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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Miguel Cotto Struggles for Popularity

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Posted Nov 11, 2009 10:27PM By Lem Satterfield (RSS feed)

LAS VEGAS -- Miguel Cotto is a star in Puerto Rico, just not the major attraction that Manny Pacquiao is in his native Philippines.

And among the contributing reasons is that while Cotto's nation has a long list of fighting predecessors against whom to compare him, Pacquiao's essentially has none. [See note at bottom.]

"The Puerto Ricans have a whole collection of stars and they're not wrapped up in one guy like the Filipinos are in Manny," said promoter Bob Arum, listing former Puerto Rican greats such as Felix Trinidad, Wilfredo Gomez and Wilfred Benitez, among others.

"To Filipino fans, Manny's just absolutely incredible. Manny comes from a poor, impoverished country where he is the icon of hope and he represents their country on the world stage," said Arum.

"Puerto Rican fans want Cotto to win, but it's much more rational," said Arum. "Manny's situation is a lot different from being simply the best fighter in Puerto Rico."

Cotto (34-1, 27 knockouts), nevertheless, will try to stake his claim among the best his country has to offer when he defends his WBO welterweight (147 pounds) crown against Pacquiao (49-3-2, 37 KOs) on Saturday night at the MGM Grand.

or Pacquiao, the matchup represents an opportunity to win a record seventh crown in a different weight class, while Cotto simply wants to gain more respect.

"I have to make good work of Manny Pacquiao on Nov. 14 and then I have to go back to Puerto Rico. I don't know how the people are going to receive me there but I hope it is going to be good," said Cotto.

"I know that some people are happy with my accomplishments in the boxing ring. Some others do not believe in me," said Cotto. "I am here for my family and the people that want to follow Miguel Cotto. I'm happy with the work and my family is proud of me."

Cotto has won two straight matchups including a 12-round split decision over Joshua Clottey in June at New York's Madison Square Garden.
"I just work to win, and that's what is going to happen on Saturday night."
-- Miguel Cotto
The victory marked the sixth time without a loss that Cotto has won at The Garden, where he has vanquished the likes of Shane Mosley and Zab Judah -- often before sellout crowds.

But there are those who still question whether Cotto is the same fighter he once was following a devastating 11th-round knockout loss in July 2008 to Antnio Margarito, which took place in the same MGM Grand Arena where he will face Pacquiao on Saturday night at a catchweight of 145 pounds.

"If Miguel loses, it depends on how he loses whether or not he retains his popularity. If he loses closely, he won't lose his popularity," said Tony Perez, who flew in from his home in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the fight.

"If he gets knocked out in the first or second round, he'll lose his popularity," said Perez. "We like winners, like everyone in sports. We want winners, you know?"

The owner of a travel agency, Perez has booked fights for Puerto Rican boxing stars for nearly 20 years.

"I'm here to watch the fight. And as a travel agent, we're bringing 300 Puerto Ricans to root for Miguel Cotto. There will be 150 here on Thursday, and another 150 here on Friday. The tickets were very hard to get. $500, $750, $1,000 -- all prices," said Perez.

"When Tito [Felix Trinidad] fought Oscar De La Hoya [in 1999 in Las Vegas]," said Perez, "I brought 600 people. And Tito would always draw more than Cotto."

Perez said Cotto's problem is his personality compared to the other boxing stars from his country as much as his abilities in the ring, adding that Cotto "has to do a little bit more in public relations."

"Miguel has a difficult time in being appreciated for what he is in Puerto Rico because of his character. He's extremely introverted, he never smiles. And if you watch him here, the way he is acting during the promotion, you can see that it's very difficult to get him to smile," said Perez, who booked travel for Trinidad's loss to Bernard Hopkins as well as his victories over Oba Carr and Fernando Vargas.

"Tito was a very friendly individual. Tito would stop and sign autographs and kiss babies. He was like a politician. And Wilfredo Gomez was just a monster of fighter and had a good personality too," said Perez.

"Wilfred Benitez won a championship when he was 17 years old and the people of Puerto Rico are very astute about their boxing. They know their boxing and they follow it," said Perez. "They follow Cotto too, but maybe not the way that they followed Tito."

Nevertheless, Cotto promises, yet again, that on Saturday night he will let his fists -- not his mouth -- do the talking.

"I'm not mad at the people -- whether they want me to win or not," said Cotto. "I just work to win, and that's what is going to happen on Saturday night."

Note: Two former Philippiines fighters, Francisco Guilledo (Pancho Villa), and Flash Elorde achieved ring excellence long before Manny Paquiao.

Guilledo was the nation's first world champion, going 80-5-3, with 24 knockouts from January of 1919 through July of 1925, topping out in weight at 115 pounds.

Elorde went 88-27-2, with 33 KOs from June of 1951 through May of 1971, topping out as a 137-pounder. Among Elorde's victories were those over Sandy Saddler, Harold Gomes and Ismael Laguna.

Source: http://boxing.fanhouse.com/2009/11/11/miguel-cotto-struggles-for-popularity/

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