Boxing

Miguel Cotto and Emanuel Steward: One Fight Too Late

miguel cottoBy Niko Tricarico - Or maybe even two.....It always fascinates me how quickly a boxer’s mystique can be dissolved. On July 25th, 2008, Miguel Cotto was an unbeatable force on the verge of superstardom. He was a body punching, pressure fighter who wore his opponents down, broke their will and snapped their resolve; a monster shoved into a 5’7” 147 lb frame. His confidence beamed and rumbled with the same swift thunder that accompanied his thudding punches. And with an entire nation behind him he could do no wrong. “Yo soy Boricua, pa’que tu lo sepas!”

On July 26th, 2008, however, Cotto faced the mullet-ed, Mexican, mauler Antonio Margarito in a fight that Max Kellerman described as a, “modern day boxing classic.” They brawled for eleven and I sat and felt my stubborn mind slowly absorb the reality of the fight. Cotto left the ring that night bloodied, battered, bruised and broken. His usual intensity that he wears so well upon his face was now showered in crimson defeat and rising from a voluntary knee he shook his swollen head from side to side as blood leaked out of every available orifice. My favorite fighter had lost..

It has been almost two years since that fight and Cotto has endured a tumultuous journey. He experienced an ugly and bitter split with uncle and former trainer Evangelista Cotto and barely survived a back and forth battle with Joshua Clottey. He was TKOed by Manny Pacquiao and then, shortly after, found himself coping with the loss of his father, Miguel Cotto Sr.
Miguel Angel Cotto, without making excuses for his most recent performances, has not been the same since the Margarito loss. Perhaps, it does have something to do with not having an authoritative figure in the corner. Joe Santiago was Cotto’s choice to replace his uncle and I quickly brushed aside public notions that he was too inexperienced to be an effective trainer. I honestly didn’t think it would make much of a difference at this point in Cotto’s career. Now, with Cotto enlisting the help of Kronk Gym’s Emanuel Steward, it seems as though a change was indeed felt to be necessary. There is no doubt that Steward is among the sport’s most effective active trainers having guided the careers of fighters like Thomas Hearns, Michael Moorer, Lennox Lewis and now Wladimir Klitschko, but he has become more of a celebrity these days. His name garners attention. Oscar De La Hoya used him for a bit. Jermain Taylor used him for a bit. Kermit Cintron used him for a bit and now Miguel Cotto will be using him, if not for forever, then at least for…a bit.

I can’t help thinking, however, that the pairing of Steward and Cotto is simply one fight too late (especially since Steward already offered his services after the Clottey fight and Cotto, for some reason said, no). How much stock should be put into a trainer’s accrued knowledge versus a fighter’s talent and skill? If the boxer is the actor then it is the trainer who has the responsibility of directing the movie. And there are few who are as good at their job as Manny Steward. But with different fighters, trainers have different roles. Angelo Dundee’s role with Muhammad Ali was much different than what Cus D’Mato did for Mike Tyson is different from Roger Mayweather and Floyd Jr.’s relationship and Freddy Roach and Manny Pacquiao’s. What will Steward’s role be in camp Cotto?

Against Pacquiao, Cotto made some glaring mistakes that cost him the fight. His choice to stand and exchange with a lightening fast, precision punching machine was an ill-fated decision that was birthed either out of a lack of sound corner strategy or from his own frustrations at not being able to hurt Pacquiao. Cotto also has developed a bad habit of leaning in with his guard and sitting on his punches, not throwing and waiting to counter. He did this in the Joshua Clottey fight with terrible results and against Pacquiao it proved disastrous. Can Emanuel Steward help Cotto? It would be ridiculous to speculate upon whether or not Cotto would have done better in his previous two fights had Steward been head trainer as oppose to Joe Santiago, but it would have made more sense for this union to have occurred earlier. Cotto has already lost to Pacquiao and lost badly and in boxing losses are typically written in pen, not pencil.

In most professional sports a fan who stares at their favorite team teetering on the brink of defeat can always fall back on the old adage, “there’s always next year.” That “next year,” in boxing, however, is hardly ever a fresh start. That “next year,” in boxing is simply another hole in the hull of a sinking ship. So, what does Cotto have left and what can Emanuel Steward mold that in to?

Miguel Cotto was my favorite fighter. I loved his style, his tenacity, his ferocity, his willingness and more importantly his desire to face the best opponents available, but I also loved the fact that he won. The look in his eyes after he was knocked down for the second time by Manny Pacquiao was a look of fear and defeat. He needs his confidence back. He needs to regain that bravado that served him so well before the Margarito loss. He needs to be able to say, “F*** you, pay me,” to whomever stands in his way. But most of all, he needs to listen to Emanuel Steward. And maybe on June 5th those indelible words will ring true in his ears once again as he stands with his arms raised in victory. I’ll be cheering him on.

“De Caguas, Puerto Rico. Miguel Angel Cotto!”

Article posted on 13.04.2010



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