By Andreas Hale
No matter what happens on December 2nd, Miguel Cotto will say farewell to the sweet science after giving seventeen years of blood, sweat and tears to the sport. While he’s certainly a first-ballot Hall of Famer, there’s so much to appreciate about his career that oftentimes slips through the cracks when talking about the best boxers of this generation.
Truth be told, we should want all of our fighters to be like Miguel Cotto.
Sure, Cotto has never been the definition of charisma. When it came to him becoming Puerto Rico’s next big boxing star, his stone faced approach to the game is what initially had many weary about him. He was just about as much of a polar opposite to Felix Trinidad that could be imagined. Where Tito was full of personality outside of the ring, Cotto was always about his business. He may have lacked the charm of Trinidad, but when he stepped between the ropes, Miguel Cotto was undeniable.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a Miguel Cotto fight that wasn’t entertaining. He always delivered, win or lose, and it was a rarity if you didn’t feel like you got your money’s worth when he exchanged leather with his opponent.
Oh, and his opponents.
One could argue that Miguel Cotto has one of the best portfolios in boxing. If they were a quality fighter and near his weight class, Cotto would find and fight them. While much of the boxing universe is all about finding the right time to face an opponent, Cotto just wanted to fight. He fought Antonio Margarito when nobody wanted to fight The Tijuana Tornado. Although there will always be a cloud of controversy that hovers over that fight, nobody can say that it wasn’t an excellent demonstration of blood and guts. Cotto would lose, but would get his revenge in a one-sided rematch three years later. Of course, he fought Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. The latter was at his most dangerous at the time. But Cotto never backed down and gave it his all despite being stopped in the 12th round. As for Mayweather, Cotto gave him hell for twelve rounds and busted up Mayweather unlike anybody in recent memory.
But there were other opponents that Cotto stepped up to face when others probably wouldn’t. Shane Mosley, Austin Trout, Joshua Clottey, Canelo Alvarez. There’s also the recognizable likes of Paulie Malignaggi, Ricardo Mayorga, Sergio Martinez and Zab Judah as well as perceived tough outs DeMarcus Corley, Ricardo Torres and Carlos Quintana. Cotto ducked nobody and it would be wonderful if everyone in boxing had that mentality. No, he won’t retire undefeated but let’s be honest with ourselves when we say that boxing has long overvalued the undefeated record. There's so much more value with fighters who are willing to fight anyone at anytime than somebody who has a blown up record against a bunch of meatballs. Cotto earned every ounce of his 41-5 record and clobbered his way to 33 knockouts.
His style was something to behold. Of course, much has been made of his explosive left hook tot the body. But his unique ability to shift gears from a slugger to a boxer was always a sight to behold. And, for the most part, he knew what to deploy and against who. He was smart enough to avoid a boxing match with Floyd Mayweather and came out guns blazing to force the chess wizard to play rock ‘em sock ‘em robots for 12 rounds. He roughed up the likes of Paulie Malignaggi and Sergio Martinez in ways that neither fighter was truly ready for. He would also know when to back off and showcase his footwork and boxing ability like he did against Shane Mosley. There were multiple dimensions to Miguel Cotto and all of them were entertaining to watch.
When he completes his swan song at Madison Square Garden this weekend, nobody can say he was pushed out of the sport. He may not be the same fighter at 37 that he was at 27, but he’s far from shot. He’s lost a few, but has never been out of a fight. If you sign up to fight Miguel Cotto, you know that you’re going to be in for a fight. There’s no way around it. Sadam Ali is very aware of this and won’t enter the ring under the assumption that he’s facing a fighter who is simply looking to collect his last paycheck.
That’s always been the beauty of Miguel Cotto. On paper he will be remembered for winning six world titles in four weight classes and a resume littered with names. But he was a fighter that offered even more in person. He’s given boxing everything he had to offer and now it is time to give everything to the family that supported him on this journey that has been unkind to most that have travelled it. He’ll leave the sport at the age of 37 with his faculties intact and a healthy bank account. He’s never found himself embroiled in controversy outside of the ring but has managed to make a great deal of money based strictly off of his talent and ability. What more could he ask for? Better yet, what more could we ever ask of a boxer who gave us everything we asked for and then some?
Take note, young fighters. Everybody should model themselves after Miguel Angel Cotto.