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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Other side of the coin: HBO judge Harold Lederman turns his attention to Miguel Cotto

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In a recent piece with Harold Lederman I talked to the former professional judge and gathered his thoughts on covering Manny Pacquiao throughout the years. Much praise was directed to the Filipino’s way and Lederman talked about a variety of things from the atmosphere that Pacquiao creates with his fights, his most distinctive characteristics as a fighter, as well as the danger he presents to Miguel Cotto in their highly anticipated November 14th clash at the MGM Grand.

While all of that may be noteworthy, what also should be said is that Pacquiao isn’t fighting some random, obscure fighter on the 14th. He will be fighting a man with much talent, championship pedigree, and backing from his country. The matchup is as intriguing a fight as has been seen in a while and Lederman himself sees Cotto as a big threat.

“My opinion of Miguel Cotto is that he has improved tremendously over the years,” says Lederman. “You see the improvement in the guy in virtually every fight. He really has seemed to be getting better and better. Early on I thought he was a good prospect but after he beat Shane Mosley I thought he was a great prospect.”

The opinion of Cotto from many boxing minds is that while he is a very solid fighter, he lacks certain dynamics that allows him to be truly special. Still, Cotto is consistent, battle tested, and versatile enough for Lederman to take notice.

“He’s a good all around fighter and I’d describe him as a boxer puncher,” Lederman continues. “What makes him really great is his ability to turn his left hand under. He goes to the body really well and he wears you down that way. He hits very hard, whether he catches you on the jaw or hits you downstairs. Either way he’s going to hurt you.”

Talent alone can take you only so far as a professional athlete in any realm of sports. It takes a certain kind of toughness and mental fortitude to cross the barriers that would otherwise hold us back and in looking at Cotto, Lederman sees those desired qualities.

“He knows how to use the ring and how not to get caught and he’s just a gutty guy,” the straight forward New Yorker continues. “If you hit him and you hurt him he will bounce right back. If you knock him down, he gets up. If he gets cut he’ll fight through all of the blood as well. He just has a tremendous heart and the will to win. He moves really well and we saw how he dominated the early part of the Margarito fight with movement and solid punching.”

Lederman is correct in highlighting Cotto’s control early on against Margarito but the tables would be turned as the Tijuana fighter’s pressure eventually wore Miguel down, resulting in an 11th round stoppage. In an interesting and well documented twist, however, Margarito would end up being caught with plaster of paris in his gloves before his bout with Shane Mosley this January. The result was a one year suspension as well as serious outrage from Cotto’s supporters who went on to call Margarito a cheater while also claiming that the one and only loss on Miguel’s record should be removed.

Regardless of whether or not Margarito was cheating on that fateful July evening, nothing will reverse the fact that the Puerto Rican suffered a tremendous amount of punishment over the course of the bout. People have come out to state that the loss took something out of him, but Lederman himself doesn’t seem to go by the same rationale and still sees Cotto as being in the prime of his career.

“He seems to have bounced back real well and I think we’ll see that on November 14th,” a candid Lederman continues. “Win or lose I think he’s going to put on a great performance. I don’t think he was bothered by the Margarito loss. Antonio Margarito is a tough guy, whether he cheats or doesn’t cheat. There may be some difference with his new trainer but at the same time I feel he’s probably better than he’s ever been.”

Hearing the affable judge make such a strong statement can raise a little curiosity, at least in the eyes of some. Still, Lederman is very much set in his belief and opens up further as to why he feels the best of Cotto may be yet to come.

“Every great fighter loses one fight along the way and I think he’s made a strong return following his only defeat,” Lederman says using sound logic. “He bounced back from the Margarito loss with a tremendous win over the British kid, Michael Jennings. He just continues to get better and he can probably hold his own with any Welterweight in the world today”

While Pacquiao has been in the spotlight heavily in recent years, Cotto himself has had a career that has been well documented and full of many heroics. His victorious encounters against the likes of Mosley, Zab Judah, Paulie Malignaggi, Ricardo Torres, and others have been chalked full of action and drama while giving us an intimate look at the championship heart he possesses.

In compiling a 34-1 record with 27 knockouts, Cotto has also built up a strong following, with many of his bouts having been held in his native Puerto Rico as well as Madison Square Garden. When performing at home or inside boxing’s ‘Mecca’, you can always count on a strong showing from Cotto’s rabid countrymen. While the buzz is always sure to be electric there are some who still insist that Cotto hasn’t endeared himself to his country in the way that Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad did. Lederman himself elaborates on the subject.

“I think he’s a popular guy amongst Puerto Rican fight fans,” Lederman says clearing the air. “People have told me in the past that he doesn’t have the same popularity in Puerto Rico as ‘Tito’ Trinidad did but then again very few guys are as personable as Trinidad was. Miguel Cotto may not smile much but he’s a great fighter, that’s for sure.”

We can talk about Miguel Cotto day and night, and the general consensus seems to be that there is a definite cloud of uncertainty regarding him. Even his most ardent supporters have to realize the danger in a fight with Pacquiao, who has been on a hot streak as of late. While some point to the fight as a chance for Cotto to redeem himself and put those notions to rest, Lederman sees it as something ever greater.

“The Pacquiao fight is a chance for him to become a hall of famer. Let me tell you, if he beats Manny Pacquiao and afterwards Floyd Mayweather refuses to fight him it’s going to do a lot for his legacy and his career. On the other hand if he wins and Floyd Mayweather does choose to fight him I think it will do a lot for his bank account. Either way the guy is a winner.”

Source: http://www.examiner.com/x-22973-Miami-Boxing-Examiner~y2009m10d14-Other-side-of-the-coin-HBO-judge-Harold-Lederman-turns-his-attention-to-Miguel-Cotto

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