From their Tampa-based training camp, WBO welterweight world champion Miguel Cotto’s head trainer Joe Santiago and Cotto’s strength & conditioning coach Phil Landman, along with Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum spoke to reporters yesterday to discuss Cotto’s conditioning and training as he prepares for the biggest and most important fight of his career. Here’s a transcript of what they had to say.
BOB ARUM: I think this call will be very enlightening. Miguel Cotto’s trainer, Joe Santiago is here and Miguel’s strength and conditioning Phil Landman is also here. I have been to both camps and I am so gratified to see two athletes getting themselves in peak condition. I want to see, more than anything else, a great fight on November 14. To have a great fight, you have to have two well-conditioned athletes and that’s what we have here.
JOE SANTIAGO: This has been an excellent camp. We have worked very hard and our objectives have been met every way up to now. Everyone is happy and everyone has done everything that has been expected and we are looking pretty good.
PHIL LANDMAN: For the most part the work has been on the same format as we have done before. We have changed a few things to address what Pacquiao is bringing to the fight. Miguel is looking super good and I am really happy with the work that has been done.
Were you comfortable in the last fight, your first with Miguel, when there was trouble in the ring for Miguel?
JOE SANTIAGO: That first time we were very conscious of what we needed to do. It was a team effort and everyone did their part. We all worked hard on what we needed to do. I think the preparation was good and on the night of the fight we were all doing what we were supposed to do. I am very grateful to the Cotto family for having me work on such an important event. This time around I think we are all going to be better for it. It’s a team effort and I think if we all do what we need to do Miguel will be fine and we’ll walk out a winner.
Miguel seems very calm about everything. Does that rub off?
JOE SANTIAGO: I think it was a very smart move by Miguel to move the whole team to Tampa for this fight and for the last fight. We are all in camp and very confident in what we are doing.
Do you think Miguel will have trouble making 145?
PHIL LANDMAN: 147 is Miguel’s natural weight so Miguel has no trouble getting to that weight. I was never with him at 140, but the stories I have heard I think it will just take a little more training for him to get to the weight. He has come in twice at 146 so we have no concern with that.
Joe, have you felt pressure since taking over?
JOE SANTIAGO: I have been around the camp for seven years, so I know how he prepares himself. I know him very well. The confidence that the Cotto family had in me, made me feel good. I know I was well prepared and I know I have the capacity to do this job and I think I just follow along what we’ve done before.
What would a victory mean to the island of Puerto Rico?
JOE SANTIAGO: It is huge. Everybody knows what Pacquiao has done and we know what Miguel is capable of doing. It would not only be huge for me and Miguel, but for everybody in Puerto Rico. It would be a huge win especially with what Pacquiao has done in his last few fights.
When Freddie talks of 1st round knockouts, what do you think?
BOB ARUM: Anything is possible. They fight from the beginning, and anything can happen. Miguel can knock Manny out in the first round and Manny can knock Miguel out in the first round. I don’t think it’s likely and I know that Freddie is a great trainer and he is also a great psychologist. A lot of what Freddie says is to get in camp Cotto’s heads. There is nothing wrong with that. That’s boxing. No one knows what can happen. The fight could go a lot of different ways and that’s why it’s going to be a great fight.
A lot of people think the Margarito fight took a lot out of Miguel and maybe it showed in the Clottey fight…
PHIL LANDMAN: For me, I commend him for coming in and fighting a tough guy like Clottey. Getting a cut like he did in the third round, he never thought about quitting and he toughed it out for twelve rounds and he won the fight. I think you have to look at it from that perspective and give him credit for it.
JOE SANTIAGO: As far as we are concerned, the Margarito fight is over and done with. We are preparing for a new challenge and I see him just as hungry. We always go into win. The confidence when he goes up into the ring – I don’t see that changing. I don’t think many guys would have stood up to Clottey the way he was fighting with the cut and everything. I think you just have to look at the challenge ahead and we are preparing for that.
BOB ARUM: I would like to say that Clottey is one of the best welterweights out there. For Miguel to come back after suffering that cut and to come back and pull out a victory, I think shows that Miguel is back but it also shows an absolutely brilliant performance. I don’t think people give Clottey a lot of credit for being the great fighter that he is. I think people should watch on December 5 on HBO where Joshua is fighting Quintana then you’ll see what a great fighter he is.
After Clottey fight there was talk of some mistakes that Cotto made…
JOE SANTIAGO: Sometimes in the corner we are a little late getting in and getting out and where we should be in between rounds. We had different people going in there and at times it was difficult to work. The way the New York Commission set up was a problem. Overall, it was just a question of how Chavez would get in there and how we want to use him and how we want to work. I think that having Joe Chavez here for most of the training camp is important. We are getting to know him and he is getting to know us and he knows how we work. That is going to be beneficial. There were really no mistakes about the way we wanted to do the fight. I think the strategy was fine. I have known him for seven years and I know they had talked about bringing in well-known trainers but I think the fact that I have known him a long time and he feels comfortable with me gave me an advantage over all those guys. I think it’s just a question of getting everybody on the same page and I think we’ve done that.
JOE SANTIAGO: A few years back before Miguel fought Quintana, a lot of people thought Quintana could beat Miguel and he took a little affront to that, people picking Quintana to beat him. The night of the fight he was so in tune to what he wanted to do, he was so impressive. I think you will see that in him this time. A lot of people are picking Pacquiao to beat him and he is motivated by that. Without question, all the fighters want to be great and all the fighters want to be the best and Miguel has that little extra because the people don’t think he can win this fight. We know he can win this fight and he knows he can win this fight but he’ll have to show everyone what he’s capable of doing against this type of opponent. I think he will come out with a little more fire.
JOE SANTIAGO: I think both guys want to show that they are the best. One is called the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and we know we have the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world in Miguel Cotto and when that night comes and he wins, everyone will know that Puerto Rico does have the best pound-4-pound fighter in the world.
Does Pacquiao struggling against Marquez give him confidence?
JOE SANTIAGO: With all that Pacquiao has done lately you have to be impressed by that. We know what we are capable of doing and Miguel wants to show everyone and that’s why we work so hard in this camp. Different fighters and different things going on…all in know is that Cotto is the first true welterweight that he will have fought in his career that is young and still in his prime so that is what Pacquiao is facing.
Has the cut healed?
JOE SANTIAGO: We were very lucky on the night of the fight that we had two plastic surgeons there at the Garden and they were able to do their job and it came out very nice and we have not seen anything at all that has been wrong with his cut and we have had no issues with it in camp and I don’t think it will be an issue in the fight.
We have 26 days to go to the fight. We are sparring three days a week. We are going to continue doing the same work we have done for the past few weeks. This next week we will work really hard because we will start toning it down the three weeks after that. We will be more intense about what we are doing but we won’t work as long.
JOE SANTIAGO: Right now we are where we want to be weight-wise. He is working hard. There is a certain weight he needs to be on…the commission in Puerto Rico requires that and we are right on there. If you want to know about our strategy, you’ll have to watch the fight on the 14th. That’s when you’ll see everything.
Without a doubt, Miguel has done everything asked of him. It has been hard to accomplish everything we have needed to accomplish. We have a plan that we look at every week that needs to be done and he has been very good at it. We are now looking forward to finishing it off and we look forward to the 14th. On the 13th we will be 145 lbs. no question. On the 14th it is going to be a great night. And on the 15th we are going to celebrate with the country of Puerto Rico.
Has Miguel’s training differed over the past few fights? He seems to be more comfortable in training…
PHIL LANDMAN: A lot of things I have brought to Miguel he had begun to realize the benefits of sticking to it, especially between the fights. We have talked about this before that if he continues in between fights it is easier to get back into a rhythm again. After the Clottey fight, we knew we were going to have something big again before the end of the year. When he came into camp, which he’s done a couple of times before, at weight, with a lot of preparation behind him has definitely helped out. Miguel has wanted a program for when he is out of camp and it has been a big help to us.
Do you think it is a challenge for yourself fighting against a well-known trainer?
JOE SANTIAGO: I don’t look at it that way. I know that he has done a lot in boxing. I have a lot of respect for what Freddie Roach has done. But it has nothing to do with us. It’s the fighters that are going to do the fighting. They are going to do their work and we have our work to do. As long as our guy wins we are going to get recognized for it. Once Miguel wins, they are going to recognize that we have a great corner, a great team. That’s the way I look at it. It has nothing to do with me and Freddie Roach. We are preparing Miguel Cotto to fight many Pacquiao. That’s my job and that’s the way I look at it.
Some people question Manny’s opponents in his last couple of fights. Do you think Miguel is a step up for Manny?
JOE SANTIAGO: I wouldn’t say that Manny’s opponents have not been quality fighters because we know they are. We know Oscar De Le Hoya and we know Ricky Hatton and their careers and that’s the way we look at it. Miguel is obviously at the point of his career when we know he is at his best and he’s going to show everyone that he is at his best. I think many Pacquiao is in for a tough night. Cotto showed in the Clottey fight how much he wants to win and how much it means to him to win. I think that desire is a very important thing to have, to win, and Miguel has it.
How was Miguel able to sustain the high energy in the Clottey fight?
JOE SANTIAGO: We had no doubt about his heart and will to win and he showed that in the Clottey fight. I think in this fight he is going to show you a lot more things. He is going to show you his speed and his strength and how good he can be. I know we have seen him at his best against some other fighters but I truly believe that this is going to be one of his best performances.
PHIL LANDMAN: I think a big part of that was his communication with the team prior to Joe coming in wasn’t all that great. I think with the way things were back then, Miguel wasn’t able to get as much out of the program that he could have. With the communication that I have with Joe…we sit down and we work together. And it s better for this camp and I am really looking forward to the next few weeks to finish up.
Does he need to box and win a decision or does he need to be spectacular and knock out Pacquiao?
JOE SANTIAGO: I think in his career he has shown a willingness to fight anybody and everybody they put in front of him and he beat them all except one. All he has to do is beat Manny Pacquiao to prove he is the best in the world. I fhe does that I don’t see how they can deny him that No. 1 spot.
Clottey was not as busy as Pacquiao will be. Will Miguel be able to match that?
PHIL LANDMAN: I think you should expect to see even more from Miguel for this fight. We have worked on changing many things the way Miguel is as a boxer. We have improved in a lot of areas where he could improve. The most important thing is that he will fight smarter. He will have more strong points than he had before. We have taken a lot of things from the Clottey fight and we built on them for this fight because we know that we are fighting one of the best guys out there. We are coming in well prepared for that in all areas of Miguel’s boxing.
Is the perception that Miguel is bigger and stronger and just as fast?
PHIL LANDMAN: Miguel is Miguel and I’m not going to compare him to Pacquiao. Manny has a lot in his game and Miguel brings a lot of things that Pacquiao doesn’t have. We are working on improving those areas. We are just trying to prepare for a very good fight for an opponent that is very good.
JOE SANTIAGO: I think that Miguel has shown everybody that he can deal with speed, with Mosley and with Zab Judah. I don’t think it is a problem with speed. I think the rhythm that Manny brings to the fight, I don’t think people think Miguel can stay with that speed. But I think he will. I not only think he can stay with the rhythm but I think he will enjoy fighting that kind of fight. I think it will be a very interesting fight and I think Miguel will come out victorious in the fight by just doing what he always does, coming forward, throwing punches and being strong.
Could you differentiate between a boxer’s strength and his knockout power?
PHIL LANDMAN: The best things with Miguel are with his strength and his speed and the work we have done has shown especially since he came up to the welterweight division. We work on things in the gym to improve on his overall power and strength and towards the end of the camp we will focus more on functional stuff, which is funneling that power and speed to work for him in that fight. That, along with conditioning, which I think will contribute to all things coming together to create a better puncher as well as a better boxer.
BOB ARUM: I would like to thank all of you for being on this call as well and Joe, Phil and Ricardo. I would now like to tell you about the card you will expect to see on November 14. It starts with Jesus Sotto-Karass, a top welterweight in the world, fighting Alfonso Gomez, another top welterweight. Then we have a WBA super welterweight title fight between Daniel Santos, the champion from Puerto Rico and No. 1 contender Yuri Foreman of Brooklyn. And finally the last fight on the card prior to the main event Troy Rowland, an excellent middleweight from Grand Rapids with a record of 25 wins and 2 defeats will challenge Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. of Culiacan, Mexico, with a record of 40 wins, no losses and 30 knockouts. It will be a great undercard, and everybody of course is waiting for the fight of the year and maybe the fight of this decade, Miguel Angel Cotto defending his title against pound-for-pound No. 1 in the world, Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines.
BOB ARUM: I spoke to Ross Greenburg and Mark Taffet and they have told me this is probably the best segment ever done on 24/7. It has unbelievable footage from the Philippines which the news programs didn’t get. It shows how devastating the floods were, how Manny coped with the floods and the typhoons. It is well worth it.
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The November 14 Pacquiao vs. Cotto pay-per-view telecast, beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT, has a suggested retail price of $54.95.