By Chris Robinson
On Tuesday, it was officially announced by Miguel Cotto that he would be working with a new trainer for his upcoming December 3rd rematch against Antonio Margarito, set to take place at Madison Square Garden in New York. The man tabbed for that coveted role will be Cuban trainer Pedro Luis Diaz Benitez, who happens to be a Doctor in Pedagogical Sciences while holding a Master’s in sports training and a Major in Physical Culture and Sports.
While Cotto seems pleased and at ease with the move heading into his crucial revenge match with Margarito, the first man to defeat him over three years ago, this means that Miguel’s trainer for his previous two fights, Emanuel Steward, is going his separate way. Rumors ran rampant yesterday as to the reason behind the split between fighter and trainer but Steward insists there are no hard feelings from either end.
“He said he wanted to go with this guy who’s got some degrees and a lot of things and he’s very impressed with all of those,” Steward said. “He feels that is best for him at this stage. I wish him luck and we’re still friends.”
The match with Margarito is very personal to Cotto, who started fast against the Tijuana fighter in their July 2008 clash in Las Vegas before fading over the first half of the fight on his way to an 11th round TKO loss. Cotto would suffer a 12th round TKO defeat to Manny Pacquiao in November of the following year before teaming up with Steward and reeling off stoppage victories over Yuri Foreman and Ricardo Mayorga.
Steward is candid in stating that he was shocked in training when finding out just how much Miguel still has left in his tank and feels he should have enough to nip Margarito in a few months’ time.
“I think he definitely has a chance of beating Margarito,” Steward added. “He’s more determined than we saw before. This time he will be like Andy Lee was with his fight with Vera, more aware of not wearing himself out. So he will fight a more deliberate fight. I think Margarito took a lot of punishment in his last few fights.
“Even though Miguel Cotto took punishment in his fights, against Margarito and Pacquiao, I think he has recovered from that mentally and physically. He came back with two good wins. I think he’s more rested between the two and with it being in New York he is going to be tremendously fired up with the Puerto Rican crowd. So, I pick him to win the rematch.”
What Steward was able to unearth in Cotto during their time together was his polished boxing style that he feels had been covered up in recent years because of his penchant for aggression.
“Well, Miguel, everybody knows his great punching power but I was able to determine was his great boxing skills. Even as an amateur when you would see him fighting in the International Olympics, he was a classic boxer, boxing like a Sugar Ray Leonard. And now he’s going back to using his boxing skills as well as his punching power,” said Steward.
Steward was last seen in the ring with the aforementioned Lee this past weekend on HBO as he pulled out a decision verdict over the always-game Brian Vera in Atlantic City. Lee had suffered his only loss to the Austin, Texas fighter in March of 2008 and Steward was pleased with his improvements the second time around.
“I thought his performance against Vera was beautiful because it was what he had to do. It wasn’t an overwhelming or devastating performance, but it was the kind of performance he needed. Especially when you are fighting a guy you lost to once because you got carried away and ran out of gas. When you are fighting a guy like that next time you have to analyze how hurt he is before you start opening up. He fought a good, tactical fight and I was very satisfied.”
[Reader's note: For candid images of Miguel Cotto over the years, including his battles with Pacquiao and Margarito, his best offensive moments, and pics of him outside of the ring, please visit the Massive Miguel Cotto Gallery]
Chris Robinson is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He can be reached at [email protected]