Specifically, Khurtsidze, a 33-2-2 product of the nation of Georgia who now lives in Brooklyn, is standing accused of conspiring to commit wire fraud and with breaking the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) Act. If convicted, the man can face decades in prison, be fined a ton of money and eventually end up under supervised release. The group Khurtsidze is reputedly connected to is known as the Shulaya Enterprise, a Russian/Georgian crime syndicate led by one Razhden Shulaya.
Among the Enterprise’s alleged operations are: illegal poker establishments in Brighton Beach, the extortion of gamblers and business owners, the attempted high tech defrauding of casinos, the theft of 10,000 pounds of chocolate (it’s true), the theft of other cargo shipments, the employment of a female Enterprise member to lure in and rob unsuspecting males (after rendering the victim’s unconscious with gas), the movement of untaxed cigarettes, the intention to open an after hours club (where, among other things, illegal narcotics would be sold), plans to bribe law enforcement, and forgery. With an assortment of charges, such as a “murder for hire conspiracy” and “conspiracy to sell firearms to a felon” lodged against its members, the Shulaya Enterprise appears to be quite a fearsome group – at least on paper.
All of this, of course, leaves middleweight titlist Billy Joe Saunders high and dry. He and Khurtsidze were supposed to fight in England this July. Now that his opponent has far more pressing things to attend to, Saunders will have to wait for another opportunity to fight. This, of course, only adds to the strangeness of Saunders’ title reign, which has consisted of twitter rants, long periods of time outside the ring and a ho-hum performance against Artur Akavov last December.
Still, Saunders’ future looks to be far brighter than Khurtsidze’s is at the moment. Sometimes it’s good to put everything in perspective.
Three Philly Area Latino’s With Bright Futures!
Three Philly Area Latino’s With Bright Futures!
By: Ken Hissner
At a recent Peltz Boxing and BAM Boxing Promotions show on December 2nd appeared a pair of outstanding Latino prospects at the 2300 Arena making their professional debuts. They actually stole the show in this writer’s opinion.
From Allentown, PA, the 17 year-old super featherweight Joseph “Blessed Hands” Adorno, 1-0 (1), made his debut that night stopping Guy Newman, 0-1 (0), of Lynchburg, VA, at 1:47 of the first round. He is co-managed and co-trained by his father Anibal and well known west coast trainer Robert Garcia while being promoted by Top Rank. That is some resume in itself! Garcia said “My son, Robert, Jr., told me about this kid. Some of my friends from An Antonio had seen him fight in the Junior Olympics and they told my son, ‘You’ve got to check out this kid, Joseph Adorno.”
Top Rank’s Lee Samuels supplied the following as the promoter of Adorno: Most of the kids I manage and train are Mexican or Mexican-American, and Robert told me this kid is Puerto Rican. We’re not too familiar with their culture but I said, ‘Let’s check him out.’ Robert showed me some videos, and man, this kids got that Mexican style!
I told Robert, ‘You’ve got to start reaching out to him and see if they want to meet us.’ The kid and his dad were very happy that we reached out to them. I was in San Antonio a few months ago and I met them there. I flew them in and met his mom and dad, and it started there. I’m Joseph’s co-manager and co-trainer with his dad.
“We brought him to my gym in Riverside and he sparred. He did really good. The Top Rank matchmakers, Bruce Trampler and Brad Goodman, saw Joseph spar and said that he looks like a young Miguel Cotto – you know, coming forward, side-to-side, with a beautiful left hook to the body. Man, that’s a good compliment!
“He’s got a bright future – he’s dedicated. His father is with him 24/7, and they’re humble, down-to-earth. The plan is for him to finish high school first. He’ll graduate next June. Once he graduates, we’ll do our training camps at my gym in Riverside, California.”
Joseph said, “I got to know Robert Garcia through Instagram. It was this last summer, around June, July. I post a lot of videos and stuff, like every day that I train. I guess Robert’s son seen it and was like, ‘Yo dad, look at this!’ They got on Instagram and started talking to me and we met up.”
“I went to Robert’s gym and sparred. I was there for a week. At home, I train at the Allentown International Gym. I can do it all in the ring, but my main plan is to stay calm, use my jab and a lot of hard combinations. If I have to box, I box. If I have to go get the fight, I go get the fight,” said Adorno.
“Robert Garcia is going to be in my corner with my dad. It’s going to be a great experience – something we’ve never had in the corner. They used to call me ‘Kid Sensation’ until I was 15. But now my name is ‘Blessed Hands.’”
On his amateur, personal background Joseph said, “I was born in Union City, NJ, but at age one I was raised in Puerto Rico moving to Allentown at 10. I have four brothers and one sister. I’m the oldest, then it’s my little brother Jeremy – he’s 15, he boxes. Then my other little brother is 10, he boxes, too. His name is Jayion.”
Adorno had 200 amateur fights – 178 wins and 22 losses with 65 knockouts. His experience started back in 2012 at the Ringside World’s in Kansas City, MO, a 110 pounder in the 13-14 year-old division and was the Gold Medalist. In the same tournament in 2014 he was the Silver Medalist. In the 2015 USA Junior National’s in Reno at 125 pounds he was a Bronze Medalist. Also that year he won the Eastern PA Silver Gloves at 132 pounds. Also the Junior Olympic and Prep Nationals in Charleston, W.V. at 125 pounds he won the Gold medal. In 2016 he won the PA Golden gloves in Harrisburg, PA. At the Nationals in Salt Lake City, UT, he was a Bronze Medalist.
Adorno is scheduled to fight February 3rd in San Juan, PR, and March 10th at the 2300 Arena in South Philly for promoter’s Peltz Boxing and BAM Boxing.
One of the other boxers who debuted at the same night was Victor Padilla, 1-0 (1), from Puerto Rico, now living in Berlin, NJ, and is 18 and a lightweight. He stopped Kimmy St. Pierre, 1-2, from Quebec, CAN, at 0:59 of the second round. He is trained by Raul “Chino” Rivas who also trains WBA super featherweight champion Jason Sosa.Rivas is very high on Padilla. He is scheduled to fight March 10th at
2300 Arena in South Philly for promoter’s Peltz Boxing and BAM Boxing.
Out of Philadelphiais 17 year-old Branden Pizarro, 2-0 (1),a lightweight who is trained by his father Angel at Frank Kuback’s Front Street Gym in North Philadelphia.
Branden said “my dad, got me into the sport of boxing. My older brother Angel fought and I had some cousins who also boxed, so I quickly became interested in boxing.” It was not all good for Branden, as he started his amateur career at 0-5, but he stuck with it and his talents soared. The speed and power was there for him and he began to run rampant through the ranks of national and international competitions. He eventually earned the number one rating at 141 pounds in the youth men’s division. The championships and awards came quickly. He won the Ringside tournament four straight years. In 2015 he was Junior Olympic Silver Medalist and Silver Medalist at US Junior Nationalists. The talented Philadelphian recently captured the Gold Medal at the Junior Olympics in July. He was slated to compete with Team USA at the world tournament in Russia, but decided the time to turn professional and felt that Hard Hitting Promotions was just the perfect fit. He finished his amateur career at 65-.
Branden turned professional on October 28th at the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia knocking out Ezeqiuel Occasion in 0:39 of the first round. In his second bout on December 16th at the same facility he won a shutout four round decision over Jesus Lule, 9-19-1, who has been in with very tough competition. The skies the limit for Branden, who has all the talent and dedication to reach the highest levels of the sport.Hard Hitting Promotions with Manny Rivera and Will Ruiz have promoted Branden’s fights.He is scheduled on February 3rd to return to the SugarHouse Casino in Philly.
The third Latino is Puerto Rico’s 18 year-old southpaw Victor “The Bull” Padilla, 1-0 (1), out of Berlin, NJ, at lightweight. He made his debut on the same card as Adorno in December. He scored a knockout at 0:59 of the second round. He is scheduled to fight in Philly at the SugarHouse Casino,on February 3rd and at the 2300 Arena in Philly March 10th. He trains out of Dream Team Boxing Academy in Runnemede,NJ, under the guidance of manager/trainer Raul “Chino” Rivaswho owns the gym and who is very high on Padilla. “I also train (WBA Super featherweight champion) Jason “El Canito” Sosa and (WBC No. 3 contender) Tevin “American Idol” Farmer.Them and Victor are teammates, and we’re all like family,” said Rivas.
“I’ve been training Victor since he was 15. He’s been living with me in Berlin, NJ, since he turned 18 in November. He was living with his mother in Camden before that, but she didn’t want him to stay there,” said Rivas. Padilla was born in Vieques, PR, and was adopted when he was one year-old. He and his mother moved to Camden when he was 14. “My adoptive dad used to box amateur, but he never turned pro. All of my brothers boxed, too, but I was the only one that stuck with it,” said Padilla.
In 2016 Padilla was the Gold Medalist in the Bert Sugar Title Belt National Championships, in Columbus, GA, at 141. From there he went to Kissimmee, FL, and was Gold Medalist, won “Outstanding Boxer Award”. “They’re new and are sanctioned by USA Boxing. There were over 400 kids there – they’re bigger than the Golden Gloves Nationals,” said Rivas. Padilla fought amateur in PR before coming to the US. “I had close to 100 amateur fights, with five losses. I boxed every weekend, but since I was so young I didn’t do big tournaments until later,” said Padilla.
While Rivas was out of the country with Sosa Padilla fought in the 2016 U.S. Youth National Championships, in Reno, NV, at 132, on January 15th, 2016. In his first bout he defeated Pedro Cruz by 3-0. In his second bout he lost by walkover because he didn’t make weight to Adan Ochoa. In the 2015 National Golden Gloves Championships, in Las Vegas, NV, May 12th he lost to Malik Montgomery at 132. “I’m naturally righthanded, but when I started boxing it was just more comfortable to fight left handed. It was a lot easier,” said Padilla.
These are three highly talented Latino boxers who have a big fan base appearing at their fights. They are a promoters dream with so many Puerto Ricans filling up the arenas in Philly.
Lopez Stops Vazquez in the “War in Clemente”
Lopez Stops Vazquez in the “War in Clemente”
By: Eric Lunger
The Roberto Clemente Coliseum in San Juan has hosted a long parade of famous Puerto Rican boxers. On Saturday night, in a fight billed as the “War in Clemente,” two favorite sons of the island clashed in a bitter non-title bout, at a 129 lbs. catch weight.
Wilfredo Vazquez, Jr. (26-6-1, 19 KO’s) is a ten year pro who skipped the amateurs to begin professional boxing under the tutelage of his father, himself a storied fighter and three division WBA world champion. Wilfredo Jr. won the WBO world title at junior featherweight in February of 2010, knocking out an undefeated Marvin Sonsona. After one successful defense, he lost the belt to Ivan Hernandez (26-4-1) in October of the same year. Vazquez had mixed results since then, coming into Saturday night’s bout with three losses in his last five, most recently a split decision loss last December to Rafael Rivera (20-0-2).
Like Vazquez, Juan Manuel Lopez (34-5, 31 KO’s) won a WBO title in 2010, defeating Bernabe Concepcion (29-3-1) by TKO in the second to gain the feather weight belt. Lopez has some tough losses on his record, albeit to quality opponents. His most recent fight was more than two years ago, in which he suffered a violent second round knock out at the hands of Jesus Cuellar (24-1). A southpaw, Lopez possesses an excellent defense and a surprisingly powerful and quick straight right. After a lay off of 25 months, this was essentially an out-of-retirement fight for Lopez.
The evening began with what can only be described as a farcical undercard. There were two KO’s within 25 seconds. One bout featured an aging veteran who was showboating for the crowd so ostentatiously that the referee had to issue a warning. The light heavyweight bout was so mismatched that I found myself just hoping no one would get badly hurt.
But, occasionally, it is good to sit through a bad undercard because it highlights, like no other way possible, the training and technical skill of elite level fighters. When Vazquez and Lopez answered the bell, you could plainly see that these were former world champions for a reason. And especially striking is the defense of fighters of this caliber – it is just so hard to even touch them.
At any rate, when Vazquez came out in the first round with speed, fast footwork, and a flicking jab, I thought he was miles ahead of Lopez, whose ring rust was evident. With Vazquez apparently ready to box from the outside, Lopez looked lumbering and out of synch. Vazquez won the first two rounds and looked very much in control, but in the third, Lopez began to land his lead left and this gave him confidence to come forward more and more, forcing Vazquez to fight off his back foot.
The middle rounds were very close and difficult to score. In the fifth, Lopez appeared to wobble Vazquez, who briefly struggled to control his legs. Either Lopez saw something the fans did not, or he decided to retreat into his patient game plan, but Lopez did not go for a KO at this point. Vazquez recovered and the round ended.
In the sixth and seventh rounds, both fighters began to work the body, and each gave and received a couple of low blows. The ninth round was high theatre: Vazquez landed a good right counter, but couldn’t hurt Lopez. Lopez responded with lead lefts to Vazquez’s midsection, trying to set up his straight right. There were some vigorous exchanges in the middle of the ring that brought the Roberto Clemente crowd roaring to their feet.
Round ten saw Vazquez attempt to revive his jab, but both fighters took a step back, a breather really, in this round. In the eleventh, Lopez came to life, now finding his jab and landing through Vazquez’s guard. Suddenly, and almost unexpectedly, Lopez trapped Vazquez in the corner and launched a sustained flurry of hooks, catching Vazquez and dropping him into the ropes and onto the canvas. The referee had seen enough, and did not administer a count.
Unfortunately, the end was marred by a chaotic and ugly scene, as one of Vazquez’s corner men managed to taunt Lopez into exchanging blows with him; beer cups and jeers rained into the ring as it filled with various persons attempting to impose order. The donnybrook finally resolved itself with both boxers hugging and talking to each other animatedly, and even Vazquez’s father was seen embracing a tearful Lopez. A moment of high emotion, indeed.
The post fight mayhem ought not overshadow the bout itself. It was a highly technical but exciting display by two elite level fighters. Both men showed a fierce will to win, mixed with tactical patience and determination. In a month marked by a dearth of boxing action, Vazquez and Lopez showed why boxing is a sport like no other.
Dichotomy of Light and Dark
Dichotomy of Light and Dark
By: James Cullinane
On Saturday night, June 11th, at promptly 6 p.m., Orlando-based boxer, Jean Carlos Rivera, made his Madison Square Garden boxing debut.
Rivera’s was the first bout on a busy Garden card that night, a card headlined by up-and-coming superstar, Vasyl Lomachenko. As is the norm when bigger names than yours are on the marquee, there were more empty seats than not at the opening bell. For the lucky few that were in attendance, and those, like myself, watching the live stream on TopRank.tv, Rivera rewarded our patronage with something special.
An undefeated, Puerto Rican, boxing prospect, Rivera began the six-rounder by establishing a lightning fast jab to keep his opponent off balance. As the rounds progressed, Rivera’s boxing skills were on full display, culminating in a thunderous, right that dropped his opponent thirty seconds into the final round. The dazed opponent valiantly rose to his feet to beat the count, but Rivera calmly stalked him into the ropes, landing several more hard blows before the referee mercifully waved the fight off.
It was by far the biggest fight of Rivera’s burgeoning career and, to date, his best. He dominated from start to finish, displaying the skill and strength that have those in the know whispering of a future world champion, some even comparing him to a young, Miguel Cotto.
As one who trains at the same Orlando boxing gym with Rivera, I went to bed Saturday night thrilled about his victory, thrilled about his future and eager to talk with him in the gym next week when he would officially put New York behind him and begin training for his next fight.
When I woke early Sunday morning, my joy for Rivera was shattered, replaced with unmitigated sadness as I began hearing about the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub; a sadness that morphed into numbed emptiness as the scope of the horrific event gradually came into focus.
Even as I sit here now, a full day and a half after this unfathomable tragedy, my mind is overwhelmed. I find myself thinking how terrified those clubgoers must have been once they realized what was happening. I think about the victims – the dead, the wounded, the traumatized survivors who fled for their lives. I think about the friends and families, unable to even remotely imagine their pain.
What I want to think about is Rivera’s debut in Madison Square Garden, how he felt stepping into that famed venue where the shadows of so many boxing greats still linger. I want to think about his future and how his dedication and devotion to the craft of boxing, the hours of training he puts in every day, is finally beginning to pay off. I want to contrast the darkness that has fallen over my city with the brightness of a young, Latino man who is doing things the right way to build a better life for himself and his family; a young man who one day will make all Orlandoans proud.
But I can’t do that right now. The sadness. The madness. It is too overwhelming; too senseless. For now, the darkness is stronger than the light.