By Jake Donovan
The manner in which he lost to Javier Fortuna coupled with his year-long break away from the ring led many to believe the Abner Cotto simply decided to call it a career. The second cousin of the former four-division champ had suffered all three career losses in the span of his last five fights, the last of which prompted the decision to sit out all of 2015.
What was thought to be an unannounced retirement instead became an extended break to recharge his engine and grow into a new weight division. The rebounding boxer will return to the ring on February 6 at Coliseo Roger Mendoza in his hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico.
“I never stopped training,” Cotto (18-3, 8KOs) said of his inactive stretch, which ends with his scheduled eight-round clash with Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz. “I’ve always been sparring, running and training to maintain my condition. There have been opportunities to fight, but we could never reach an agreement with the other side.”
His upcoming showdown with Ortiz serves as the chief support in the 2016 season premiere of Boxeo Al Maximo on Univision Puerto Rico, headlined by unbeaten prospect Alberto Machado, who faces Mexico’s Jose Luis Araiza. With the scheduled fight, Cotto will now officially campaign as a lightweight, having outgrown the super featherweight division.
“It was too difficult making 130-pounds,” Cotto says of his past struggles. “I was wiped out. In order to make weight, I could only eat small (meal) portions.”
The once-rising prospect was 16-0 to start his career before hitting the proverbial wall. An April ’13 knockout loss to Omar Figueroa came on the Showtime-televised undercard of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’ super welterweight title unification victory over Austin Trout.
From there came a competitive 10-round points loss to unbeaten Francisco Vargas in March ’14 and his not-so-competitive stoppage loss to Fortuna later that November.
Losses to the aforementioned trio are hardly shameful on their own. Factor in the success each went on to enjoy after the fact, Cotto was left feeling better about his future in the sport, albeit in a new weight class.
“All three went on to become world champions after facing me,” Cotto observed. Figueroa laid claim to the interim lightweight title one fight after their meet. Fortuna – already a former featherweight titlist – won a super featherweight belt six months after upending Cotto.
Vargas’ rise to fame took the longest, but also proved the most heroic. The undefeated boxer from Mexico climbed off the canvas and facial swelling and cuts to stop and dethrone Takashi Miuria in the 9th round of their unforgettable war last November, one hailed by many outlets – including BoxingScene.com – as 2015 Fight of the Year.
Cotto remains a long way from the title picture, but at the very least is optimistic about returning to where he once was before his fall from grace.
“I am ready for a new start in my career,” notes the 28-year old.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox