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New Cotto, Old Cotto?


Miguel Cotto - Coca-Cola - By icheehuahua, Doghouse Boxing
Photo © icheehuahua, MaxBoxing

Article By Steve Kim

Throughout his career, Miguel Cotto, who makes his 2013 debut against Delvin Rodriguez this Saturday night at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida (HBO 9:45 p.m., ET), has been through a gamut of trainers. From family members (his uncle, Evangelista) to unknowns (Joe Santiago) to Hall-of-Famers (the late, great Emanuel Steward) to those with deep amateur backgrounds (Pedro Diaz). But when he steps into the ring this weekend, Freddie Roach will be working his corner.
Since August, Cotto has been training under the direction of Roach at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood. As he hit the West Coast, Cotto was probably north of 180 pounds but at a media day staged for him a couple of weeks ago, it looked like he was already near the junior middleweight level.

“His physical progress has really been great,” said Roach, who held private sessions for the Puerto Rican star in the downstairs portion of his gym. “We work him hard every day. He comes at five in the morning and Gavin [MacMillan] works with him on strength-and-conditioning and we do roadwork. He did a Griffith Park run today. It’s an eight-mile uphill run, completed it and then he wanted to run home. He ran all the way from Griffith Park to the gym.”
One condition Roach set for Cotto was that he had to come out and train with him in Southern California. When Cotto agreed to that stipulation, Roach - who was contemplating an offer to work with Alexander Povetkin (who faces Wladimir Klitschko this weekend as part of the HBO tripleheader) - decided to take on this task.
When asked why he reached out to Roach, Cotto explained, “Y’ know, I saw the professionalism in Freddie, the respect the community of boxing feels for Freddie and that’s what I need to put my career back in a good situation.”
Last year was a lucrative yet winless one for Cotto, who lost both of his 2012 bouts. He earned a career-high payday against Floyd Mayweather in losing a respectable decision to the game’s best boxer in May and then had a rather flat performance versus Austin Trout in December. It was hard to tell if Trout was really that good or if Cotto was just a faded boxer at the age of 32.
“He told me he didn’t practice that well for that fight. He practiced one punch at a time and he wasn’t practicing combinations and so forth. He told me that they trained the way they fought and it wasn’t a great training camp,” said Roach, who has made it clear that he wants Cotto to be much more offensive. While doing pad work with Roach in front of the gathered media, it’s clear his left hook to the body will once again be a consistent part of his attack. Cotto seemingly punctuated every combination with this punch.
Roach admits he was worried about the type of commitment Cotto still had to the sport. The bottom line is Cotto has made millions (and for his sake, hopefully kept most of it) and has already set an impressive legacy. How much motivation would he have at this juncture?
“You always worry about that. He told me when he called me that he had some fights left in him and he wondered if I could help him,” recalled Roach, who was in the opposite corner when Cotto faced Manny Pacquiao back in 2009. “I told him, ‘I think I can,’ and his work ethic has shown that he has the desire to go on and I feel he can compete at that level, yes.”
So can you teach an old dog new tricks?
Roach wants him to at least drop one bad habit, explaining, “I want him off the ropes a little bit more. I think when he goes to the ropes, he’s trying to set to counterpunch but he’ll spend too much time waiting for that to happen. Basically what I want is more offense. I’m a very offensive-minded guy. When he’s offensive, he’s great. When he throws that left hook to the body, it’s his bread-and-butter and breaks guys down. So I think we’re going to work that out and we’re working on his punch count. I want it to be higher. I told him that I just finished watching the Trout fight and the only reason why he lost that fight is because he doesn’t throw enough punches.”
“I’m the same Miguel as always,” said Cotto, speaking in the third person. “Freddie is the kind of guy who knows what he has to tell you, what he has to do to take you to the best shape possible.”
Like many other fighters, Cotto has gone through a few trainers. There is a chance that this lack of continuity in the corner could be problematic. But Roach says, “I think I have it under control. I’m giving him what he wants and what he needs, I feel, and the thing is, I’m not inventing a new wheel. The thing is, I’m just bringing back what he did when he was at his best and that’s pretty much what I’m working on and not standing in front of his opponents for too long and the combinations and he’s doing quite well and I think he’s doing quite well and I think we got along pretty well and I like what I see.”
There’s no doubting the trainer is important but it’s really about the fighter, how much passion he has and how much he has left in the tank.
When asked if his flame still burns bright, Cotto answered, “I’m a little older than I was 10 years ago,” - when reminded that we’re all older than we were 10 years ago, he chuckled - “but the person I am, the passion is still here. Yeah, I still have the same kind of feelings I had 10 years ago. I still have it in me.”
Getting Cotto into fighting shape was not a one-man operation. Gavin MacMillan, the founder of Sport Science Lab, is also in charge of the strength-and-conditioning for Ruslan Provodnikov, who faces Mike Alvarado on October 19th in Denver.
MacMillan, who has worked with hundreds of athletes, was impressed by the level of Cotto’s focus and dedication throughout this camp.
“For sure; from day one when we started, going back six weeks now, he’s shown up and worked as hard as humanly possible. His workouts in the morning are a minimum and we do a lot of different things from running to riding a bike to plyometrics to stretching. You name it; we’re literally trying to throw the kitchen sink at him and prepare him as much as possible physically for this fight.”
MacMillan has also incorporated swimming into their routine:
When asked how close Cotto is to his physical prime, MacMillan said, “I don’t think he’s past his prime. I think when you’re in a business for a long time, sooner or later in the fight business, you lose. The question is, when? I think he had a couple of losses in there that have definitely reinvigorated him mentally but there certainly isn’t a physical decline.”
A press release was sent out on Monday morning announcing that blocks of $25 seats would be made available for this weekend’s bout at the Amway Center. Originally, the building was set up for right around 9,000 but with the apparent demand, more tickets were made available.
It’s clear that despite his two-bout losing streak, Cotto is still a very legitimate draw.
Here’s the latest episode of “The Next Round” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly:


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