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Miguel Cotto: The Short End of The Stick

cotto77By Eric Johnson: Last night we witnessed history, but last night we also witnessed a man getting his just due. For the last 6 years of his career, it’d always seemed like Miguel Cotto got the short end of the stick. It seemed as if he could never get over the hump, and that the boxing Gods had some deeply embedded vendetta against him.

There was a time when the name Miguel Cotto provoked fear into opposing fighters, and excitement to anyone who had the pleasure of watching him. As a fighter and as a man Miguel Cotto has come full circle. He’s climbed out of the metaphorical pit he was kicked into “300” style some years ago. I don’t know if he’s back, but we should all be elated for his victory, let me tell you why.

Thinking back to 2008, the future looked bright for the 28 year old future Hall Of Famer. He was undefeated and on the rise. With impressive wins over Mosley, Judah, Corley and Malignaggi, becoming a champion at Light Welterweight and Welterweight on his way. Upsetting some and doing what he was supposed to in others. Cotto looked like every bit of the fighter he was advertised as. He was strong, with very good hand speed, a nice tight jab, and a left hook to the body that you could almost feel through the TV when it landed. I can’t recall how many times I’ve seen that left hook land, and began to cringe just because of how powerful and painful it looked. He was shooting out up Pound 4 Pound lists, and stealing the hearts of boxing fans all over the world, and then he ran into Antonio Margarito.

With Floyd Mayweather out of the picture, Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito were seen as the two best Welterweights in the world, and rightfully so. Cotto was the favorite for good reason. He was more proven, more skilled, and naturally the better man, so it seemed. In the early going of their fight Cotto remained in control. Controlled distance and pace with his jab, and fired off that left hook like it was the last time, each time he threw it. He seemed in complete charge through the first 5 rounds, and then the momentum shift began. Margarito began blasting Cotto with deadly shots, and as the rounds went on the damage increased, and Cotto declined more and more. It became harder to watch. Blood everywhere like a Rocky movie. Cotto looked dehydrated, disheveled, disheartened, and badly damaged. When the 11th round began Margarito went for the kill, and ultimately the fight was stopped after referee Kenny Bayless did his job after Cotto took a knee. It was demoralizing and it took something out of Cotto. Something left him that night, but a man who loses fair and square should have no complaints. Only, we don’t know if that was the case. What we do know is that Cotto for the first time in his career got short end of the stick. His father was there to console him.

Fast forward to 2009, two important things happened that year. The first occurred in the lead up to a fight that featured Antonio Margarito and Shane Mosley. Margarito came into the fight a huge favorite, he was seen as the best Welterweight in the world, and was proclaimed the “most avoided man in boxing”. A still game, yet a bit seasoned Mosley decided to step up to the task and give his best against Margarito. He seemed in over his head, and then before the fight, Shane Mosley’s head trainer Nazim Richardson inspected Margarito’s glove and said that they felt a bit hard. Upon further inspection and testing, the commissioner found than there was a mix of sulfate and calcium inside Margarito’s gloves. A combination that when dried over time due to moisture would get harder, and would feel like being hit with plaster. Calcium and Sulfate are two ingredients that are included in Plaster Of Paris, and the sweat that is inside of the gloves of boxers is more than enough moisture to make the wraps harden. The fight went on, and Shane Mosley all but decapitated Antonio Margarito in a dominate stoppage victory. Antonio’s fall from grace didn’t stop there, he would go on to lose his boxing license, and was suspended until further notice. Naturally suspicions surfaced whether or not they were used in the Cotto fight. Seeing that Margarito came on strong late, right around the time where experts concluded the wraps would harden. Cotto again got the short end of the stick. His father was there to console him.

In November 2009, Miguel Cotto went on to face a strong fighter named Manny Pacquiao, who was on his own ascension to boxing greatness. The fight was held at a catch weight of 145 pounds. The catch weight seemed unnecessary because Manny Pacquiao had just fought Oscar De La Hoya at 147 pounds, and came into the ring at 148 with a pound weight advantage on fight night over Oscar. He’d also fought Ricky Hatton at 140 pounds and came into the ring 148 pounds, and even before that the night that he fought David Diaz at 135 pounds, he came into the ring 147 pounds, so a catch weight didn’t seem necessary. However, Cotto agreed as he was never the type to shy away from a challenge, and Manny Pacquiao was undoubtedly the biggest challenge available. Cotto started the fight off strong, but gassed late, most likely due to Manny Pacquiao’s onslaught and the catch weight. He was battered and badly beaten. His family cried for him, as I imagine all they could remember was that unholy night he fought Antonio Margarito. The fight was stopped in the 12th round. Cotto later said that if Manny Pacquiao wanted to fight him again, it would have to be at a weight he was comfortable at, as he would never do that to himself again. Cotto once again got the short end of the stick. His father was there to console him.

On January 3rd 2010, Miguel Cotto Sr. died from an asthma attack that affected his heart. He was driving when it happened, and Miguel Cotto undoubtedly faced the toughest test of his life. As someone who lost their mother two years ago, I can understand the pain. Losing a parent is a different level of sadness and despair. It’s a deep burn that affects everyone differently, but the pain demands to be felt. It’s when the person with all the answers is the focal point of the problem. Cotto lost his best friend, his support system, his consoler, and a piece of his life. Cotto again got the short end of the stick. His father wasn’t there to console him this time.

Over the next few years Cotto juggled with trainers. He trained with legendary trainer Emmanuel Steward, Joe Santiago and Pedro Diaz. Finding success, but not what he once obtained. Following the loss to Manny Pacquiao, Cotto scored 3 TKO victories over Yuri Foreman, Ricardo Mayorga, and a revenge win against Margarito in which had to be one of the most satisfying victories for him at the time. He then met up with then and current Pound for Pound King Floyd Mayweather. The fight took place at 154 pounds for Miguel Cotto’s titles. Though a valiant effort, Cotto ended up losing to Mayweather in a very entertaining bout. He then went on to lose to Austin Trout; in a fight that he was heavily favored to win. Cotto once again got the short end of the stick. The future looked dim, his star had faded. The boxing world talked bad about him. Saying that he was shopworn, and past his best. That he was a glorified gate-holder and should be “fed” to Canelo Alvarez. One thing was clear, change was needed and change was coming.

After careful consideration, Miguel Cotto hired legendary trainer Freddie Roach, as his partner. He said that Sergio was the right man to oversee his career for the remainder of it. In their first challenge, Cotto faced Delvin Rodriguez in a fight at 154 pounds. During the build up to the fight many people disrespected Cotto, picking a D fighter in Delvin to win. They were stating that Cotto was finished, and had no business in the ring anymore. They were wrong. Cotto went on to dismantle and batter Rodriguez in an early stoppage victory that saw Cotto getting back to his bread and butter. Some people were convinced, others poked and joked, but Miguel Cotto looked good, no one can deny that.

Soon a fight against Sergio Martinez was announced and everyone who’s anyone picked Martinez to win, which I could understand. Martinez is bigger, faster, and stronger and had been fighting at Middleweight for years now. Boxing pundits, analysts, and fighters picked Martinez to win easily. Cotto seemed in over his head, but as confident as I’d even seen him. He was adamant that he would be bringing home a victory. In winning, he would become the first Puerto Rican fighter to win titles in 4 weight divisions. Though it looked unlikely, we as a boxing republic know that boxing is the sport of theatre. Anything can happen, and sometimes that unthinkable happens, and it did. Cotto annihilated and ran through Sergio Martinez. Tagging and battering him with left hooks, and uppercuts.

Knocking him down three times in the first round, and out boxing him when the moment called for it. All on the way to beating Martinez in a stoppage victory that seemed almost too good to be true. Cotto became the lineal champ at 160, beating the odds and the God at middleweight. Every hook, every jab, every uppercut was powered by redemption, and that’s just what he got.

Looking back at Cotto’s career, it was full derailments that seemed to stop his train short. He often looked like the fighter that was always just a few pegs below the elite. Like the rose that always got its stem snipped when it came to the bloom. Watching Cotto’s career has been nothing short of amazing. It started as a Roller Coaster that never stopped going up, and then progressed with a big drop that never seemed to stop going down.

He has been under-appreciated for his heart, his will, and perseverance. He may be the only fighter of our generation who was willing to fight anyone and everyone, no matter if the odds were against him, and that led to some disappointing losses. However, that very drive, that hunger, that grit, also led to this. A new promising light shined on a horizon that was once dark and gloomy, un-hopeful and uneventful. A parade that wasn’t rained on, but seems to only be getting started. Whether you love or hate Cotto, and whether you feel he’s elite or not, he should have your respect. After always coming up short, he finally got the big end of the stick and while his father isn’t there to console him, he’s looking down proud of his son, and you should be too.

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