It seems a lifetime ago since the Puerto Rico boxer Miguel Angel Cotto campaigned at light-welterweight. There has been many a tough fight for Cotto since then, Cotto has consistently been in the most exciting, brutal and most competitive fights in boxing’s hardest divisions. His roll call of opponents is second to none – Manny Pacquiao, Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito and Zab Judah to name but a few. There have been brutal wars, fights with controversy, fights with drama, bloodshed, but at all times its been exciting.
Cotto had a lot to live up to right from the start – for a boxer hailing from Puerto Rico you have to not only face your opponent across the ring, you have to face the legends that have gone before you – Wilfredo Gomez and Felix Trinidad and many more are icons of the fight game in Puerto Rico, where boxing is the national sport. Trinidad’s departure from the limelight just as Cotto began to emerge as a force on the world stage didn’t make it easy for this future 2 time world champion to shine. Cotto could be awkward at times – not always effusive in interviews, here was a fighter that truly preferred to let his fists do the talking. For a public used to the quick smile of Trinidad, that was a slow journey to take Cotto into their hearts in the same way. Cotto has only really emerged as a superstar from his appearances in HBO’s wonderful 24/7 documentary for his fight with Pacquiao.
Despite his later popularity Cotto has often found himself in tough spots throughout his career. Antonio Margarito inflicted a terrible beating on Cotto in their fight – this at the time seemed to shatter the image of the indestructible Cotto. However in his next fight Margarito was caught with illegal padding (plaster of paris lumps) on his hands, suddenly Cotto’s loss was forgiven. In that fight Cotto had led the scorecards in the first half of the fight, before Margarito’s seemingly enormous strength disfigured Cotto to the point where he took a knee in submission. Taking that knee in submission is a damaging thing in boxing. Suddenly Cotto found himself vindicated – if muted – Top Rank his promotional company also promote Margarito so he was unlikely to publically discredit his stablemate even after Margarito was suspended for a year.
Enter in the era of Cotto the wronged fighter, tainted after Margarito’s beating, excussed but still potentially damaged goods. Cotto did what he’s done all along – take another tough fight and keep on keeping on. Enter fighters like Shane Mosley, fighters still at a peak of sorts and universally avoided by most other fighters. Cotto took him on, walked through fire and came out with a decision victory. It wasnt a walk in the park though. He took easier nights later against trumped-up Contender winner Alfredo Gomez and others but he kept on fighting. Then came Pacquiao.
Cotto at the weigh in for his fight with Manny Pacquiao
Pacquiao brings the mega-fight. He brings HBO money too. Cotto was competitive at first despite being robbed of raining champions right to have the fight at his weight and having his belt on the line. It was clear that Pacquiao was calling the shots – demands of $1 million for every pound that Cotto came in over the agreed weight was publicied when the deal was signed. Boiled down to 145 pounds (welterweight being 147) Cotto somehow looked the smaller man to Pacquiao and as the rounds went by he began to be broken down by the sheer aggressive brilliance of Pacquiao. On the way to be stopped on a TKO defeat in the 12th round Cotto showed plenty of guts, he didn’t quit but he took a beating.
His next fight against Yuri Foreman is up a weight at 154 pounds – super welterweight, so the assumption inside the Cotto camp must be that he can’t boil down to the same fighter at welterweight or below. Foreman is a WBA world champion and regarded as an awkward customer. He has never been in a war though, doesn’t have a career of competitive tough fights against him. Will years of the experience be Cotto’s edge or his undoing? We will find out on June 6th when Cotto Foreman collide at Yankee Stadium.
Antonio Margarito training for his comeback fight
Former world champion Antonio Margarito returns to ring in Aguascalientes, Mexico this coming weekend, after a crushing technical knockout defeat and a years suspension respectively. Margarito was once the man to be avoided in the welterweight division – a massive brawling, Mexican tough guy that broke his opponents down with seemingly endless brute strength. Margarito was dodged shamefully by the ruling elite in the welterweight division – you never heard Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao calling him out for a fight.
Handwraps changed everything though – a few months after his astonishing, violent beat down of Miguel Cotto, Margarito faced off against modern legend Sugar Shane Mosley. Once again Mosley seemed willing to fight just about anyone for a pay-day, there were few pundits or fans alike that were picking him to be anything other than cannon fodder for Margarito though. Before the fight however, in Margarito’s dressing room, Shane Mosley’s trainer Nasim Richardson noticed something was wrong. It was the handwraps. More accurately its was what fell out of the handwraps onto the floor that caused concern – lumps of hardening plaster. Furore broke out – the plaster lumps were seized by the boxing commission, and Margarito entered the ring after having his hands re-wrapped three times.
The rest as they say is history. The man who entered the ring against Mosley was a shell of his former ring self. He was battered in brutal fashion, and knocked out in nine rounds. Mosley had vindicated himself as a reborn fighter and Margarito’s myth was shattered. That was just the start of it. Margarito was eventually banned from boxing for a year – a paltry sentence to my mind as the beating Cotto took and the disfigured, swollen face he was left with at the end of that fight pointed strongly to the likelihood of Margarito using illegal padding in his previous fights. Illegal padding of gloves is about as reprehensible as its gets – the risk fighters undertake entering the ring is bad enough without loaded gloves being added into the mix.
The questions around Margarito’s comeback abound – should be allowed to return so soon if at all? How much talent and skill does he really have without loaded gloves? Should he be allowed to return so easily into world championship level in potentially big fights in the future?
If he wins on Saturday I am not convinced we will have any of the answers – the ten round fight is nothing more than a trumped-up warm up to bigger things down the line. The Mexican fans have welcomed their countryman back with open arms, but whether mainstream American fans and TV networks will do the same remains to be seen.
There has been an awful lot written about Ricky the hitman Hatton, but you will have to forgive me for adding to that mass of words with a few carefully chosen musings on why we should cherish the Hitman and not knock him.
Few modern fighters and especially British ones have captured the imagination of the public in quite the way Hatton has.
How did he achieve this?
The answer is to take the reader on a journey through a special type of boxer – to be more specific not just a boxer but a fighter. Hatton’s style is not polished or even defensively minded, Hatton is a brawler, a relentless, come forward, swarming, non stop killer. His boxing skills however are actually excellent – many a tough night he ground out a win against often bigger opponents (Juan Urango, Luis Collazo) using beautiful footwork and every ounce of the sweet science.
Pride in Battle
What won the fans heart though was his aggression – Hatton comes to fight, not to dance and avoid the action. You know what to expect from Hatton – he comes to take the other guy out – whether that’s one round or twelve. His often quoted comment that “it’s not a tickling contest” is a perfect description of this and Hatton’s unique personality.
Hattons personality saw him crossover from boxing star to British superstar – he is a man of the people, devoid of airs and graces and the trappings of fame. He is happy in his own skin, amongst his homeland of Hyde near Manchester. His sense of humour and wise cracking jokes won the British public over long before HBO’s excellent fly on the wall documentary 24/7 opened the flood gates up for the American fans to follow.
A special night - Ricky Hatton vs. Kostya Tszyu
I will personally remember a night at the MEN arena in Manchester where Hatton took the fight to Kostya Tzysu. He walked through fire that night – taking shots that could have dispatched tree trunks. He took it all and burst off his stool at the beginning of each round like he couldn’t wait to get back in there. It was perhaps the peak performance of Hatton’s so far.
So to the future – one foot in and one foot out of retirement. Two losses to the greatest fighters of his generation. I feel Hatton could do it all again – Erik Morales has shown the desire to lose 50 pounds of flab and come back taking shots and firing more back just this last weekend. For now I will just savour the fights he’s had and for me that’s enough for now!
Many boxers exist on the periphery of fame and fortune, while their peers take easy fights against hand-picked opponents and hog the lime light.
True talent has a way of shining through though and Juan Manuel Marquez with blood, sweat and an iron will, has forced himself to the top of the pile and into most pundits Pound for Pound lists.
There were some shocking injustices along the way though – dodged by Prince Naseem Hamed for 22 straight fights when Marquez was his mandatory challenger, robbed of victories on score cards in his two fights with Manny Pacquiao (who has since avoided a third instalment of their saga like the plague).
It was those two fights with Pacquiao that perversely opened Marquez up to a wider audience. No one before or since has caused so many problems for Pacquiao. Marquez was knocked down three times in the opening round of their first fight and dragged himself off the canvas to fight back to a draw! That’s a phenomenal accomplishment. In their second fight Marquez was robbed by the Vegas judges – shamefully in my opinion.
A third fight with Pacquiao coming?
While Pacquiao went on to become the biggest name in boxing, Marquez went back to what he knows best – tough fights against hard opposition. Marquez has brought something new to the table at this stage of his career – the knockout finish. In my previous post on the uppercut punch I flagged up Marquez’s devastating use of this to close the show on Juan ‘Baby Bull’ Diaz.
Marquez’s last fight against Floyd Mayweather should tell fans more about his desire to face the best regardless of seemingly monumental advantages given to his opponents – Marquez was moving up 2 full weight classes to challenge Mayweather - who flouted the 145 pound catchweight to gain even more advantage.
Most of the attention in the run up to the fight for Marquez was on his declaration of drinking his own urine while training to ‘preserve nutrients’. While that would not be my choice of post workout beverage…each to their own I suppose! Mayweather recorded a wide points victory in that fight and watching I wonder whether Marquez had simply bitten off more than he could chew – Mayweather looked enormous next to him.
- The infamous urine ‘therapy’
Dinamita’s future is still to be decided – he is the current WBO and WBA world lightweight champion, rumors abound that he is poised to move up to light welterweight to chase Pacquiao once again for another fight. I hope he succeeds in securing that fight. Whatever happens Marquez is a one of the best boxers walking the earth today – a true ring general and a Mexican legend in the making.
What more can you ask for?