by Paul Magno
Miguel Cotto, the Puerto Rican three-division world champ, has a clear path to redemption and to righting every perceived wrong handed to him in his decade-long, Hall of Fame career…and that road starts with Ricardo Mayorga.
It’s not often in boxing when a fighter can directly un-do all the damage done to him in his career, but this Saturday, March 12th, Miguel Cotto starts off the first leg of what can only be viewed as his Road to Redemption. In this particular case, promoter Bob Arum’s philosophy of keeping potentially competitive bouts “in-house” has actually worked to Cotto’s favor, as the last two stops on this tour will be against fellow Top Rank fighters.
Back when Cotto suffered his first loss at the hands of Antonio Margarito in July of 2008, the brutal beating he suffered fell under the shadow cast by the scandal surrounding Margarito when, just five months later, “The Tijuana Tornado” was busted for having doctored hand wraps prior to his bout with Shane Mosley.
The heinous attempt to enter the ring with a potentially lethal cheat put a big question mark over all of Margarito’s wins, most notably his brutal destruction of Miguel Cotto and the grotesque manner in which he battered Cotto’s face.
To add insult to injury, the Margarito loss also put an end to a proposed mega-million dollar showcase against Oscar De la Hoya– a bout which could’ve propelled Cotto to that next level of mainstream super-stardom.
Instead, Cotto was forced into a meaningless fight with Michael Jennings and a tough battle with Joshua Clottey for a fraction of the pay he would’ve received from a De la Hoya bout.
Then, while doing the busy work of rebuilding after a tough loss, Manny Pacquiao stepped up, stopped the “Golden Boy,” and claimed the glory which could’ve been Cotto’s.
All this led to an eventual big money showdown with Pacquiao where, despite being the reigning champ, he was forced to give in to every one of Pacquiao’s demands, including an arbitrary 145-pound limit.
Cotto was forced to put up his newly-won WBO welterweight title in this catchweight contest, despite the fact that Pacquiao’s only win at welterweight was a victory over an unranked De la Hoya. And when the Boricua champion balked at the idea of defending his title against an unranked fighter at a catchweight, the WBO installed Pacquiao as the #1 contender and threatened to strip Cotto if he didn’t make the defense.
Pacquiao would go on to batter and stop Cotto in a twelve-round TKO beating, but many would argue that whatever the Margarito beating took from Cotto physically was matched by the psychological beat-down he suffered in the pre-fight negotiations with Pacquiao.
Cotto, in a matter of sixteen months, had been beaten, bludgeoned, and bullied while simultaneously being sold out to the highest bidder by his own promoter, who had brokered the deals between Cotto and his Top Rank stablemates.
But since that career-low span of time, Cotto has been able to score a solid win at 154 lb. against belt holder, Yuri Foreman, he’s had some time to rest and repair some physical damage done over the course of his career, and, perhaps most importantly, he now has a legit, world class trainer in his corner.
Hall of Fame trainer, Emanuel Steward, has vowed to smooth out Cotto’s rough edges and repair a career of being poorly trained and, at times, even self-trained. The question remains, though, whether the prematurely old 30 -year old can overcome the physical and mental damage done in his recent past.
Thanks to Top Rank’s revolving door mentality when it comes to in-house promoting, Cotto will get the chance to redeem himself completely, likely within a year’s time. The Margarito rematch is tentatively scheduled for July while a Pacquiao return bout could take place later this year or in early 2012.
But first is this Saturday’s bout with Don King’s unlikely cash cow, Ricardo Mayorga.
Despite the fact that the 37-year old Mayorga is 4-4 in his last eight and hasn’t had a significant win since he beat Vernon Forrest twice in 2003, he still possesses one-punch knock out power and the type of bully bravado that could topple an opponent standing on shaky psychological ground.
Think of it as a Margarito bout on “easy” mode.
Mayorga will come forward and try to impose his will and Cotto, on his part, will have to work angles, counter, and force the bigger, stronger Mayorga backwards and out of his comfort zone. Cotto will come to the ring as a major betting favorite, but it would be a mistake to discount Mayorga, at least before seeing what, exactly, remains of the psyche of Miguel Cotto. After all, he fell into survival mode when the tide turned against him in the Pacquiao fight and, before that, had spent large portions of the Clottey bout in full retreat as well.
Whatever the case, Miguel Cotto’s road to redemption begins Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. It won’t be an easy road to travel, but, really, there’s nowhere else for him to go, either as a Top Rank fighter or as a man.