Cotto Turns It Around While Diamond Shines
By Coyote Duran (June 13, 2005)  
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I apologize. I didn’t see the Mike Tyson-Kevin McBride fight. I didn’t pay for it, therefore I didn’t watch it and it wasn’t until HBO ringside commentator Jim Lampley filled us in that Tyson actually quit in the sixth round of his umpteenth comeback fight against low-hoper Kevin McBride that I actually learned the outcome. If you haven’t already guessed, it was HBO’s turn to capture my TV time.

And why not? HBO’s Boxing After Dark offered two potentially excellent battles that, at the very least, didn’t disappoint and actually might have lit the fires of post-fight discussion and debate. The focus? Well, being that New York City was on the cusp of a very groovy Puerto Rican parade the next day, an absolutely enthusiastic crowd happened along Madison Square Garden Saturday night to bask in the vibe of their fistic pride, WBO Junior Welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto, 24-0 (20), as he marched on to greet previous conqueror (albeit five years removed from the amateurs) Uzbeki hardcase Mohammed Abdullaev, 15-2 (12). With Abdullaev’s Olympic experience against Cotto combined with Cotto’s recent nigh-disastrous outing against former WBO titlist DeMarcus Corley, the young, rising Boricua powerhouse obviously had an incredibly tough order to fill.

And very tough was Abdullaev. The now German resident entered the ring smiling as if he knew something no one else did. If first impressions are valid in boxing, my first impression was that the 32-year old was relaxed and came with a battle plan rooted in history. Bottom line? He had Cotto’s number.

Or so Abdullaev thought.

Since losing (via TKO) a bummer of a bout against Ghanaian Emmanuel Clottey due to a language gap the size of Lake Michigan, Abdullaev changed trainers and went on to win four straight bouts against rather OK competition while winning something called the “WBO Intercontinental Junior Welterweight title” prior to this meeting with Cotto. The time just looked right, didn’t it? Well, I suppose Miguel Cotto didn’t get the memo.

But that certainly didn’t deter Abdullaev from doing his best while he could. Abdullaev would open the fight as the pursuer and enact a strategy that would repeat itself throughout the fight as he would work Cotto many times toward the ropes with immense pressure. But much like any good comic actor/straight man combo act, Cotto would greet every set up line with an adequately well-placed punch line. Thus was the pattern: Abdullaev backs Cotto to ropes with pressure and combos. Cotto would fight his way out with hot body shots and great jabs.

Abdullaev would show a seriously strong beard on more than one occasion and believe me, he needed it. What Abdullaev couldn’t suss with a strong chin, however, he made up for with a highly “European-based” defense, very likely instilled by trainer extraordinaire Fritz Sdunek. Mohammed’s paws would be high enough to keep many of Cotto’s hard crosses and stinging jabs at bay but it only takes a few to break down that wall, kids. And the defending titlist would do just that over time. Abdullaev would more than recognize it too. Abdullaev would just about open every single round the aggressor and do what he could to command center ring because somewhere in the challenger’s subconscious, Abdullaev probably convinced himself that if he took the fight to Cotto, history would repeat itself and Cotto’s confidence would, slowly but surely, erode. Once again, Cotto didn’t get the memo.

It’s easy to get bored from repetition, anyone would think, yes? Well, sure. But when the repetition is so entertaining and intriguing, it’s hard to bitch. And the flow of the fight got pleasingly predictable because there were few lulls. Abdullaev would press the action and Cotto would brilliantly counter while working Abdullaev’s body only to turn around and find himself stapled to a full-on assault while stuck in a corner. Both men mastered excellent combos and knew when and where to lead into their right crosses with tight jabs and double hooks.

The turning point occurred in the seventh when Cotto started peeling off his rhythm, flicking jabs while backpedaling, using elusive footwork to beat Abdullaev’s own flow. Cotto would make every subsequent second into the round look easier and easier with more combinations and good movement. The makings of a budding shiner (as a result of great jabs and hooks) would soon after start taking residence over Abdullaev’s right eye as the seventh heat closes.

The eight round wasn’t terribly different. A lot of movement by Cotto has he throws precise combos, closing Abdullaev’s right eye more and more. After a clinch, Cotto moves and grooves more while the loaded-with-heart Uzbeki would continue to follow, looking for the opening that would become less and less of a reality as the rounds would go on. As the eight round comes to an end, the challenger pulls a boner while popping the young man from Caguas on the break. By the ninth heat, Abdullaev’s right eye is so solidly shut and with 2:03 left, the seemingly blind challenger calls it a day after a game, but fruitless effort. With the win, Cotto marks his third successful defense of his strap and, in a post-fight interview with Larry Merchant, even bandied about the desire to possibly face Oscar De La Hoya at a weight of 147.

If main events can be likened to main courses at a nice restaurant then the lead-in fights can absolutely be regarded in the hip, happening sampler platter vein, don’tcha think? Well, we definitely got the lion’s share of the good intro vittles tonight when B.A.D.’s televised undercard bout between former junior lightweight titlist Joel Casamayor, 31-3-1, (19) and up and coming Kyrgyzstan transplant Almazbek Raiymkulov, 20-0-1 (12), AKA the more pronounceable Kid Diamond proved to be a great way to kick off the night.

Diamond knew the stakes of this particular 12 rounder for he would come out hot for just about every round. You could attribute it to his enthusiastic face-first punching style or the fact that maybe Diamond knows how slow Casamayor is out of the gate and capitalized on it. Whatever you might believe, it was ultimately neither here nor there because the Kid came to fight. He would, however, suffer a wee setback in the first when Casamayor would score with a short right hook (followed by what I saw as a bit of a headbutt) to gain a flash knockdown and a two point round. That wacky kind of fun wouldn’t materialize for “El Cepillo” until further down the line for Diamond took it to the Cuban defector almost the entire fight, knowing that Casamayor would sooner or later whip out the zany yet dirty tactics he loves so well.

Fans would enjoy a surprisingly one-sided contest on behalf of Diamond for a good eight rounds until the gravity of Casamayor’s situation would sink in. No longer were they in Joel’s school, as Casamayor’s trainer was so attached to repeating for Casamayor was now in Diamond’s school, waiting for the principal to show up with his paddle full of holes. In the ninth, Casamayor would start taking the initiative and take the chase to Diamond, engaging in more internal warfare that would get the Cuban warned when heated low blows were thrown. The tenth and eleventh see more combinations come out as Casamayor does his best to secure the championship rounds but Diamond lives up to his moniker, stays hard (>Chuckle…….<) and engages in the scraps knowing to himself that he’s got quite a lead.

The twelfth sees playtime come to an end as the two trade frequently and tangle. Diamond throws authoritative combinations but gets caught by a good straight right by Casamayor. The back and forth continue on as both men step it up and state their dominance by trading on down the stretch with 40 seconds left. Then as if to say, “Piss off, guy. This one’s in the ag-bay.”, Almazbek Raimykulov would stagger Joel Casamayor with a nice two-punch combo with 10 seconds remaining.

Apparently, the judges didn’t all see the fight as one-sided as unofficial ringside judge Harold Lederman and I did. Lederman would score the battle for Kid Diamond 116-111 as would judge Billy Costello. Judges Tom Schreck and Luis Rivera saw things a little differently, I guess because their scorecards read 115-112, Casamayor and 114-114, a draw, respectively. Ok, a draw, maybe but 115-112, Casamayor? I thought judges weren’t supposed to drink while judging fights. I scored the fight 117-110. Maybe I’m the simpleton here. Who knows.

But we’ve got some questions answered (Can a young lightweight prospect walk the walk with a seasoned, crafty contender?) and a past loss avenged (Cotto-Abdullaev, noonch.). I suppose sometimes we’ve gotta take the dubious with the good, right? For my subscription wampum, I’d have to say I got a pretty good bargain and if that ain’t enough, there’s always the Glen Johnson-Antonio Tarver rematch next Saturday and Gatti-Mayweather one week later.

Damn nice time to be a fan, isn’t it?

SPECIAL: Mike Tyson Vs Kevin McBride MASSIVE Boxing News DHB
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