NEW YORK – Miguel Cotto did not want to discuss the last fight against Manny Pacquiao back in November. The twelfth round TKO loss out in Las Vegas, where Cotto would relinquish the WBO welterweight championship is a bad memory. So at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx New York Friday afternoon there was only mention of moving ahead as he opposes WBA Super Welterweight champion Yuri Foreman.
The fight against Foreman, for the title, will also see Cotto move up in weight and there will be many story lines. Cotto will have famed trainer Emanuel Steward in his corner for the first time, the fight will see the return of boxing to Yankee Stadium for the first time since Muhammad Ali defeated Ken Norton by a 15-round decision on September 28, 1976 at the original Yankee Stadium.
And more importantly, Cotto needs to make a statement. He wins and perhaps there is an opportunity to become a player once again in the welterweight division. Though during the past year, Cotto a three-time world champion and veteran of 16- world championship fights has expressed an interest of taking on two more opponents and then contemplate retirement.
“A tough fight,” said Cotto (34-2 0,27KO’s) about his opponent, the 29-year old Foreman (28-0, 8KO’s) the first Orthodox Jew to win a world championship in nearly 70 years. “I am mentally blocked about Pacquiao and thinking about Foreman,” he said.
The boxing world seems to think Cotto may have lost his punch after losing the WBA welterweight title to Antonio Margarito two years ago at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. A battered Cotto saw right uppercuts and a bloodied nose in the third round slow his pace before the fight was stopped by his corner after 10 rounds.
Later it was revealed that Margarito fought with tainted hand wraps under his gloves when Mosley defeated him for the title that Margarito defeated Cotto for.However the prevailing opinion is that Margarito used illegal hand wraps in the Cotto fight. Margarito was suspended for a year and Cotto stayed silent about the hand wrap issue. Regardless his performance was not Cotto like, neither was it a dominant win at Madison Square Garden last June when he successfully defended his WBO welterweight title against Joshua Clottey in a controversial and close 12-round split decision.
“Where he goes after this fight, you have to ask him,” was the comment from Bob Arum of Top Rank the promoter of Cotto and also Pacquiao. “He is still a world class fighter, has tremendous popularity and can still have an impact. It is a question of what he does against Yuri.”
The popularity of Cotto is still dominant, especially in New York City. Madison Square Garden has always been the venue for him fighting there and successfully defending his titles four times in the month of June on the eve of the National Puerto Rican Day parade.
And with the popularity of Foreman, who presents a real challenge for Cotto, this fight could see a crowd in excess of 35,000 at the new “House That Ruth Built” in the Bronx. HBO will also televise the fight on their network as Cotto wants fans to see him fight without shelling out a $50 dollar pay-per-view fee.
“Defending against Cotto is a dream come true,” said Foreman who is expected to also draw a good contingent of Jewish fans to the stadium. Arum plans to stack the undercard with fighters from every ethnic group, including 21-year old Christian Martinez, 4-0, a New York City Golden Gloves champion and promising junior welterweight who was born and raised minutes away from the new stadium.
The fight is being billed as “Stadium Slugfest” or as Lonn Trost Chief Operating Officer of the Yankees said, “Battle in the Bronx” or “Battle of the Boroughs.” The first of many prestigious fights at the new stadium is what Trost is hoping for. There is the possibility that will happen, except Cotto may not be in the plan if he indeed decides to hang up the gloves soon.
“It’s a great honor to have my first title defense at Yankee Stadium and join the names of such fighters as Benny Leonard, Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali, and to represent Israel and the Jewish people,” said Foreman.
Except this may not be a legendary fight, more so. historic as boxing returns to Yankee Stadium with anticipation.
Email Rich Mancuso: [email protected]