Saturday, November 21, 2009
You will also be told that Cotto hasn’t been the same fighter since losing to Antonio Margarito last year. There seems to be some truth to that as his intimidating power was smothered in that bout by Margarito’s relentless attack (more on that later), but there’s so much more that’s overlooked. Despite subsequent wins over Michael Jennings and Joshua Clottey – the latter a pretty good fighter who just didn’t finish the job – Cotto wasn’t exactly the rib-bruising power puncher that made him such a force moving up the welterweight ranks. Last Saturday’s loss to Pacquiao was a greater exhibit in how different he became in the past two years.
When Cotto’s name was mentioned as a possible opponent for other big name boxers in the welterweight division, he was just known as devastating body puncher who would have difficulty against fighters who displayed a full offensive repertoire. Some observers believed that he needed to add more to his arsenal in order to work himself to a bigger payday against those better known pugilists like Mayweather. Overpowering Carlos Quintana, Zab Judah and Paulie Malignaggi with hooks to the midsection apparently, didn’t impress enough.
It was when he fought Shane Mosley that he started to show off a more consistent lead jab (in which he goes to an orthodox stance, but leads with his more powerful left hand). He would switch to a more natural southpaw stance at times in later rounds, but no matter what, he would still try to display more jabs and crosses than in previous fights. Though he won that fight by unanimous decision, Mosley fought well enough to show that not only he could still tango with the best of the younger generation (he’s nine years older than Cotto), but that Cotto wasn’t going to have as much ease finishing off savvier and more polished fighters.
Save for annihilating Alfonso Gomez after the Mosley bout, Cotto was already a different leading into his loss to Margarito, only which the changes were of his own making. It’s speculated (yet unproven) that Margarito had the ‘hands of Paris’ in that bout, but it has been generally accepted that Cotto took so much punishment in that fight that it took away the cloak of invincibility. Margarito kept coming with a constant flurry of punches. Cotto was hemmed up in the ropes throughout that fight; something that he customarily did to his opponents was now turned against him. As disovered, neither the new or old style would have succeeded against a guy who may have had illegal assistance.
The Clottey fight did just about as much to show this changed fighter, only with far more legal methods. A cut over his left eye from a head butt in the third round kept bleeding throughout the bout, but if it wasn’t for Clottey’s injured knee, it was more than likely that Cotto would have dropped this fight as well. Cotto was unable to see from his left side, but Clottey’s inhibited movement gave Cotto enough of a chance to get back into the fight. Neither man was able to truly finish off the other because of their injuries, but judges leaned towards Cotto for being game enough to regain his offense in the late rounds.
Boxing, as any other sport, presents so many “what ifs” that it’s too easy to say that one bout is always connected to another. Because of the time between fights, boxing fans and media can only go back to the last showing for some sort of trend. There were too many mitigating factors from Cotto’s last few bouts to say that there would have been a different outcome last weekend. If Cotto was the same fighter in his previous outings when facing Mosley, Mosley just may have won in the same manner that Pacquiao did, if not more convincing considering he’s a natural welterweight. The way the last two years have played out could have been far different for not just Cotto, but the entire division.
He is still a heck of a boxer, even if his losses have looked exceptionally awful. Pundits point to a change in trainers as Cotto fired his uncle after the victory over Jennings, yet Evangelista was in his corner during that controversial Margarito loss (Joe Santiago has been the trainer for the Clottey and Pacquiao bouts). Though a few dare to say that he should consider retirement at this point, he’s 29 years old and will find suitors for more fights. All of the guys he faced in the last three years had rather publicized chances to redeem themselves from defeats. We should expect that Cotto will get his as well in 2010.
Photo Credit to AP via Yahoo! Sports