Just when everybody thought he had seen better days, Puerto Rican boxer Miguel Angel Cotto injected new life into his sagging boxing career by soundly whipping Argentina’s Sergio Martinez to win the World Boxing Council (WBC) middleweight championship and record his fourth division boxing crown.
Not a few boxing fans showed up at the Madison Square Garden in New York anticipating a burial, not a resurrection, from Cotto. For one, Cotto had not been the same fighter since his he was cannibalized by Filipino Manny Pacquiao in 2009. And judging from the subsequent losses Cotto suffered in the hands of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout in 2012, slick boxers appear to be his Achilles heel. Martinez offered a pesky boxing style that seemed too tough to handle for the plodding Cotto.
Fortunately for Cotto, Lady Luck was still smiling on him. Following his embarrassing performance against Trout in December 2012, wherein he appeared out of shape and woefully lacking in motivation, Cotto took the next 10 months off and did some soul searching. He pondered on calling it quits until it dawned upon him that a little house cleaning may be in order.
Before the Trout fight, Cotto had been hounded by a slew of domestic issues that somehow affected his ring performance. Cotto had a highly-publicized quarrel with his uncle and long-time trainer Evangelista Cotto, who claimed the boxer owned him millions in a botched management deal. The feud culminated in Evangelista Cotto damaging his nephew’s brand new Jaguar. Cotto found himself mired in another legal trouble when Martha Avecedo, a former administrator of his real estate property in the Caribbean, filed a sexual harassment case against him. The toughest blow Cotto absorbed was when his father, Miguel Cotto Sr., died from a massive heart attack.
Cotto severed his ties with his uncle and sought out the services of veteran trainer Freddie Roach. The sexual harassment case filed by Avecedo, on the other hand, was amicably settled out of court. With a clean plate, Cotto started rebuilding his boxing career with Roach. When Cotto returned to the squared circle in October 2013, he resembled his vintage self in an impressive third-round knockout of Delvin Rodriguez.
Cotto completed his return to the spotlight with his recent 10-round conquest of Martinez. Moving up to 160 pounds was an easy transition for Cotto considering that he had always been a heavy guy. At age 11, Cotto weighed 156 pounds and he actually took up the sport to shed weight. When he agreed to take on Pacquiao, Cotto agreed to a catch weight and struggled to meet keep the extra pounds off. The Martinez fight, while fought at the catch weight of 159 pounds, had Cotto adding bulking up instead of going on hunger mode anew.
Cotto showed up in excellent condition and it showed in the way he dismantled Martinez. The 39-year-old Martinez, returning from a 14-month layoff and right knee surgery, looked every bit his age. Cotto almost ended the fight in the opening round when he mopped the canvas with Martinez’s face three times. Martinez struggled to steady his legs and Cotto’s repeated left hooks added to his woes. When the fight ended in the 10th round, with Martinez throwing in the white towel of surrender, Cotto was way ahead on the scorecards of all three judges. Officially, the result went down as a 10th round technical knockout victory for Cotto.
Cotto, 33, improved his record to 39-4 with 32 knockouts. Having previously held titles in the junior welterweight (140 pounds), welterweight (147 pounds) and junior middleweight (154 pounds) divisions, Cotto became Puerto Rico’s first four-division champion by collaring the WBC middleweight plum. Cotto surpassed the record he shared with countrymen Wilfredo Benitez, Wilfredo Gomez and Felix Trinidad, who all won titles in three separate weight classes.
Cotto is arguably fighting on borrowed time, but he showed against Martinez that his punches are still clicking. Already there are loose whispers of a possible rematch with Mayweather Jr. or a megabuck showdown with Mexican Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. After a long while, Cotto is again hot topic in the boxing neighborhood. It did not come easy, and now, more than ever, Cotto knows that there is no substitute for hard work and dedication.