Boxing superstars don’t come much better than Manny Pacquiao, and there is no finer place to see why than in American television giant HBO’s latest highlight selection – see Hatton, De le Hoya and Cotto amongst others defeated by force of nature that is Pacman.
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.
Having been born above a boxing gym in Tijuana Mexico and boxing from the age of 5, it would never be easy for Erik “El Terrible” Morales to walk away from boxing.
On March 27th Morales will end his two and a half-year retirement and make his long rumored return to the ring. It’s a comeback that begs the question why? How much does Morales have left to prove after his part in two of the best trilogies in boxing history – against Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera? Without another paid punch in his life he would surely be a guaranteed fixture in the boxing hall of fame.
The prospect of possibly being the only Mexican fighter to win a world title in four separate weight classes is definitely a temptation. Morales old rival Barrera has already had his ambitions on that crusade cruelly stopped by Britain’s chinny wonder Amir Khan. A fourth fight with the worlds pound for pound best boxer Manny Pacquiao (not to mention the millions of dollars that would come with such a fight) must also appeal. Morales is after all one of the few fighters out there to comprehensively beat Pacquiao – in their first fight, so maybe he thinks he knows something Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton dont?
Could a fourth fight ever happen?
So it seems there are many question marks over El Terrible – not least the weight he has had to shift to get down to 147 pounds.
I hope he succeeds and isn’t annihilated by a far lesser opponent than deserves a win against such a boxing great, but the jury is definitely out on whether he can bring back the glory days once more.
For now lets remember him in his prime – in what HBO has rightly included as one of their ‘Fights of the Decade’ – here in his first of three amazing fights against his bitter Mexican rival Marco Antonio Barrera:
It’s often lamented by fans and pundits alike that there is not enough talent coming through the ranks in boxing. Luckily the hotbed of boxing that is Puerto Rico that has produced fighters like Felix Trinidad, Miguel Cotto and Wilfred Benítez has also given birth to another potential great – Juan Manuel Lopez.
Already a world champion at super bantamweight and now reigning WBO featherweight champion, Juanma is starting to show the signs of greatness that transform a contender to that elite pantheon of great fighters.
His current record stands at 28 wins, 25 by way of knockout and no losses. There have been some coming of age fights along the way though – most notably in his fight with Rogers Mtagwa, where he was forced to fight and tough out a twelve round unanimous decision. That was the kind of fight that can take a young champion out of their winning ways – as things start to go into the later round against an opponent who takes all your shots and doesn’t roll over, but Lopez got through some very shaky moments and kept his cool to do what was necessary to win the fight. Those kind of smarts tend to come in handy in a boxing career.
His conquering of Daniel Ponce De Leon was an early indicator of greatness too – this tough Mexican is well-known for his power and ability to take an opponent out with either hand. Juanma handled the fight brilliantly – have a look at some highlights below:
Posted in boxing
Tagged bantamweight, bob arum, Daniel Ponce De Leon, edwin valero, featherweight, felix trinidad, Juanma, miguel cotto, Puerto Rico, Rogers Mtagwa, top rank, WBO, Wilfred Benítez