Miguel Cotto Is Resurgent Against a Brave Yuri Foreman

boxingBy Matt McGrain: A resurgent Miguel Cotto dominated a very brave Yuri Foreman in New York tonight.

After 42 seconds of the ninth, the fight was stopped in favour of Cotto who had driven the injured Foreman to the canvas with a body shot. In fact, the fight had been over as a contest since round 7, when Foreman twisted his knee and went to ground. Given time to walk it off by Arthur Mercante Junior, Foreman re-engaged in spite of a debilitating limp only to fall and hurt himself once more. Chaos ensued in round 8 when the towel had apparently been thrown in from the Foreman corner - only for the referee to decline to accept the corner’s resignation of their man, as is his right. The referee apparently considered that the towel may not have been thrown in by the chief second (which in fact it had). The ring, suddenly full of officials and cornermen, was cleared after two long minutes (with the assistance of Michael Buffer at ringside) and the fighters allowed to continue.

But only as far as the forty-second second of the ninth round, when Miguel Cotto was declared the winner by a technical knock out.

This was a fight that promised to reveal much in the first two or three rounds. There were many questions before the bout which were flat-out unanswerable; how would Cotto’s mobility hold up at the higher weight? Had Cotto properly recovered from the terrible beating inflicted upon him in November of last year by Manny Pacquiao? Would Cotto be able to get off quickly enough, or would his punches be a step behind again, as they had arguably been for his comeback versus Jennings, after the Margarito brutalising? And what of Foreman, would he be able to deal with what ostensibly seemed a step up in class - but perhaps was not, with the form of the troubled Cotto simply unknown?

The first three rounds were indeed instructive, and they all belonged to Miguel Cotto. Foreman, for his part seemed to indeed be troubled by the stage he was fighting on, although he would later refer to “rust” to explain away his uncertain first round performance. Foreman was moving off the line, as expected, but was throwing nothing at an apparently quick-footed Cotto, who was putting on something of a technical master class, sweeping in with a jab, occasionally doubled up on a foe who wasn’t supposed to be there for him to hit. Foreman was fighting reasonably well in as far as his decisions allowed, pulling off good defensive feints to keep Cotto outside and throwing out a flicking jab, but Cotto was his master in this department, twice hurting the champion in round 2, once with a left jab and once with a right hand.

It should be noted, however, that Cotto was missing with some punches, and by distance. Ever since the Margarito loss, Cotto has looked slower to me in terms of getting set and firing - there were occasions here where he was drawing in a half thrown punch with the target literally feet away. The left hand was the main offender, and I personally believe that this is why Cotto has reigned that punch in - he’s finding it hard to get off like he used to with this weapon. Nevertheless, the challenger could afford these mistakes because Foreman was not firing back on his way out.

At this point the pattern of the fight seemed fixed, but Foreman sprang a surprise in four, eschewing the jab and leading with power punches, especially the lead right hand, a punch he put into development at the end of 3 and seemed ready to road test in earnest at the beginning of four. Yuri won his first round on my card, employing offensive feints to match his earlier defensive effort, opening Cotto up to his punches. The end of the round saw Cotto returning to his corner with the very real chance that the judges scorecards were reading 2-2, although other questions were now answered - Cotto was carrying this extra weight, and yes, he still wants to be in there. I am glad, because the new WBA world’s light-middleweight champion is a born fighter.

Round five saw Cotto make an impressive adjustment, out-sped in the previous round, he reigned in his commitment to the attack a little bit and landed perhaps the best punch of the fight so far whilst counter-attacking the space, a beautiful uppercut which rattled back Yuri Foreman’s head. The champion badly needed this round in order that he might build some momentum, and he did not get it, Cotto looked limber and lively, matching Foreman as he bounced from post to post, a high-energy style he probably had not expected Cotto to match. At the beginning of the seventh round, Cotto was smiling in his corner - he’d dominated the first half of the fight, and the signs were that he would dominate the second.

Unfortunately, Cotto was not permitted to close the blinds on Foreman as he might have liked, but Foreman’s injury did result in a final twist in the fight’s bizarre narrative as the box-mover, unable to dance, was forced into the trenches. Foreman proved himself as tough as you’d expect a Russian who sharpened his tools in an Israeli gym populated mainly by Arabs to be, which is to say very. In that seventh round he shipped twenty-seven power punches whilst landing only ten of his own. In spite of almost losing his knee, which gave way on his weight rather than being injured in a trip or fall, Foreman fought on. The crowd responded as one, each for their own man.

The bizarre eighth round was memorable. I personally found the referees action questionable and given the injury to Foreman’s knee and I think he should at least have called a brief time-out if he was unsure as to who had thrown the towel in To reiterate, he was well within his rights to ignore the towel, only the referee can stop the contest, which he chose to do very early in the next round, after Foreman was dropped with a legitimate punch, Miguel well ahead on all three judges scorecards. I had given the now ex-champion only the fourth.

Cotto was emotional after the fight, and that is not to be wondered at. His professional and personal life have overlapped uncomfortably in recent months and both have offered up hardships to be borne. Cotto has borne them. Next for him is rumoured to be Julio Cesar Chavez, should he triumph in his middleweight contest with John Duddy later this month, although given his expressed wish at the end of a difficult in-the-ring interview to fight only big fights, perhaps we will see something more intriguing. Martinez is the biggest fight that can be made for Cotto at 154, and if Martinez is chiselled out of a mooted duel with Mayweather, he will certainly be looking for a big fight of his own. Whether that fight would be a step to far for Cotto is now arguable - there were many writing his chances off against the larger, quicker boxer he dominated on the cards in New York tonight, and whilst Martinez would certainly be the favourite, Cotto is back.

And Foreman? He has made a lot of friends in boxing tonight. No sport rewards pure heart like ours does, and Yuri has it.

Article posted on 06.06.2010

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