Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Strong, Silent Type

Miguel Cotto, a man of few words, is quietly preparing to face Shane Mosley on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

To listen to promoter Bob Arum tell it, WBA welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto, who will meet Shane Mosley for all the marbles and a whole lot more on Saturday night in Madison Square Garden, is one of boxing’s best.

Arum, who has been known to exaggerate a time or two over the course of his forty years in boxing, has this to say about Cotto, and he should know because he has promoted Cotto since day one. “I think that eventually, before he is finished, he will not only achieve the same measure of popularity, if he hasn’t already, as Felix Trinidad, but he will become a cross-over attraction because Felix was never able to learn to speak English and Miguel has.”

The English language aside, in plain speaking terms that anybody can understand, you should know that if Miguel Cotto lets his fists do the talking and he beats Shane Mosley in New York City this weekend, nobody will have to mutter a word.

It will be evident that Cotto will have stepped onto boxing’s elite stage and he will be spoken of in revered terms.

And you must also know that Miguel Cotto has made a career of not saying much. In the ring, he usually has an expression on his face that is best described as somewhere between deadpan and lifeless, and he simply stalks his opposition and either beats them down with clubbing bodyshots - or just breaks their bones. He goes about his business in such a fashion that it reminds you of a piece-meal worker that has done the same thing everyday for a lifetime.

Cotto, a mature 27, is a humble young man and he’s as serious as they come once it gets down to the business of fighting. He speaks barely above a whisper and he is methodical and deliberate when he talks which basically mimics his fighting style. Those that know him and have seen him outside the ring know that he is friendly and that he is quick to laugh, despite his aloof manner and almost shy personality.

When asked about his outlook on things and why he might be a little reserved, Cotto, a man of few words, simply explained it like this; “That’s my personality,” he states. “I can’t do anything with that…that’s my way.”

So what’s it like trying to promote a guy who isn’t exactly ‘Tommy the Talker’? “Miguel is Miguel,” says Arum. “He’s a great, great fighter and he’ a great young man. We, who are close to him, know that he has a great personality. I don’t want him to be a phony. I don’t want him to be what he isn’t.”

And what he is, quite simply, is the next fighter to come from the small island of Puerto Rico that is on the verge of becoming a boxing superstar. With an unbeaten record of 30-0 (25) KO’s he bristles at the suggestion that he is the next Felix Trinidad, the last big name from Puerto Rico to make his mark on the boxing world. While Cotto doesn’t come out and say that dislikes the inevitable comparison, you get the sense that he’s happy being himself and he doesn’t see the need to be anointed the ‘next Trinidad’.

Last week, when asked again about the ‘next Trinidad’ label, Cotto simply said, “I’m not ‘Tito’. I’m Miguel Cotto.”

Even his opponent on Saturday night, “Sugar” Shane Mosley, weighed in with his thoughts on whether he thinks that Cotto will ever be as popular as Trinidad. “I think that it could be pretty close,” says the 36 year-old Mosley. “Trinidad had a tremendous personality where the Puerto Rican fans really loved him and really grasped to him. His personality, his being Puerto Rican, he was very outspoken and the Puerto Ricans just loved him. Cotto is a little quieter and not as open as Trinidad. But, I think that the Puerto Rican fans definitely respect Cotto's heart and respect that when he goes in there he gives his one-hundred percent all as a warrior and they can get behind him.”

For his sake, Mosley better hope that the fans don’t get behind Cotto too much.

The last time that Cotto fought in Madison Square Garden, in June against Zab Judah, he drew a standing room only crowd of 20,561 that witnessed a thrilling back and forth scrap. They cheered Cotto’s every blow and it was a pitched battle where both fighters showed tremendous heart and grit and each shed some blood. Ultimately it was Cotto that proved victorious with an electrifying eleventh round stoppage that had the fans in the Garden cheering like it was Ali vs. Frazier in 1971, or at the very least, Duran vs. Moore in 1983. The roar of the crowd made it sound like the roof was going to blow off MSG when Cotto, with rivulets of blood streaming down his face and chest, finally forced referee Arthur Mercante, Jr. to step in and save Judah.

Afterwards, Cotto, dressed smartly in a pale yellow polo shirt, showed up late at the post fight press conference. Before he arrived, Miguel’s cut-man, the brilliant Miguel Diaz, leaned toward Bob Arum, who was running the post fight presser as deftly as General George S. Patton at the Battle of the Bulge, and whispered into Arum’s ear that Cotto “was going to be little late, he’s getting stitches put in.”

It looked like someone had stuck two sausages where Cotto’s lips were supposed to be and he had scrapes all over his forehead. He admitted that Zab, “made my legs do a little dance” when he was nailed early in the fight. But what became clear to all as the press conference wore on is that Cotto is a class act. He had just spent eleven rounds in hell with Judah, yet he answered each and every question posed by reporters and the time was getting close to two in the morning. He also admitted that he had made a trip to Zab Judah’s dressing room to apologize to him personally for the errant low blows that landed during the fight.

So is Shane Mosley concerned or excited to fight Puerto Rico’s newest favorite son in the Garden?

“It's going to be a great feeling to be in Madison Square Garden to fight where all the legendary fighters fought,” says Shane, who is a former three-division world champion. “You know, Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali - all the great fighters fought in this arena. And for me to fight in there in the big arena with Miguel Cotto, who is a great Puerto Rican fighter, a young fighter coming up - this is history in the making.”

With the fight only days away, Cotto is the betting favorite over Mosley, and that fact alone speaks volumes about what the man of few words has accomplished thus far in a career that is on the verge of exploding into brilliance.

When asked for his final thoughts on what he thinks will happen against Mosley, Cotto was blunt and to the point, sort of like his punches.

“I don’t think Shane can handle Miguel Cotto,” he said with a serious look.

And really, what else is there to say?


No comments: