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Cotto tries again

904(Photo Credit : Chris Farina -copyright 2013) By Rachel Aylett: Tonight sees the hugely popular Miguel Cotto make his return to the ring following his defeat in December of last year against the then WBA light-middleweight champion Austin Trout. He faces long-time fringe contender Delvin Rodriguez in a non-title fight that is scheduled for 12 rounds. The bout takes place in Orlando, Florida.

Although thousands of people will disagree, it is my belief that Cotto is pretty much a shot fighter. The way he was so easily defeated by Trout was worrying indeed. Cotto left the ring that night without giving the customary post-fight interview to Showtime’s Jim Gray. He looked confused and, possibly, disgusted with his performance as he stormed out of the ring. I saw that fight as totally one-sided, agreeing with the judge that scored it 119-109. I think those who had it closer just couldn’t believe what they were watching and gave Cotto some rounds just because, well, he’s Cotto!!

If you look at Cotto’s light-middleweight career, it is full of clever matchmaking. He has had three victories, over Yuri Foreman, Ricardo Mayorga and Antonio Margarito. The win over Foreman was for the latter’s WBA light-middleweight title. Foreman was a lame-duck “champion” indeed and to make things even easier for Cotto, his opponent reinjured his knee during the fight, causing the infamous occasion when Foreman’s corner threw in the towel and a myriad amount of people got into the ring thinking the fight was over. Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. decided that he wanted to see Cotto batter Foreman a bit more, and decided to ignore the corner retirement. He thankfully stopped it shortly afterwards. Incidentally, Foreman was beaten even easier in his next fight against ordinary Pole, Pawel Wolak.

Then came Cotto’s first defence against Nicaraguan wild man Mayorga. Prior to fighting Cotto, Mayorga had been in retirement for over two years. He had a warm-up fight three months before facing Cotto against a body which was barely warm. Of course Cotto won, but he had to repel a serious challenge from Mayorga in a fight which was much more difficult for him than had been predicted beforehand. Needless to say Mayorga has not fought since, and came out of retirement to face Cotto purely for the cash prize.

Cotto’s last victory was the famous revenge match against Antonio Margarito. It was widely suspected that Margarito had used loaded hand-wraps in their first match, when Cotto had been battered into submission and suffered horrible facial injuries. Cotto won the rematch in one of the best nights of his boxing career. Once again though, when you look at this fight you have to take into consideration the terrible beating that Margarito had suffered at the hands of Manny Pacquiao in his previous fight. Indeed, he had sustained such a terrible eye injury against Pacquiao that surgery had to be carried out on his right eye and lengthy negotiations took place before Margarito’s licence was returned and he was allowed to go through with the Cotto rematch. The eye injury resurfaced in that fight and was the reason it was stopped at the end of the ninth round. Cotto had not come close to flooring his one-eyed opponent, although winning the fight easily. The fact is, Margarito should never have been allowed in the ring that night and, once again, has subsequently retired.

Since those three victories, Cotto has suffered the thrashing at the hands of Austin Trout. The one bright spot in his recent form has been the valiant effort he put up against Floyd Mayweather Jr., in May 2012. He managed to bloody Mayweather’s nose and fought bravely against the brilliant “Money”. Let’s not get carried away though, perhaps he did better than was expected, but remember, he only won two or, at the very best, three rounds that night and was soundly defeated.

So to tonight’s match with Delvin Rodriguez. Delvin looks the perfect opponent for Cotto. He is a name who has appeared on US television more frequently than a lot of world champions. Everyone knows Delvin. Indeed, he was involved in one of the most exciting fights of recent years when he drew with the aforementioned Pawel Wolak over 10 non-stop rounds of pounding action. Rodriguez won the rematch easily. In his two championship challenges though, Rodriguez has fallen flat. In August 2009, he fought South African Isaac Hlatshwayo for the vacant IBF welterweight title, in his home state of Connecticut. Things were all set up for Delvin that night. Only nine months prior to that he had fought Hlatshwayo in South Africa and was considered unlucky to only receive a draw in what was considered a clear hometown decision. Surely on home soil he would take the title. Not so, as he put in a flat performance and was defeated on a split decision.

Rodriguez received another championship shot in June 2012, when he challenged Austin Trout for the WBA light-middleweight title, the same belt that Cotto would challenge for six months later. Once again, Rodriguez put in a non-performance and was soundly outpointed by the under-rated Trout. He didn’t turn up and was never in the fight. To be fair, Trout makes most opponents look bad, but it did seem as though Rodriguez could have had more of a go.

Delvin gets another massive chance at stardom tonight. Although no belt is on the line, it seems certain that the victor will next fight for a major belt, probably against the returning Saul Alvarez. More than that though, a Rodriguez victory would forever place him in infamy as the fighter who ended Cotto’s career. He really has everything to win tonight and not too much to lose, as very few people expect him to come out on top.

Although I think Cotto is near-enough shot then, I don’t think Rodriguez is the one to push him over the cliff. Delvin is not a huge puncher and is unlikely to be able to hurt Cotto. Nor is he a volume-puncher who is likely to outpoint the Puerto Rican. His best chance of victory seems to be if he can cause facial damage to Cotto. This is quite likely because, as Teddy Atlas often points out, Rodriguez does seem to cause cuts to his opponents, perhaps with the way he lands his punches. No finer example of this can be found in Rodriguez’s last fight, against Freddy Hernandez, when a horrible cut over Freddy’s left eye caused the fight to be stopped. It was the sort of cut that is usually caused by a headbutt and because there had been numerous head clashes throughout that fight, the referee decided that it was a technical decision and went to the cards. On examination of the television footage though, the local commissioner was surprised to find that the cut had, indeed, been caused by a Rodriguez punch and subsequently the fight was awarded to Delvin on a stoppage.

Cuts stoppages aside, I see Cotto being too busy and just too experienced at top level for Rodriguez who, as previously stated, has always disappointed in his big fights to date. I predict a points win for Cotto, by something like 117-111.

As stated above, I believe the winner, particularly if it is Cotto, is being set up by Golden Boy to fight Canelo in the latter’s return to the ring. I truly fear for Cotto in that fight. Alvarez will be determined to retrieve his reputation and certainly has the size and power to cause a lot of damage to Cotto. I am concerned that another Cotto-Margarito I will ensue and I really would rather not see Cotto go out that way. Perhaps, in a way, it would be preferable for him to lose a close decision tonight. Having said that, even if Cotto does lose a close one, I am sure that Golden Boy would still make the Canelo-Cotto fight, as it is a sure-fire moneyspinner.


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