NEW YORK – On four separate occasions the three-time welterweight champion Miguel Cotto of Caguas Puerto Rico has fought at Madison Square Garden in New York City on the eve of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. Each time, Cotto was successful defending his title in front of predominant Puerto Rican boxing fans,
This year, mainly because Cotto is headlining the return of boxing at Yankee Stadium on Saturday June 5th the Garden will not be hosting a Cotto party the night before the parade. Instead the spotlight turns to the relatively unknown Ivan “Iron Boy” Calderon the WBO junior flyweight champion.
Calderon (33-0-1) from Baymon Puerto Rico defends against Jesus “Azul” Irbe (17-6-4, 10KO’s) of Culican Sinaloa Mexico, not in the main arena but at the adjacent Garden Theatre. Not the main stage for Calderon, also a fight not televised on HBO, as Top Rank will stage the broadcast on FSN and Fox Sports Espanol.
It does not bother Calderon, a 35-year old champion that he is not on the HBO network. Not does it matter that he will be showing his talents before 5,000 or so fans instead of the 16,000 plus that would pack the Garden main arena.
Cotto has had his time. And many believe if he fails to defeat Foreman, the WBA Super Welterweight champion, then his career is just about over when it comes to significant title opportunities. Calderon has never caught on with the Latino boxing fan, here or in Puerto Rico. Cotto may have lost some of his popularity after a mediocre loss to welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao back in December.
And the retired former champion, Felix Trinidad, is still a hero in Puerto Rico according to many, and so says Calderon. “He is boxing to so many of us,” said Calderon referring to Trinidad at a New York press conference last week to announce his title defense that will include an under card of many Top Rank Latino prospects.
“I’m a little more popular because of my personality,” added Calderon who made reference as to how Cotto has turned off the light switch with his personality of not being as receptive as he once was. There have been highly publicized incidents of Cotto having conflicts with his management team, including a fist fight at a boxing gym in Puerto Rico with uncle and former trainer Evangilista
Then there was Cotto putting aside trainer Joe Santiago, and using the services of highly acclaimed trainer Emanuel Steward for the Foreman fight next month. Calderon, though, still offers his respect to Cotto, a one-time stable mate when they both started under manager Pete Rivera.
“The fact I am smaller is why my popularity is not as huge,” says Calderon who reigns in a division that gets little or no notoriety. “I always said Miguel Cotto helped me. Where he is, is where I want to be,” says the 2000 Olympic representative for Puerto Rico at 106 pounds.
Calderon is a nine-year professional and 17-0-1 with 2 KO’s in world championship fights. Cotto may or may not be at the Garden for his fight though there are reports he will remain in New York City a week after his fight in the Bronx and attend parade festivities the next day
“You can never be jealous of your people,” said Calderon when asked if there was any resentment towards Cotto. The two fighters hardly speak after the split with Rivera. “But the one who made Miguel Cotto is Peter Rivera,” he says.
That alone says there is some type of animosity with Cotto and Calderon. And sources say some harsh words have been traded with the two. Calderon would not comment about what has been said, but in reality it does not matter.
Because you can never compare the boxing styles of the two fighters as Cotto and Calderon are so far away in weight. And of course Cotto has been involved in wars, in the ring with high profiled names such as Pacquio and Shane Mosley. Cotto has made more money and has never avoided a challenge.
The important thing now is Calderon taking the spotlight, at the Garden and he expects to prevail.
THROWING THE PUNCHES: Enough is enough with the foul mouth coming from heavyweight Chris Arrelo (29-2, 2KO’s), the Mexican native residing in Escondido California. Once again, in the ring after a 12-round IFF International title opportunity loss to Tomasz Adamek he used obscenities on the HBO televised broadcast that were not deleted.
And the words were loud and clear when he answered the post fight questions of ringside analyst Max Kellerman. “That Mother ****** was tough…He was the better Mother ****** tonight,” said the foul mouth heavyweight who has done this time and time again on HBO.
The HBO broadcast team, Bob Papa and former champion Lennox Lewis stayed quiet and failed to offer a proper apology to viewers. It was another bad thing for the credibility of boxing, and most of all shame to HBO for once again failing to cut the mike or to tell Arrelo to watch his mouth. The good thing is we wont be seeing or hearing much more of the “Foul Mouth” as this loss pretty much damages Arrelo’s credibility in the ring as well…
And farewell to John Ruiz, the first and only heavyweight world champion of Latino heritage who announced his retirement Monday after a ring career of 18 years. Known as “The Quietman”, Ruiz (44-9-1, 30KO’s) was a two-time champion who defeated three world champions, Evander Holyfield, Hasim Rahman and Tiny Tucker His of his career losses were against world champions.
Ruiz held the WBA title twice, but his mark on the division was never considered legitimate because the division is filled with alphabet soup titles and mediocrity. And Ruiz was never once to excite a crowd with his boring style, and hugging one or more opponent for 12-rounds instead of trading punches.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring [email protected]