Miguel Cotto: A legend's long, glorious journey to Canelo Alvarez
Heading into his remarkable 24th career world title fight against celebrated Mexican superstar Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (45-1-1 32 KO) set to take place November 21st at the storied Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, grizzled ring warrior Miguel Cotto, now 34, has painfully and skillfully carved out a gladiators legacy in the sport of kings.
Cotto, who after a long and successful amatuer career that saw the Vicious left hooker earn a spot on the 2000 Puerto Rican Olympic National team among many other lofty accolades, opted to join the paid ranks in early 2001. And so it was on February 23 of 2001, that one of Puerto Rico's finest prizefighting careers of all-time was born.
It didn't take long to rise as a professional pugilist nor did it take long for the young Cotto to jump into deep waters as a highly regarded, fresh prospect. Early in his pro career, he defeated the likes of former titilists and top contenders such as Justin Juuko, John Brown, Cesar Bazan, Rocky Martinez, Demetrius Ceballos, Carlos Maussa, Victoriano Sosa and Lovemore N'Dou.
The afforementioned string of impressive wins, earned Cotto his first world title shot against the then undefeated and highly touted young kayo artist Kelson Pinto in September of 2004.
Entering into their 2004 Super-Lightweight title bout, Cotto and Pinto, both former Olympians, were thought to be on an even playing field in a true "pick-em" affair. However, the soft-spoken, yet hard-hitting Miguel Cotto showed his superior class in a decisive 6th round stoppage to claim his first world championship as a professional.
After this annihilation and championship grab Cotto would not look back. He would go on to defend his newly won crown via stoppage against his next five opponents, even avenging a 2000 Olympic games loss to eventual Gold Medalist Muhammad Abdullaev by 9th round TKO before meeting and defeating the then-unbeaten, future two-time world champion Paulie "Magic Man" Malignaggi by way of 12 round decision in 2006.
In his very next contest, Cotto would defeat future Paul Williams conquerer Carlos Quintana for the coveted 147-lb WBA championship to become a two-division champion.
The now-confident Cotto would then go on to defend his WBA Welterweight crown four times, besting the likes of former lineal titilists Zab Judah and future Hall of Famer "Sugar" Shane Mosley along the way to becoming a top pound-for-pound star in the sport.
With his unbeaten run as champion now firmly intact the surging Cotto would be defined as much by what would befall him next at the alleged underhanded tactics suffered at the purportedly loaded hands of Antonio Margarito in brutal 11th round defeat in their highly controversial July 2008 showdown as any fight in his career. It was a loss that seemingly stunned Cotto and took the wind out of his once soaring sails.
Though Cotto would once again claim a Welterweight title after his controversial and brutal stoppage loss to Margarito, he would struggle mightily in a disputed win over Joshua Clottey in early 2009 before being utterly dismantled by Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao at the end of that year.
However, after the sustained beating suffered at the hands of Pacquiao that had many calling for the proud Puerto Rican champion to retire, Cotto would rebound valiantly to go on to capture a world title in a third weight class. This time Cotto bested WBA 154 lb champion Yuri Foreman in 2010 for the honors. In his next fight the newly minted three-division titilist would go on to stop the wild swinging, former lineal Welterweight champion Ricardo Mayorga in the 12th round of their 2011 title tilt en-route to setting up a much hyped, revenge-laden showdown with bitter rival Antonio Margarito in late 2011.
The tension surrounding the Cotto and Margarito camps heading into their December 2011 rematch was palpable and thickly laden with professional and personal hatred and animosity toward one another. Cotto had claimed that Margarito cheated in their first encounter by loading his hand-wraps, a claim that was substantiated prior to Margarito's brutal 2009 knockout loss to Shane Mosley.
Margarito was coming into his grudge match with Cotto fresh off his own drubbing sustained at the hands of Manny Pacquiao. The atmosphere was absolutely electric in Madison Square Garden when Miguel Cotto delighted his Puerto Rican contingent in attendance by punishing and stopping Antonio Margarito over the course of nine one sided rounds to retain his 154 lb title and exact the sweetest revenge in the most satisfying victory of his career.
After the dizzying high of his triumph over bitter rival Margarito, Cotto, now on the wrong side of 30, earned a mega-fight with Pound for Pound King Floyd "Money" Mayweather in 2012. In a nip and tuck contest in which Cotto continuously stalked Floyd, yet hit air, Cotto won a few rounds on the judges scorecards in a respectable 12 round unanimous decision defeat to the best in the world.
Though Cotto lost a competitive tactical battle to Floyd, it was his lethargic and uninspired defeat at the hands of former 154 lb champion Austin Trout in front of his Garden faithful in 2012 that once again had many Cotto fans begging their man to hang up the gloves for good.
After much introspection in his time away from the sport throughout much of 2013, Cotto decided a total career overhaul was in order.
His brilliant decision to bring in Freddie Roach as his trainer paid off in spades immediately as Cotto quickly and effortlessly blasted out contender Delvin Rodriguez in late 2013 under Roach's charge, thus setting himself up with a historic date with destiny.
The dramatic resurrection of Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto's career was made complete and final on the night of June 8, 2014 as he seamlessly picked apart the proud longtime World Middleweight Champion, Sergio Martinez to become the only man from his proud pugilistic country to lay claim to being a four division champion.
Cotto further cemented his legacy in the sport in May of this year via sound destruction of former unified Middleweight champion Daniel Geale by way of a two-fisted, power-punching showcase.
So come November 21st, Miguel Cotto steps into the ring with Saul "Canelo" Alvarez as a venerable legend of the sport. But, something more than a legend, Cotto has come to epitomize what it truly means to be a champion in the sport of kings in a memorable, determined run from 140 to 160 lbs over the span of a decade.
Miguel Cotto's perseverance and reaction to adversity combined with his sheer class in and out of the ring have certainly made for one of the most entertaining and finest stories ever written in the annals of the Sweet Science.
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