By Gary Purfield
At any level of boxing most fighters are striving to jump to the next level above where they currently stand. The club fighter hopes for an opportunity to upset an unbeaten prospect. The prospect seeks a chance to become a contender while the contender strives to win a title.
Then there are the fighters that have world titles but want to achieve a higher level. Boxers with an alphabet title who want to become something more. Gain a place on the pound for pound lists or unify titles to rule a division. Then atop that mass are the men who have achieved all this, yet long to become a superstar. The few who are close to the very top wish to become household names, multi-division champs, a PPV attraction, or reach the absolute pinnacle of being considered one of the best fighters in the world.
Essentially, every fighter not named Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao has a goal to get at least one level higher than where they currently stand. While some achieve that one level higher, very few reach that goal to be one of the elite in the fight game.
Miguel Cotto has reached nearly every level mentioned above. Hailing from the island of Puerto Rico, where so many boxing legends have come from, he has placed his name alongside the other great Puerto Rican fighters. He has won titles in three weight classes. Has held top five positions on pound for pound lists. Cotto is a legitimate PPV attraction and can sell out Madison Square Garden. From the moment Cotto turned pro he was targeted as someone that could reach the highest levels of the sport. While he has achieved many things, considering the expectations set on him early in his career, he appears to be just a slight step short of the enormous potential he displayed in his early days.
Cotto appeared to be destined for that moment as he prepared to defend his welterweight title against Antonio Margarito in July of 2008. The fight was considered a tough assignment, but Cotto was favored and expected to come out the winner moving him onto mega bouts with giant opportunity, such as a crack at Floyd Mayweather. It all came apart on that fateful night against Margarito when he was beaten, bloodied, and stopped by a fighter later to be found to use illegal and atrocious means to destroy his opponents.
Since that time, Cotto has fought to return to that point. He rebounded to win another welterweight title. Then Cotto was badly beaten again, this time by Manny Pacquiao in the biggest fight of his career. He fought on even terms early with Pacquiao until Pacquiao stunned him, dropped him, and took over the fight. It seemed despite the many amazing wins in his past, including defeating Zab Judah and Shane Mosley, he was a shot fighter that would never quite reach the apex of the boxing world.
He moved to junior middleweight where he won a world title in a third division by stopping Yuri Foreman. He defended his belt against Ricardo Mayorga with a twelfth round knockout setting up his opportunity at redemption against the fighter that seemed to take his career from him.
Cotto got his revenge last December when he outclassed and stopped Antonio Margarito in front of a raucous crowd of Puerto Rican faithful at Madison Square Garden. The win redeemed Cotto in one of his losses. Still though, he was regarded as someone who had already peaked and was just one step below the two pound for pound kings.
When Cotto (37-2, 20 KO) meets Floyd Mayeather (42-0, 26 KO) at the MGM Grand this Saturday he will have the chance to cement his place in history as one of the great fighters of this era. While he is a heavy underdog, a win over Mayweather would be Cotto’s biggest moment of an already exceptional career.
Cotto talked with reporters on a recent conference call about a variety of topics. Included in the discussion was Cotto discussing if he regrets not getting a fight with Mayweather earlier in his career when this bout first was discussed years back. Cotto seemed content with the timing of his chance at Mayweather.
“Everything happens in life for a reason. Fights can’t happen four, five, six years ago, but they happen now. I feel better right now. I feel this is-after the Margarito fight on December 3rd, I feel much, much better with myself. I think this is the right moment for this fight
Most media and fans are picking Mayweather, but Cotto, in his quiet way, feels very confident that Mayweather is beatable and he is the man to do so.
“Nobody is invincible in life. I know that because I passed through this point in my life. I’m ready for anything Floyd brings me on May 5th. The question is, is Floyd ready for anything Miguel can bring to him? I know he’s a hard worker. He said to everybody he’s a hard worker, but he’s going to have in front of him on May 5th a hard worker like him. On May 5th, I’m trusting in myself. I know what I have to do on May 5th to get the victory.”
If Cotto can accomplish what he speaks of he will have reached the high point of his career when many believed his best days were behind him. A win Saturday would catapult him to superstardom far above what he currently has. Cotto is the most well-known fighter not named Pacquiao or Mayweather, but does not have the recognition those two have amongst casual sports fans. To be seen dethroning the P4P star Mayweather would bring him to a new level.
Of course Cotto is not one to talk of the future or big plans. He keeps it simple when discussing what comes next.
“When I beat Mayweather on May 5th, the only thing that is going to happen is I’m going to rest for a couple weeks. After that I sit with my team and we can talk of boxing again.”
If he wins Saturday he will have earned his rest and anything that comes afterwards.
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