Cotto and Puerto Rican boxing greats

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CONRAD M. CARIÑO

CONRAD M. CARIÑO

Perhaps some Filipino boxing fans will simply look at Miguel Cotto as one of the top boxers who lost to Manny Pacquiao via 12th round stoppage in November 2009.

But to Puerto Rican fight fans, Cotto (41-6 with 33 knockouts) is a boxing icon alongside compatriots Felix Trinidad, Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfred Benitez and Hector Camacho, among others. Inspired by the Aztec warrior spirit, Puerto Rican boxers are never known to be clinical fighters in the mold of Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Andre Ward; so they always go into the ring ready to wage war. Even Benitez, considered to possess a high level of skills, threw out defense and slugged it out with the opposition, which resulted in him losing to the big names of the sport.

There is still a rivalry among Puerto Rican and Mexican pugilists, which has resulted in one of the best fights in the sport like Gomez-Salvador Sanchez, which was a classic that Gomez lost; and Trinidad-Fernando Vargas, a see-saw battle that Trinidad won.

On the part of Cotto, he fought Mexican Antonio Margarito twice or in August 2008 and December 2011. In the first fight, Cotto lost via stoppage but Margarito was later bugged by the “loaded gloves” controversy, or his camp allegedly putting plaster of Paris on his hand wraps that made his hands heavier as his hands produced sweat in the later rounds. In the second fight, with Cotto’s camp making sure Margarito’s hand wraps did not have any strange substance, the Puerto Rican won by stoppage, thus avenging his earlier loss to Margarito.


Looking at Cotto’s resume, it is very clear he lost mostly to top-tier or elite opponents. Besides Pacquiao and Margarito, those who beat Cotto were Canelo Alvarez and Floyd Mayweather Jr. Although he won against Cotto, Mayweather admitted the Puerto Rican gave him one of his toughest fights.

Over the weekend, Cotto lost by points to still unheralded Sadam Ali in his last career fight staged in New York City. Ali (26-1 with 14 KOs) was nine years younger than Cotto, which may have been a factor in the fight. Cotto lost the World Boxing Organization light middleweight (154 pounds) title to Ali.

Before the fight, Cotto vowed to fight the way he usually does – like an Aztec warrior. But this time, although his spirit was willing, his body just could no longer keep up.

Even with the loss to Ali, however, Cotto will be enshrined forever alongside his great boxing compatriots who made Puerto Rico proud, like those I have mentioned earlier.

Besides, all of Cotto’s compatriots who became Hall-of-Famers never retired undefeated and some of them pushed their luck too far. For example, Trinidad gambled by fighting Bernard Hopkins in September 2011 but lost via 12th-round stoppage.

Gomez also staked his almost perfect knockout streak when he fought Sanchez in August 1981, and lost via 8th-round stoppage.

Today, it is very hard to put two knockout artists in the ring, and much more to witness such fighters battle each other like there was no tomorrow. Watch videos of the Gomez-Sanchez fight over YouTube and compare that with the Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia fight in March this year, and you will get what I mean.

And going down further in history, Benitez staked his unblemished record against Sugar Ray Leonard, who was also undefeated, in one of the most classical fights in welterweight history in November 1979. Benitez lost via stoppage in the 15th round.

Cotto also had his share of knockout or stoppage losses, particularly to Margarito and Pacquiao. In the Margarito fight, Cotto entered the ring with no loss.

All told, great Puerto Rican fighters were never afraid to fight those who could beat them in the ring. And that also made them unforgettable, like Cotto.

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