Miguel Cotto Prepares for the Moment
The Welter Report by Gabriel Montoya (May 26, 2008) Doghouse Boxing  
Miguel Cotto is not your typical fighter. He doesn’t engage in trash talk to set up his next fight. He doesn’t use mental warfare to psyche out his opponents. He doesn’t entertain the idea of a future beyond the fighter in front of him. For the Puerto Rican welterweight titleholder, the practice of staying in and focusing on the moment permeates everything he does. Be it in interviews, training, or fighting, it is this unique discipline that has carried Cotto to the upper echelon’s of the sport and one he hopes will carry him to victory when he faces Antonio Margarito on July 26 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is a fight that will define one of them as the force
to be reckoned with in the welterweight division.

To Cotto, the future is not something to be predicted. It is only to be prepared for. Speculation is a pointless exercise that only wastes much needed energy. Ask him who he wants to fight next should he beat Margarito and the answer is simple and succinct. “I let my team worry about that,” he says. “I am only concerned with Antonio Margarito.” Ask him how he sees the fight playing out and he answers: “I don’t know. I am going to [training camp in] Puerto Rico to push myself more than 100%. I push myself to be more than prepared. I am going to prepare myself for all type of styles. I am going to prepare myself for every type of fight Margarito can bring.” Where some fighters might complain about the type of gloves or the size of the ring, Cotto merely accepts the physical terms of a fight as simply the terrain he will have to navigate and mentally adjusts accordingly. “It doesn’t matter to me,” he says. “They asked for 8 ounces. If we have to fight with 8 ounce gloves, then we have to fight with 8 ounce gloves.”

For the very best fighters, adaptability is the key to success. It is this very ability to assess a situation and adapt quickly that first brought the naturally left-handed Cotto to his current orthodox style. “I feel more comfortable [in the orthodox style]. When I first got to the gym, I did it the southpaw way. That didn’t feel good, you know? The next day, I did the right-handed stance and I felt more comfortable.” However, Cotto didn’t completely abandon the right–hand lead style and has used it effectively in his last few fights, mainly as a way of cutting off the ring. “Sometimes, you can go southpaw [to get closer to the opponent].”

This attribute has become the root of Cotto’s style and comes from openness to change and total commitment to preparation. “I have to move when I have to move,” he explains. “I have to put pressure when I have to put pressure. It’s a little mix of styles. I think my philosophy is... just believing in myself. I try to get myself in the best shape I can put myself in. That’s the way to make anything possible. You really have to think of your opponent. You have to think of everything. That’s what you can control. You prepare for everything and who knows? You can handle anything your opponent brings to you.”

After 32 wins (26 by brutal KO), and two titles in as many divisions, not to mention a very successful amateur career, Cotto insists he is still learning. “I learn every day. In the gym. In practice. I learn every day and in every fight. That’s our life, you know? Learn and learn so you can be a better boxer or a better person.” It is this hunger for knowledge that drives him to what he believes is an unattainable goal: becoming a complete fighter. “No,” he says when asked if he has reached that level yet. “I ask too much of myself, you know? I always want to be a better boxer. I’m never going to think I am complete.”

Besides current linear champion Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Margarito (who has taken on more top welters than anyone in the division) represents Cotto’s greatest current challenge in the division. “I am happy to be in a fight everyone feels is real,” Cotto says. “The fight means a lot. It means a lot. Not just to me, to the Mexican fans, and the Puerto Rican fans but to overall boxing fans.”

With their take-no- prisoners styles, Cotto/Margarito might eclipse last year’s Fight of the Year candidates, Cotto/Mosley and Cotto/Judah. For Cotto, the jury is still out on that idea. “I can’t compare Margarito with anybody. Mosley is Mosley. Judah is Judah. Margarito is going to be just Margarito. Every fight is different. Every opponent brings different kinds of things, styles. Margarito is coming with his style. I am coming with my style. People that come in the best shape, plus belief in self, will come out on top.”

Gabriel at:
Coyotefeather@gmail.com .
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