Puerto Rico Stand Up: Miguel Cotto Wows Fans With A Vintage Performance


From the opening bell of his fight against Delvin Rodriguez, Miguel Cotto looked transformed. At 32, with back-to-back losses on his record and hints of disinterest in the sport coming out through HBO’s documentary series 24/7, there were a lot of reasons to think that not only were Cotto’s best days behind him, but that what still remained in the tank would only blemish his Hall-of-Fame career. But on Saturday night he put on a vintage performance that had many thinking that this version of the Puerto Rican fighter could have beaten Floyd Mayweather.

Cotto came out more aggressive than we’ve seen in years. There wasn’t any hesitation in his punches, and there was so much leg and hand movement that it was clear he had no concerns about his stamina.

At least one of the differences between this Cotto and the fighter that came out against Austin Trout and Floyd Mayweather is the difference between trainers Freddie Roach and Pedro Diaz.

Cotto hired Diaz in late 2011 to prepare him for a rematch against Antonio Margarito. At the time, the choice made perfect sense. Cotto had suffered a devastating knockout loss to Margarito in 2008. In that fight, Cotto took the beating of a lifetime, and many rightly wondered how much he could possibly have left after such a ferocious thrashing.

Diaz, the former head of the Cuban Amateur Boxing team — arguably the best amateur boxing squad ever assembled — was the ideal candidate to teach Cotto how to avoid Margarito's bombs. Diaz was known for the Cuban style that is epitomized by the philosophy of hit and don’t get hit. He’s a trainer that emphasizes defense and elusiveness, traits that would be necessary for and comforting to Cotto in his rematch against Margarito. While Diaz's style was what Cotto needed for Margarito, it was far from apt for Cotto's recent foes, Austin Trout and Floyd Mayweather. Simply put, trying to outbox Mayweather is a fool’s errand. Doing the same against Trout is less so, but nonetheless Cotto's focus on boxing drastically reduced his output in a fight where he clearly needed more activity to get the victory.

Freddie Roach is as different from Pedro Diaz as Mike Tyson was from Pernell Whitaker. Roach enjoys action-packed fights and teaches his pupils to keep busy and keep offensive. He largely eschews the defensive performances of fighters like Mayweather and Guillermo Rigondeaux (a product of Diaz's tutelage). When Cotto hired Roach to replace Diaz, the expectation was that Roach would re-engineer Cotto to look more like his old aggressive self.

Against Rodriguez, what Cotto needed was a standout performance. Something that not only hinted at the greatness Cotto once had, but an exciting performance that could build into a pay-per-view fight against big-name stars like Sergio Martinez or Canelo Alvarez.

Boxing fans got that performance and more on Saturday. After an aggressive first round, Cotto wobbled Rodriguez twice in the second before hammering him into submission in the third. A series of thumping left hooks bent Rodriguez over, and before he even touched the canvass the referee pushed Cotto out of the way to end the one-sided fight.

This version of Cotto would more than likely finish off the aging Sergio Martinez, especially if Martinez is forced to come down to 154 lbs. More interesting would be a fight against the recently defeated Canelo Alvarez. The Cotto that was dethroned by Trout would likely get knocked out by the younger Canelo, but the Cotto that showed up on Saturday night might have as many hard lessons to teach the Mexican redhead as did Floyd Mayweather.

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