By Phil Doherty
Photos by Sam Cohen
The rumors of Miguel Cotto’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. Many conversations about recent Puerto Rican boxing champions commonly revolve around predecessor Felix “Tito” Trinidad and rising star Juan Manuel Lopez. That seems appropriate given their similar outgoing, media-friendly personalities. However, Cotto may well be the toughest fighter in that group.
Adversity defines champions-especially within the lonely confines of the squared circle. Trinidad reacted to his first professional loss (a 12th round TKO to Bernard Hopkins) by leaving the sport for almost 3 years (with the exception of a tune-up against Hacine Cherifi). He left again following his second defeat (unanimous decision to Winky Wright) for a similar length of time. He appears to have retired for good following his third loss (UD to Roy Jones Jr.) in January, 2008.
Lopez found himself precariously close to defeat and basically out on his feet against rugged Tanzanian veteran Rogers Mtagwa. Although he literally held on for victory, it remains to be seen how he deals with his first loss if and when that eventuality occurs.
Cotto, by contrast, returned to the ring following the savage (probably illegal) beating he received against Antonio Margarito to claim the vacant WBO welterweight crown 7 months later by TKO victory over England’s Michael Jennings.
He responded to his brutal loss to Manny Pacquiao by moving up in weight to take the WBA light middleweight title from Yuri Foreman in Yankee Stadium. He also overcame the personal pain of a bitter and somewhat violent split with longtime trainer and uncle, Evangelista Cotto and the recent death of beloved father, Miguel Sr.
These do not appear to be symptoms of a declining fighter.
If you want to describe him, perhaps you could say Cotto is a fearless warrior abiding by a credo uttered by Winston Churchill: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”
Fightnews caught up with him at Kris Lawrence’s Heavyweight Factory Gym in Hollywood recently as he prepares to face Ricardo Mayorga in Las Vegas on March 12th. Heavyweight Factory boxing director Henry Rivalta graciously asked Cotto to speak with us.
Miguel, thanks for taking the time, we know you’re busy. Welcome back to South Florida. You’ve trained here before at Punch Fitness…
In Deerfield Beach.
Right, you’re now at the Heavyweight Factory. How do you like it here; are they taking good care of you?
Yes, it’s a good gym, very big. We feel very comfortable here.
What advantage do you find training in South Florida as opposed to Puerto Rico?
Well, the weather is similar to Puerto Rico… not now, I like the weather and when summer comes around it’s very similar.
You’re fighting Ricardo Mayorga, who’s wild with his punches; he’s wild with his mouth. How are you going to deal with that?
Outside the ring, he can talk whatever he wants, you know? Inside the ring, I’m going to do my work. Train the best, the hardest while I’m here at the Heavyweight Factory and on March 12th I am going to win the fight.
Miguel, your pride and your professionalism is exceptional throughout your career. Where do you find that calmness, that peace?
I think the way my parents raised me was everything to make me the person I am today.
What was your proudest moment in the ring?
I’ve enjoyed my whole career as an amateur boxer; as a professional boxer. I enjoyed every kind of step I made in my career. Everything is big.
And what about outside the ring?
You know, I try to be a normal person outside the ring. Try to enjoy my kids a lot. (Smiles)
It seems you’re on a collision course again with Margarito. You once said you weren’t going to have him make money off of you again. What is it that made you change your mind?
You know, I think with the way boxing is right now there are few big names to present a good fight. Margarito is one of them.
Manny Pacquiao said that of all his fights, that your fight was the toughest for him. What would you do differently if you were to ever face him again?
Well, you know I have a new trainer, Emmanuel Steward. I know with all his instruction and boxing knowledge, we would have a better fight and we would win the fight.
Finally Miguel, many writers have said that your skill is diminished because of the loss to Margarito and the loss to Pacquiao. I know you’ve heard this so many times, but what would you say to people who say: “the Miguel Cotto today is not as good as the Miguel Cotto two years ago”?
People like to talk a lot. It’s easy to be outside the ring writing but inside the ring is crazy. The last two years I’ve faced the best boxers in boxing. That’s the reason I’ve got two losses and close decision victories. Because the skills of my opponents are similar to mine.
Because you’ve put yourself against the top?
Perfect, thanks Miguel.