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Cotto confident only three fights after Margarito beating

03
Nov

Miguel Cotto got in some serious mitt work with trainer Joe Santiago at a workout for the media on Tuesday at Pound4Pound Gym in West Los Angeles. Photo / Chris Farina-Top Rank

LOS ANGELES – Miguel Cotto sat on the edge of the ring at a sweltering Pound4Pound Gym on Tuesday, surrounded on one side by dozens of reporters and photographers, and answered questions as sweat trickled down his shirtless torso after a workout. He was largely expressionless.

Cotto is 10 days away from the biggest fight of his life — against Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 14 in Las Vegas — but exuded a calm confidence, as if Pacquiao’s amazing run the past year and a half means nothing.

One reporter suggested that Pacquiao would be the toughest opponent in his eight-plus-year career and Cotto politely but firmly took exception.

“I don’t see it that way,” he said in his increasingly good English. “I know the fight is the most-important fight in my career but I don’t know if Manny Pacquiao is the toughest opponent I’ve ever had. We’ll find out in the ring. The guy who is better prepared to win that night is going to win.”

Cotto’s confidence shouldn’t be surprising in one sense. The Puerto Rican, who is 29, is one of the most-accomplished fighters in the world over the past five years, with victories over a long list of top-flight opponents on his resume. He’s been through this many times, albeit not quite on the scale of this fight.

However, his demeanor is intriguing in light of the mauling he took against Antonio Margarito only three fights and 15 months ago. The imposing Mexican delivered the kind of beating for 10-plus rounds that can cause permanent damage, both physically and psychologically.

Six months later, Margarito was found to have plaster in his hand wraps before his fight against Shane Mosley, for which he was later suspended, and everyone immediately wondered whether Cotto was the victim of foul play. Regardless, a beating is a beating.

Cotto bounced back with a fifth-round knockout of overmatched Michael Jennings in February and a split-decision victory over durable Joshua Clottey even though he fought with a ghastly cut over his eye for eight-plus rounds in June.

Still, many wonder whether Cotto has fully recovered from the beating.

Cotto doesn’t really want to go there, almost to the point where he seems to get irritated when it’s brought up. Someone asked him whether his psyche was damaged. His response: “Ask Manny that question. He’s lost three times; I’ve lost once.”

Cotto’s handlers dismiss the notion that he’s damaged goods.

Phil Landman, his physical trainer, said Cotto’s performance in the Clottey fight proved that he is perfectly fine even if some doubters suggested afterward that he didn’t look like the fighter of old in that fight.

“Clottey is a big, strong welterweight,” Landman said. “People don’t want to fight him for a reason. For Miguel to get cut in the third round and then fight eight, nine rounds like that pretty much right after the Margarito fight says a lot about his courage.

“Miguel has no ill effects after Margarito. He’s ready for this fight.”

Cotto still won’t directly accuse Margarito of having used illegal wraps when they fought. He prefers to leave that up to the fans, who he called “the judges in this case.” He won’t make any excuses; a loss, he said, is a loss. He does acknowledge, though, that the speculation has eased the pain of the setback to some degree.

At the same time, he learned something from the setback: He doesn’t want to go through anything like that again.

Cotto said his greatest strength has always been his commitment to succeed, which he said he demonstrated against Clottey. He said he could have quit at any time after he received the cut — and many fighters would have — but fought on against one of toughest customers in the sport.

And the commitment, he said, only got stronger after the Margarito fight. He has never had more resolve.

“Sometimes when you lose you won,” he said. “Since the loss to Margarito, great things have come to my career, including this fight. I’m grateful for that. I’m approaching this camp with all the responsibility of what this fight means, not just for me but also to my team, the fans, the press, all the public.

“ÔǪ The loss gave me more focus in my mind and my body. Maybe (such a loss) isn’t the best way to do that but it put me in the right place.”

So the loss to Margarito was actually a positive?

“You can answer that yourself,” Cotto said. “Where is Margarito now and where is Miguel Cotto?”

NOTES

Respect but ÔǪ: Cotto gives Pacquiao credit for his success the past several years, saying the Filipino has earned everything he’s received.

At the same time, he said clever matchmaking has played a positive role in Pacquiao’s life.

“He beat Ricky Hatton and he beat Oscar De La Hoya,” Cotto said, “but now he’s going to face Miguel Cotto. You can’t compare me with the last two fighters. ÔǪ Oscar De La Hoya was a great boxer but Manny chose the right time to face him, in the last part of his career. And everybody knows Hatton doesn’t have good defense. Manny proved that the night of the fight.”

In other words, maybe we should keep those victories in perspective.

Cotto is kosher: A small tattoo on Cotto’s right shoulder caught my eye. It’s a U inside a circle, which would be familiar to all observant Jews in the U.S. The symbol means a rabbi has determined that a food item is kosher, or within Jewish dietary laws.

Cotto was asked about it.

“I have a Jewish friend in New York,” he said with a smile. “It’s in honor of him.”

Must be a close friend.

Ironically, tattoos aren’t allowed in the Jewish religion.

Wishful thinking? Promoter Bob Arum believes Pacquiao-Cotto could approach the record 2.2 million pay-per-view buys that Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather Jr. did in 2007.

The Mayweather-Juan Manuel Marquez fight in September did a little over 1 million.

“This will far exceed Mayweather-Marquez,” he said as Cotto was finishing up his workout. “We’re hoping it approaches the 2.2 million De La Hoya-Mayweather did. The interest is so great and it’s a competitive fight.

C’mon, 2.2 million?

“That’s what the cable systems and DirecTV and Dish Network are predicting,” Arum said. “There’s no tracking yet. We can tell by the amount of money and resources that have been thrown into this. We’re anticipating those kind of numbers.”

Arum said Cotto brings in about 400,000-500,000 buys mostly from hardcore boxing fans, Puerto Ricans and other Latinos. The rest, he said, will be the result of Pacquiao’s growing popularity.

“Manny Pacquiao is bigger than life,” he said, “They’re intrigued by Pacquiao. He’s unlike any boxer they’ve ever seen. The guy keeps getting better as he goes up in weight. The guy has so many talents outside of boxing — politics, music, everything. People just can’t get enough of him. He’s really crossed over into the mainstream.

“What fighter in recent years ever dreamed of getting his picture on the cover of Time magazine? His picture will be on the Asian edition of Time. That never happened with De La Hoya or Mayweather.”

Arum said the sports editor of the New York Times told him he’ll be covering the fight himself.

“And the New York Times,” he said, “hasn’t covered a fight in five years.”

Must be a big fight.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]

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