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Did Steward improve Cotto enough for him to beat the better fighters?

By Chris Williams: It’s still difficult to really grade whether there was any significant improvement in Miguel Cotto’s game from his last fight against Yuri Foreman on June 5th. On the one hand, Cotto’s new trainer Emanuel Steward had him using his jab and throwing to the body compared to how Cotto had been fighting before then. But Cotto still wasn’t moving his head and was just as easy as before to hit.

There appeared to be little improvement in Cotto’s defense and he looked just as vulnerable as always when he was getting hit. Cotto didn’t have to deal with a really good offensive fighter because Foreman isn’t known for his power and wasn’t throwing a lot of punches in the fight. It was the ideal opponent for Cotto to come back against – a fighter with zero power, a poor work rate and a bum knee.

What more could you ask for? This is why it’s difficult to see whether there were any real changes to Cotto’s game that would lead you to believe that he won’t get massacred again if he’s put back in with Manny Pacquiao or Antonio Margarito, two fighters that Cotto’s Top Rank promoter Bob Arum is considering putting him in with. If Cotto decides to stay at light middleweight and defend his newly won WBA title, it would mean that he would have to potentially take on big punchers like Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland before long, unless Cotto is steered around those fighters.

Once Kirkland is back, he’s going to quickly hog all the glory because he’s likely going to continue to wade through the opposition like they’re tall grass. Cotto would be forced to fight him or else be seen as a paper champion. As it is, Cotto is considered to be the best of the junior middleweight champions. That title rests with WBC junior middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. He’s the best fighter in the division now that Paul Williams has moved back down to welterweight.

Steward would have a tough time improving Cotto enough for him to contend with Martinez and Kirkland. Those guys immediately would be very tough fights for Cotto, as would a fight with Angulo. Cotto might do alright if Arum’s goal is to put him with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for a money fight, but then again that’s not exactly putting Cotto in against the best.

If Cotto does fight a rematch against Pacquiao next, then Cotto will surely lose the fight no matter how much Steward teaches him before then. Pacquiao showed that he’s on another level with his speed, work rate and power and I think it’s beyond a training issue for Cotto to be able to beat Pacquiao.

I would like to see Cotto fight a rematch with Margarito. If Steward has improved Cotto, then we should see it here. All Cotto and Steward would have to do is use the blue print that Shane Mosley made in stopping Margarito a year ago in his 9th round TKO win. Mosley used a lot of fast hit and hold tactics to stifle Margarito and it proved to be very effective.

Cotto would have to be okay with holding for that to work, though, because he probably won’t be able to run all night long without tiring. And Cotto can’t fight for 12 rounds nonstop without fading completely and taking punishment.

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