By Phil Doherty
Photos by Sam Cohen
The Heavyweight Factory gym in Hollywood Florida moves to the center of the boxing universe this week. WBA super welterweight champion Miguel Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs) reunited with Hall of Fame trainer Emmanuel Steward at the gym this afternoon. Cotto makes his first title defense against Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga (29-7-1, 23 KOs) on March 12th in Las Vegas on a Showtime PPV card. The Klitschko brothers are expected to join Steward at the gym later this week in preparation for their own title defenses.
Simultaneously, rising undefeated welterweight Brad “The King” Solomon (16-0, 7 KOs) worked out hard with head trainer John David Jackson in preparation for his WBA International defense against Demetrius “The Gladiator” Hopkins (30-1-1, 11 KOs). This will be Solomon’s 4th title defense and highlights his return to ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights” on March 18th at the Seminole Hard Rock casino.
Cotto spent time working the mitts with Steward, who kept the Puerto Rican superstar focused on balance and footwork. This is their second training camp together and the rapport between them seems completely relaxed and natural. Steward confessed to Fightnews: “There are two things about Miguel that just blow me away. The first is his popularity. I just never realized how much people love him; even after those two tough losses he comes back to get the highest-rated fight with (Yuri) Foreman. It’s incredible.”
“A lot of people forget Foreman is the same guy Pacquiao and Roach wouldn’t fight because he was too tall and too fast. The other thing is Miguel’s relaxed, cool demeanor. Before the Foreman fight, I was a nervous wreck. Miguel was listening to his salsa music, kissing his mom and playing with his kids.”
When asked for the gameplan versus Mayorga, Steward confided:”The way to beat Mayorga is to outbox him, find an effective distance and make him miss. We’ll have to go into the fight using smart boxing and punching power. We never go into a fight with the mindset that it’s an easy fight. Miguel is going in with the mentality to box smart.”
Brad Solomon also worked hand mitts with his trainer, followed by heavybag and speedbag rounds. He added some strenuous work on his abdominals followed by stretching. Solomon then observed trainer John David Jackson working with local heavyweight Erik “The Viking” Leander (9-1, 6 KOs). When lightheartedly asked if he was breaking down his hulking Heavyweight Factory stable mate’s style for a possible in-gym showdown, Solomon grinned and replied “nah, he would break me down with his size.”
But you get the impression he would if he could. Solomon is a true gym rat in the best sense of the word. Prior to his first sparring day yesterday, Solomon ran 10 miles. Next, “The King” sparred 8 hard rounds followed by bag work and core exercises. Heavyweight Factory boxing director Henry Rivalta confirms:”Brad’s like a runaway freight train when it comes to training. He’s the Energizer Bunny, he never stops.”
Another thing that never stops is the championship talent on display at this powerhouse gym on Lucky St.