On the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City, Miguel Cotto of Caguas, Puerto Rico will attempt to avenge the last loss he suffered in a boxing ring when he takes Mohammed Abdulaev of Uzbekistan. Cotto lost to Abdulaev in the 2000 Sydney Olympics when the Puerto Rican was only nineteen. At the time of that bout, Abdullaev was a mature 26. Cotto went on to turn pro and win the WBO junior welterweight title by avenging another amateur loss against Kelson Pinto. On June 11, Cotto will be defending that title for the third time. Since the loss to Abdullaev, Cotto sports a pro record of 23-0 (19 KOs) while the gold medalist has gone 15-1 (12 KOs) with the loss coming at the hands of Emanuel Clottey. Since the loss, though, Abdullaev has won four straight with three KOs. Cotto's last fight, on February 26 against DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley, was arguably the toughest of his career but after getting hurt, Cotto came back and scored a TKO victory. Cotto's critics got plenty of ammunition when Corley had Cotto out on his feet in the third round in his native Puerto Rico. This will be only the second fight of Cotto's career in New York City and his first in the Mecca of boxing, Madison Square Garden.
"I am looking forward to giving them a great show and don't think anyone will be disappointed that night" said the now 24 year-old Cotto earlier this week in a conference call. When asked if there was any added pressure on him after the countryman Felix Trinidad's recent loss, the Puerto Rican heir apparent said, "I am not trying to be the substitute for anyone and I am surely not trying to be him."
"I just remember I connected with some great punches that never counted," was how Cotto remembered his fight in 2000 with Abdulaev, "but it's going to be a big difference now. When we fight June 11th you are going to see how we have progressed, each of us."
Cotto was asked about what has changed in the last five years. "The biggest difference since we fought five years ago is that I think I have fought a lot of tough opponents," said Cotto. "I think my experience over the last five years has been greater. I think I've developed a sense of what a professional should do, and as far as my plans and tactics for the fight I try to just win round by round and do whatever I need to do".
During the call, a question about Cotto's weight came up to which he answered, "I feel good right now, the weight is not a problem. I think when the body tells us to move up that's when we'll do it. I think right now 140 is were we want to stay and 140 is were we want to fight".
Cotto seems content to let others make career decisions for him. "Whoever [his promoter Top Rank] wants me to fight that's who I'll fight", he said when asked about facing bigger named opposition in the talent rich junior welterweight ranks such as world champion Kostya Tszyu.
When asked for a prediction for this weekend's bout between Tszyu and Ricky Hatton, Cotto went with the champion. "Tszyu has more experience and is a lot stronger, so he should win the fight."
When Miguel was asked to respond to comments that had been made in recent weeks by contender "Pretty Boy" Floyd Mayweather that Cotto was not on the same level as him and that he shouldn't even be thinking about a fight with him, Cotto had this to say, "Maybe Floyd doesn't think that I am at the same level as he is but, you know if you compare some the fighters that he has fought and the ones that I have fought, I have been able to do something that he hasn't been able to do and that's knock them out, so that speaks for itself."
This weekend kicks off what should be a great month for the junior welterweight division. First with Tszyu defends his title against Hatton. Next, Cotto hopes to bring a little more pride to the Puerto Rican Day Parade by avenging his 2000 Olympic loss against Abdullaev. The month culminates with a fight between Arturo Gatti and Mayweather. After the dust clears from this whirlwind month, we should have clearer picture as to whom is the man to beat in the most exciting division in boxing. Cotto thinks he will still be standing.