Miguel Cotto: The Welterweight Powerhouse

By Matthew Aguilar


Miguel Cotto: The Welterweight Powerhouse

It's hard to tell, exactly, when Miguel Cotto became such a powerhouse. Sure, the hard-punching Puerto Rican has been a rising star in the sport since turning pro in 2001. He has been on the fast-track to a world championship since demolishing the trio of Demetrio Ceballos (former world title challenger), Carlos Maussa (future world champ) and Victoriano Sosa (former world title challenger) in 2003-04. And his lethal mix of savvy boxing ability and heavy hands made him a can't-miss prospect in most experts' eyes. But there always seemed to be an obvious weakness.

He got winded against Lovemore N'dou in 2004. He was overly cautious against Mohammad Abduleav in 2005. And, in perhaps his worst outing as a pro, he was dropped and hurt against unheralded Ricardo Torres in late 2005.

Cotto came back to destroy Torres, knocking out the previously undefeated spoiler in the seventh round. But you had to wonder if he was as can't-miss as it seemed earlier in his career.

So again, we ask, when did Cotto become such an invincible-looking powerhouse? Because, lately, he's been sensational.

Answer: When he moved up from junior welterweight to welterweight.
We've all heard the stories about the struggles Cotto experienced in making the 140-pound limit. But we've heard those stories before from other fighters, and the skeptical boxing press tends to dismiss such claims.

But with Cotto, there is little doubt about his weight-reducing misadventures. And his last, smashing performance was the proof that those misadventures were valid.

In an all-Puerto Rican shootout with the talented, supposedly bigger, undefeated Carlos Quintana, Cotto shined. He softened Quintana's midsection with brutal body punches before moving his attack upstairs. Left hooks, right hands, multiple jabs - everything landed with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel. And, most telling of all, they all rocked Quintana like no one expected.

By the fifth round, Cotto was like a tank rolling downhill, with Quintana offering his heart in a futile attempt at keeping his opponent at bay. But it was to no avail, and, by the time the slaughter was stopped, Quintana's face indeed looked as though it had been rolled by a tank.

There was no huffing and puffing, like in the N'dou fight. There was no caution, as in the Abduldeav fight. And there were no trips to the canvas, as in the Torres fight.
It was a stunningly beautiful, overpowering performance by Cotto, who won the vacant WBA welterweight title - his first world championship. More importantly, perhaps, it gave notice to the welterweights and junior middleweights of the world that Cotto's time had arrived.

Whether your name is Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather, Shane Mosley or Antonio Margarito, you know that, these days, you can hardly step into the ring without the name "Cotto" being whispered in your ear.

Next up for the 26-year-old is Oktay Urkal, a tough German fighter whose claim-to-fame is losing in world title fights to Kostya Tszyu in 2001 and Vivian Harris in 2004. But toughness only goes so far, especially against a monster like Cotto. And Urkal has as much a chance as (certainly, you saw this one coming) Steve Erkel.

Why the 37-year-old is receiving a title shot - his third title shot - only the geniuses at the WBA know for sure.

But expect it to resemble last year's Cotto-Gianluca Branco debacle - another fighter who didn't belong in the ring with Miguel. Expect Cotto's newfound welterweight dominance to be on display as well.

What's worse is that it may be fall or winter before we see Cotto in the ring with someone who can compete with him. His original June opponent was to have been Margarito, in what would have been a thrilling Puerto Rico-Mexico shootout that conjured up memories of Angel Espada-Pipino Cuevas and Wilfredo Gomez-Salvador Sanchez.

But no.

Instead we're getting the forever underachieving Zab Judah, who probably had his swan song last April against Mayweather. At one point, Judah was a decent challenge for Cotto. But not in 2007.

Chalk up another victory for the Puerto Rican.

But who knows? Maybe boxing fans' patience will be rewarded late in the year, after Mayweather dethrones De La Hoya? Or after Mosley beats Carlos Baldomir? Or after Margarito's people finally decide to get their fighter a big fight.

Whatever the case, Miguel Cotto is a force now. A welterweight powerhouse. And few can argue that.


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