“My father was the strength. He was the strength that I had,” said Cotto at the time of his father’s passing. “But I will handle it. I have to.”
The death of his father — who was also his close friend, mentor and advisor — had come at a time when many believed Cotto was no longer the formidable fighter who had outpointed Shane Mosley in 2007.
For since then, Cotto’s face and psyche had suffered severe punishment over the course of three signficant bouts — knockout losses in the 11th and 12th rounds against Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao in July of 2008 and November of 2010, and a disputed split-decision victory over Joshua Clottey in June of 2009.
Following the loss to Margarito, Cotto’s nose was broken on the way to being knocked down and forced to take a knee. Blood dripped down his face from a deep gash over his left eye.
Miguel Sr.’s words best described the damage his son absorbed during the Margarito fight.
“That was a very sad night for me. Miguel wasn’t crying tears. The tears coming out of Miguel’s eyes that night weren’t normal. They were tears of blood. You had to see it,” the champion’s father, Miguel Cotto Sr.
“Bleeding out of his nose, bleeding out of his ears. You had to see how deep his wounds were. It’s impossible to explain. I couldn’t explain how someone with gloves could do that.”
Although illegal inserts were found and removed from Margarito’s hand wrappings prior to his ninth-round knockout loss to Mosley in his next fight in January of 2009, no one is sure whether or not Margarito was dirty when he faced Cotto.
For his first bout without his father in his corner, Cotto rose from welterweight to dethrone previously unbeaten WBA junior middleweight beltholder, Yuri Foreman, by ninth-round TKO in June of that year.
The Foreman fight also represented Cotto’s first of two bouts under the tutilage of famed trainer Manny Steward, the boxer’s third trainer over the course of four bouts. Cotto’s father had replaced his own brother, Evangelista Cotto, with former conditioning coach Joe Santiago in Miguel’s corner for the Clottey and Pacquiao fights.
But on Wednesday, during a national conference call, Cotto (37-2, 30 knockouts) sounded like a man whose career has been reinvigorated following his 10th-round stoppage of Margarito last December.
The Margarito fight was Cotto’s third straight stoppage victory and his first under trainer Pedro Diaz, a PHD in Pedagogical Sciences and an ex-university professor in sports science.
On May 5 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Cotto will make the third defense of his belt against WBC welterweight beltholder Floyd Mayweather Jr., (42-0 26 KOs), who is chasing his eighth major title in a fifth weight class.
During the call, Cotto expressed contentment as a married father of four, among other things. His wife is Melissa, and Cotto’s children are Isabella Mia 5, Miguel Cotto III 10 , Alondra 12, and Luis Angel 15.
Cotto also expressed a new sense of confidence inspired both by the memories of his relationship with his father and his triumph over Margarito, and addressed why he chose to face Mayweather over a rematch at 147 against Pacquiao, to whom he lost at a strength-sapping 145-pound catchweight.
Miguel Cotto on being at peace with himself, given his victory over Margarito, joining with Pedro Diaz, and having endured his father’s death:
“Margarito was the first time that I lost in my career. Everybody prepares themselves for a loss, you know? But thanks to God, I have a great family. I have great people around me, and they helped me a lot to get out of this situation.
“It’s not the way to fall down on the road, you know? You can stand up again and keep walking. I woke myself up and I’m still walking. I will continue to walk until May 5. I have a great team. Every member is a special person for me. Every member helped me in everything. It was my family. My mom. My dad. Pedro. [Assistant] Brian Perez.
“I believe that everybody, all of them, told me a lot to be in the position that I’m in right now, and to be the person that I am right now. When you find peace in your life, when your family brings you peace, and when your friend bring you peace, you live in a peaceful atmosphere, you know? That’s what I’m in right now.
“I have found peace in everything that I have in my life, and I have it in everything that I’m going to do in my life, and I do everything with peace. That’s made me work better, I’m comfortable and I’m concentrated in my work. I feel better right now, after the Margarito fight on Dec. 3.
“I feel much better and happy with myself. I think that this is the right moment for this fight, because I have everything back that was taken from me during Margarito’s victory. Things that he stole from me, and things that he grabbed for myself, you know? I have it all back, and I feel much, much better right now.”
On his father:
“When you had in your life, a person who never stopped working for you, for your benefit, and for what you can have in life, he wants to be good to you and wants to be responsible for you. That was my father.
“My father was a person who would never stop working for me and my family and for my mom in every moment. He passed away several years ago, but he’s still at my side. I feel him. I’m pretty happy with the feeling.
“I feel him in every moment of my life, and that’s the reason my father is the best person that I’ve ever come to meet in my life.”
On the advantage of the weight of 154 pounds, no catch weight:
“First of all, I thank him a lot for making the fight at my weight. If he wants my title, he has to fight at my weight and to do it the correct way. It’s my weight class, I feel comfortable here.
“I feel pretty strong and I’m pretty happy to get this fight at my weight class. I am just preparing myself well enough for May 5.”
On why he chose to fight Mayweather over the rematch with Pacquiao:
“We had more than one reason for deciding to pick the Mayweather fight instead of the Pacquiao fight, you know? I received better treatment in Mayweather’s negotiations and we decided to go with Mayweather.”
On trainer Pedro Diaz:
“A lot of people don’t know Pedro because he was the head coach for the Cuban team and everybody knows the achievements of the Cuban amateur teams. He was the guy in charge of the Cuban team, and right after I broke up with my first trainer, Evangelista, we decided to talk to him.
“But he didn’t want to join us at the time. That was because he didn’t feel himself prepared enough for professional boxing yet. After the Mayorga fight, we started having some problems with Emanuel Steward. We decided to talk to Pedro. He wanted to start working with us. I’ve known Pedro since 1996.
“Having Pedro here, having the Cuban coach working with us and his experience and knowledge in boxing, that makes a difference. He said, ‘I’m not here to give you new things, you know? You are a boxer, and I’m just here to take things that you have put aside, back into your game.’
“The main purpose for Pedro in my corner is to make me feel like the Miguel that you saw with Shane Mosley. This is the Miguel that you’re going to see on May 5.”
“The strategy is always the same. I will follow Pedro’s instructions as to everything regarding the training. I have trust in him as a trainer, and he has trust in me as a fighter. I will not say what the strategy will be, but I will follow my trainer’s strategy as designed by Pedro, come fight night.”
On whether or not he can win a decision:
“I trust in my preparation, and I trust that, whether by knockout or by decision, that I will be victorious without controversy.”
On what it would mean to become the first fighter to defeat Mayweather:
“Nobody is invincible in life. I know that because I have passed through that point in my life. I’m ready for anything that Floyd Mayweather can bring to me on May 5. The question is whether or not Floyd is ready for anything that Miguel Cotto can bring to him.
“I know that he’s a hard worker. But he is going to have to face, on May 5, another hard worker like him. On May 5, I’m trusting in myself. I know what I have to do on May 5 to get the victory.”
Photo by Ed Mulholland, Fightwireimages.com
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Photo by Octavian Cantilli, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com