Mosley Cotto: Cottogate?

By Taj K. Eubanks - November 5, 2007: In today’s boxing landscape, which is undergoing a renaissance of sorts despite what the skeptics would have us believe, there are few stars. And there are even fewer that are regarded as class acts. Such is the reason that the upcoming bout between Puerto Rico’s Miguel Cotto (30-0) and “Sugar” Shane Mosley (44-4) is such a hot ticket. These two are true gentleman, forgoing pre-fight braggadocio and staged antagonism for classy promotion..

Their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated as fans have gobbled up nearly all (if not all) of the tickets for their November 10 fracas at Madison Square Garden. One would hope that the fight goes off without a hitch and controversy-free (which is extremely rare in boxing nowadays). I myself was fairly certain that it would, that is until I read Miguel Cotto’s recent conference call transcript. Then the unease crept in.

As a backdrop, one need look back to the summer when on a hot night in June delivered a classic matchup between Miguel Cotto and boxing’s resident bad boy, Zab “Super” Judah. This was to be Cotto’s first big test, a certifiable quantum leap in level of competition as Zab Judah, despite several high-profile disappointments, remained a clear and present danger to any fighter who challenged him. Flashy, fleet-footed and slick, Judah was everything that Cotto wasn’t, while Cotto was everything Judah wasn’t. Murderous-punching, methodical, consistent and, most importantly, focused, Cotto had excelled in the areas that mattered most. The problem was, he had been brought along at an extremely slow (and brilliantly conceived) pace and fans were ready to see whether or not he could cut the mustard against top-notch competition. Enter Zab Judah. Despite falling short of the mark against Kostya Tsyzu, Carlos Baldomir and “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather, Judah seemed to have nine professional lives, securing title shot after title shot. And so it was that Top Rank secured Judah’s services as foil to their hero. What boxing received was a barnburner. What followed was controversy.

Judah, ever the sparkplug, started round one fast and furious (oh, the irony!) and brought the fight to Cotto with dazzling handspeed and footwork. Judah eventually connected with a ripping uppercut that left momentarily dazed. Cotto responded with a low blow that left Judah eating canvas. Whether or not the low blow was intentional was the issue on the minds of most who were watching. The crowd erupted and there were several tense moments until Judah rose, refused to take the entire provided time to recover, and went back to work. The round ended in a fever pitch as both fighters poured their hearts into the sweet science of fisticuffs.

Round two was more of the same and by round three observers knew that we had a Fight of the Year candidate on our hands. Back and forth went the tide until, all of a sudden, WHAM! Low blow number two, which was harder than the first, felled Judah like a redwood tree at the mercy of an insane lumberjack. The referee deducted a point and one wondered whether the visibly shaken Judah would be able to continue with the same vigor. Yet again, Judah rose and fought on, refusing the take the full amount of allotted recovery time. Cotto gestured that it was an accident and the two touched gloves, resuming the action where it stopped and continuing until Cotto emphatically TKOed Judah in round 11. And while Judah gained tons of respect from even his harshest critics for his courageous effort, doubts still lingered in the eyes of some about the manner in which Cotto won. It was clear that after round 3 that Judah’s output diminished and the tide turned in Cotto’s favor. Now whether or not the low blows were to blame is up for debate. Judah claimed in the post-fight interview that he was severely affected by them. Cotto claimed that they weren’t intentional and that he didn’t believe that they negatively affected Judah’s performance. He even reportedly ventured into Judah’s dressing room (in what was most certainly a hostile environment if you know anything about how deep Judah rolls) and apologized. All in all it was a monumental scrap and the specter of unfinished business foreshadowed a lucrative rematch in the not-too-distant future, with both parties stating that they would love to do it again. I often wondered (not alone, I might add) whether Cotto was hurt badly in the first and third rounds and resorted to an illegal tactic to save him from the jaws of defeat. It is a thought that apparently has been on others’ minds as well.

Fast forward to the present and we find ourselves on the eve of Cotto-Mosley. On the recent Miguel Cotto conference call transcript, a reporter made reference to the fact that Jack Mosley (Shane’s father and trainer) apparently had accused Cotto of being a dirty fighter who resorted to low blows when hurt. Cotto responded thus:

“And the question about the dirty fighting – this is a fight, this is professional fighting. You do what you have to do to win and so things that happen in the ring are going to happen. And whatever it takes, that’s what I – you know, whatever it takes in the ring, I’ll do – and a – to get a win and I will do it.”

Then Bob Arum promptly cut in.

Now, I’m not saying that Miguel Cotto is a dirty fighter. I’m not even implying that Cotto is a dirty fighter because the fact of the matter is that Cotto is one of my favorites in this game. I’m just saying that his statement gives me pause. Was the emotional and oft-maligned Judah onto something? Is Cotto willing to do ANYTHING to win, even at the expense of sportsmanship? Perhaps the answer can be found buried within Cotto’s own words, perhaps not. I don’t know, but I certainly hope not, because the one thing that boxing doesn’t need is another black eye.

Article posted on 06.11.2007

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