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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cotto's Sparring Partners

Miguel Cotto Sparing Partner
Last week I took a look at Manny Pacquiao’s sparring partners and vowed to do the same for Miguel Cotto when his were revealed. It took a while, because unlike the Pacquiao training camp where we seem to hear about every stiff jab landed, Team Cotto has been largely operating under radio silence. Still, now we know, so let’s take a look.

Francisco Figueroa
Age: 31
Division: Light Welter
Record: 20-3 13 KO

Frankie Figueroa seems to be Cotto’s main sparring partner, and he is by far the best known and most established of those brought in to work with Cotto. Figueroa, like Cotto, is from Puerto Rico and they have worked together before.

Figueroa is a lefty, but beyond that does not hold much similarity to Pacquiao. He lacks the head movement and darting aggression, fighting from a more conservative base; but then again, who really does fights like Pacquiao. He does appear to have a stinging straight left, essential for anyone preparing for Manny.

I’ve seen Figueroa fight twice, the first a competitive bout against popular journeyman Emanuel Augustus. It was quite a good scrap, and worth checking out, as Augustus pulled many of his favorite maneuvers. I, along with most, thought that Figueroa had lost, but he received the split decision victory. He joined a long line of decent fighters who got the benefit of the doubt against the hard-luck Augustus, one of my personal favorites.

The other, and more memorable fight, was against Randall Bailey on Friday Night Fights. It started out at a nice pace, with Figueroa even managing to knock Bailey down at one point. In the fourth round, though, the heavy fisted Bailey lowered the boom with a sweet right hand that leveled Figueroa. A knockout of the year type shot, go to 2:10 to see the amazing rhythm shot land.

Despite his uneven performance the last couple of fights, Figueroa is at least a seasoned operator, and seems the sort who could give Cotto some good work.

Kenny Abril
Age : 25
Division: Light Welter
Record : 9-3 5 KO

Fred Tukes
Age: 36
Division: Welter
Record: 7-1 5 KO

I put Abril and Tukes together because, well, I don’t know anything about either of them. They are both southpaws, but neither appears to be a prospect of any particular interest. Maybe there is something that I don’t know about them, but I did not recognize a single one of their opponents and there doesn’t seem to be anything notable about their careers thus far.

I don’t want to be too critical of the choices that the Cotto camp has made; they certainly know more than me. However, it’s hard not to think that team Pacquiao has a major advantage with the choice of sparring partners if these are, indeed, the people Cotto intends to use for the rest of camp.

There had been some consternation that Jose Luis Castillo was being brought in to work with Pacquiao, given that his best days are so clearly behind him, but even given that deterioration I suspect he will give Pacquiao far better work than the novices in Cotto’s camp.

Sparring is only one factor in preparation for a fight, and few fighters are able to pay enough to bring in really top quality guys like the Pacquiao team has done, but one has to think this might give Pacquiao a considerable advantage. The distance between Pacquiao’s sparring partners to Cotto seems at least somewhat less than the reverse.

It could be quite a shock to go from Fred Tukes to Manny Pacquiao.

I wonder if Cotto might be suffering as the result of training with the relatively inexperienced Joe Santiago. Santiago might be a terrific trainer, and Cotto performed well under his guidance against Clottey, but I seriously doubt one of the bigger name trainers would be going into battle with such an inexperienced crew of sparring partners. Would Cotto’s previous trainer, his uncle Evangelista, have been content with this group? Would Steward, Mayweather, or Roach? I don’t know, but it is a little surprising.

With the daily headlines from the loquacious Pacquiao camp it is easy to forget that Cotto’s team is still relatively inexperienced and might have weaknesses of its own. While we won’t know till fight night who’s preparation was better, and perhaps not even then, it will be worth following if team Cotto determines it needs some different hands to prepare for Manny.

Source: http://www.sportingnews.com/blog/The_Rumble/entry/view/38228/cottos_sparring_partners

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