Miguel Cotto: Just looking for the party

15.09.05 - By John Way: With the three-quarter mark of this year rushing at us faster than a Thomas Hearns straight right, yet another series of top-notch fights are imminent. In the coming months, pugilism promises to turn into a full blown battle field, when high profile professional punchers like Marco Antonio Barrera, Samuel Peter, Shane Mosely, James Toney, Roy Jones jr, and Jorge Arce put in some fistic overtime. With Mike Tyson retired forever (?), Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo going at each other like Foghorn and Leghorn, and Henry Akinwande on the fritz, 2005 is turning into a recent high water mark for boxing. Not far down the road, heavyweight pretenders John Ruiz and Chris Byrd will hopefully be forced to put-up, or shut-up, and if we're lucky, they'll do both. The same goes for Vitali Klitschko and Hasim Rahman whose meeting promises to be as anti-climatic and stale as Vivian Harris' infamous "rise to boxing prominence".

Deep in this confusing shuffle lurks budding Puerto Rican superstar, Miguel Cotto. Tipped for great things from the get-go, Cotto is already being expected to perform on the level of his countrymen, Wilfredo Gomez and Felix Trinidad. Heady stuff for a man with only two dozen professional fights under his belt! Originally slated to face top ten-rated contender Gianlunca Branco, the former Olympian was promised a tough battle against a seasoned veteran of the game. Branco, who's about as hot as Italian ice, was forced to pull out of the fight when a myriad injury of one kind or another cropped up. Yawn. Possibly representing the sternest test of Cotto's career, Branco managed to give Arturo Gatti all he could handle early in 2004, losing a close decision in "Thunder's" adaptive hometown of Atlantic city. The rain falling on poor Miguel's half-hearted parade turned into a full-blown monsoon when no high profile contender was set to fill the vacancy. Guys like Cotto have that affect on people.right?. With his bout looming shortly around the corner, it looks like Puerto Rico's new favorite son will be facing a relatively unknown commodity in Edwin Torres, to whom I shall return. Double yawn.

With Floyd Mayweather contemplating a move to welterweight, Cotto may very well be the second best junior welterweight alive. Then again, who else is likely to dispute such a claim? Paul Spadafora? Junior Witter? Souleymane M'Baye? What happened to the division chock full of talent, featuring three hall-of-famers in it's line up? Regardless, with his laser-guided left hook, well-schooled patience and crowd-pleasing style, boxing fans have to wonder why Bob Arum has so far failed to produce a major fight against a well known, world class opponent, as have his Olympic teammates. After all, Lou Dibella got Jermain Taylor a spot across the ring from Bernard Hopkin, when the "Executioner" was considered to be the best active fighter in the world. Heck, even Rocky Juarez was hunting down lethal hitter, In Jin Chi,while Jeff Lacy is stalking a huge fight with Joe Calzaghe. So why is Top Rank being so darn cautious with Cotto, especially after stepping him up so early in his career against world class opponents?

Lets review.

After accumulating an impressive resume early on, Miguel had his most impressive performance to date, when he slaughtered usually rock-solid Dominican, Victoriano Sosa. Dropping poor Sosa four times in four rounds, he produced a nearly flawless performance, ripping body shots with his trademark left hook to stop his difficult opponent with disturbing ease. After licking Sosa, we were treated to a tough twelve round scuffle with granite chinned South African, Lovemore N'Dou. Getting back on the kayo track, Cotto easily disposed of flimsy and inexperienced Brazilian "puncher", Kelson Pinto. The only reason this fight was a main event on HBO was because Pinto had previously beaten Cotto in the amateurs. Whoop-de-diddly-do! On the undercard of the Vitali Klitschko versus Danny Williams fight last December, Cotto looked absolutely invincible against dangerous knockout artist, Randell Baily, stopping the shell-shocked challenger in six rounds. After this impressive display of firepower, Miguel took a huge step back in class by fighting transvestite slickster, Demarcus "Chop Chop" Corley. What people don't remember about this battle, is that no one gave Corley even a ghost of a chance of giving Cotto any trouble what so ever. We all know what happened in that fight however. Trying to keep his charge active, Arum brought Cotto even further back-wards by putting inexperienced Muhammad Abdulaev in front of him the day before the annual Puerto Rican day parade The Uzbekistan native quit in nine rounds, but not without pushing his Caguas based opponent reasonably hard.

Now, looking to go 25-0 in his professional career, Miguel is set to face Edwin Torres, the most inept man Cotto has locked horns with since he knocked out Sammy Sparkman in two rounds, several years ago. While Torres may share his first name with fellow Puerto Rican, Edwin Rosario, the only similarity between the two is a tendency to fall down under punishment. It's hard to imagine two more contrasting fighters than Cotto and Torres in regards to quality of opposition. Fresh out of the Olympics, Cotto was thrown into the proverbial lion's den against world beaters like John Brown, Ubaldo Hernandez, and Cesar Bazan. In fact, Miguel's last fifteen opponents had a combined record of 417 wins against 68 losses with ten draws; a ledger that is likely the best in the business for a man with so few fights.

Standing at the exact opposite end of the spectrum is Torres. This completely unspectacular performer has amassed his deceptive record by feasting on the scum of the infamous Caribbean fight circuit. Torres' twenty-eight opponents have a combined record of 85 wins against 145 losses and 3 draws, of which, only 6 had winning records. This motley crew of tomato cans averaged an unimpressive record of 3 wins with 5 losses. What on earth is the WBO champion of the world doing fighting against a man who's amassed his career against men averaging only 8 fights total? The only semi-respectable name on Torres' largely lacking resume is his most recent victim, Hilario Guzman. Guzman's claim to fame at this point remains the fact that he absorbed seven and a half rounds of thunder from Acelino Freitas back in 1997, in a battle that left the poor journeyman completely shell-shocked. Since that debacle against Brazil's number one kayo artist, Guzman has divided his time between prostrating himself on the canvas, and simply not fighting at all. This brings me to the big question: why didn't Top Rank make an effort to find a contender even remotely capable of challenging Cotto? Surely Promoter Bob Arum could have secured a fight against a modestly gifted fighter, like Leonard Dorin, Norio Kimuara, Juan Lazcano or any of the dozens of other fighters dying to battle a streaking champion like Cotto.

I doubt Phillip N'dou or Demarcus Corely would require much persuading to get in the ring with Miguel a second time, and both deserve a return go in the eyes of the fans. Carlos Maussa is a champion now too, and don't think for a minute that he wouldn't drop his fight with Ricky Hatton if it meant a second chance to upset Cotto. Heck, even Maussa's disgraced victim, Vivian Harris would offer more of an obstacle than pathetic opponents like Abduaev and Torres. At this point, even a match against lightweights like Julio Diaz or Julien Lorcy would intrigue me more than a mock battle against some primped up prospect with a record so padding, you could curl up and go to sleep on it. Long story short, Miguel had better knock this punk out in three rounds or less in order to maintain any of his previously hard earned respect.

Comments or questions below.

Article posted on 15.09.2005

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