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Friday, October 23, 2009

Cotto seeks rebound vs. Pacquiao

Before he stepped into the ring against Antonio Margarito in July 2008, Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto was undefeated and considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

The then-WBA welterweight champion — who will fight current pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 14 in Las Vegas — was a powerful and punishing body-puncher, and his handlers were eying a future mega-fight against undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr., if they could coax him out of retirement.

But Cotto fans were stunned as Margarito administered an 11-round beating before Cotto's corner threw in the towel after Cotto, bloodied and battered, twice took a knee in an attempt to slow the Mexican's onslaught.

Margarito was caught with plaster in his gloves before his next fight, in January against Shane Mosley. Mosley delivered a KO, and Margarito subsequently was suspended from boxing in the USA for a year.

For Cotto, the damage was done. He was hospitalized and did not fight again for seven months. He stopped a lesser opponent, Michael Jennings, with a fifth-round KO.

In June, he gained a split decision over tough Ghanian Joshua Clottey at Madison Square Garden but suffered a nasty cut over his left eye from an accidental early head butt. Despite being bothered by non-stop bleeding, Cotto gutted out 12 rounds.

Now, however, the 28-year-old from Caguas, Puerto Rico, has seen his fierce reputation slipping. His critics say he cuts too easily, does not have the chin to take Pacquiao's speed and power punches and is not the same fighter he was before Margarito's beating.

The man in Cotto's corner against Clottey was Joe Santiago, working his first fight as Cotto's trainer. He took some criticism for mistakes Cotto made against Clottey but says that's in the past and things are going smoothly now. He also says Cotto's cut has fully healed.

"We were very lucky on the night of the fight that we had two plastic surgeons there at the Garden, and they were able to do their job … and we have not seen anything at all that has been wrong with his cut," Santiago said in a conference call with reporters this week. "We've had no issues with it, and I don't think it will be an issue in the fight."

Cotto (34-1, 27 KOs) moved his training camp from Puerto Rico to Tampa to avoid distractions and has been at it since August.

Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KOs) has been training in Manila, his home country of the Philippines, where he has had to deal with many distractions, including his iconic status there, and floods and typhoons that have ravaged the country.

Despite all that, and despite Cotto's natural size advantage (he's never fought below 135 pounds, while Pacquiao started at 106), Cotto is the underdog for the pay-per-view event (9 p.m. ET). It will be fought at a catch weight of 145 pounds for Cotto's WBO welterweight title.

Santiago believes that works in his fighter's favor.

"A lot of people are picking Pacquiao," Santiago said. "Miguel has a little extra because the people don't think he can win.

"We know he can, and he knows he can, but he will have to show everyone what he is capable of doing against this type of opponent. He will come out with a little more fire."

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/boxing/2009-10-22-cotto-pacquiao-preview_N.htm

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