Miguel Cotto established boxing history as the first four-time division champion from Puerto Rico and the boxing Hall of Famer is now on the other side as a promoter. Miguel Cotto Promotions is instrumental in developing young fighters and showcasing their skills with Pro Box, a monthly televised partner in Puerto Rico.
A legacy in the ring, Cotto also sold out Madison Square Garden ten times and established an all-time gross at the gate for a fighter that still holds. Then, Cotto was an advocate for the sport and he continues to strive for improvement.
Though. Cotto has learned that being on the other side is more difficult than disposing of the opponents he met in a ring at the Garden. It is obvious (and always is) that boxing is a sport of politics and advocating for change needs a majority of countless officials to cooperate.
But Cotto, a frequent visitor to New York, with a fan base that rivals some of the elite names in boxing, will never shy away from questions towards assuring aspiring fighters in his stable are informed, also relaying his words to rival promoters.
He has learned more about inequities that exist between promoters, fighters, and various sanctioning ruling organizations that have a command. He always believed guidelines and proper schooling for fighters needed change, seeing first hand the other side of how a young fighter is misinformed.
This past week at a charity golf event in Puerto Rico, Cotto was outspoken about seeing change. In the weeks to come, he will be in New York again as the Hall of Fame advocate and they will listen.
“The best thing that amateur boxing in the country can do is join, not us, professional boxing in general, to help educate these guys, so that when they leap to professionalism, don’t abuse them and don’t take them for fools,” Cotto said at a golf clinic organized by the Puerto Rico Golf Association (PRGA),
Cotto is no novice to the sport. Born in Providence, Rhode Island to Puerto Rican parents and relocated to Caguas, he won world championships in four weight classes, from light heavyweight to middleweight under the Top Rank promotional banner.
He never ducked a challenge and made that commitment, a goal always to advocate improvement for boxing. Boxing provided prosperity for his family and Cotto envisioned others to become the next champion .
Cotto is accustomed to appearing at charity events and a speaker in demand. He speaks well, always has, and learned more dealing with media and attending events on the Top Rank calendar. More so, Cotto learned more about the inner workings of a sport that needs reform.
Reform, he always said, is needed to assure a future for the many youngsters in Puerto Rico and world wide who are seeking a goal with their journey to become a champion. He experienced the injustice, the failures.
Cotto would realize the amateur and pro boxing environments are two separate entities, all on a different page as he experienced as a participant and representing Puerto Rico at the 1999 Pan American Games, the 2000 Olympics, and the 1998 Junior World Championships, where he won a lightweight silver medal.
Top Rank, the reputed and long time boxing promotional company, saw those credentials and slowly but surely Cotto became the next superstar champion from Puerto Rico. Top Rank is hoping the same for Xander Zayes, the 20-year old undefeated junior middleweight, also from Puerto Rico, who has won three of his 15 professional fights at the Garden.
The Cotto legacy is remembered for his fight against eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao for the welterweight titles (November, 14, 2009) in front of 16,200 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, that generated 1.25 million buys and 70 million dollars in domestic pay-per-view revenue, making that the most watched PPV boxing event of the year and earned Cotto $12 million.
Now that is in the record books. Cotto is advocating for improvement and support from high ranking boxing organizations in Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican Boxing Federation in particular, to educate amateur fighters from the start towards developing a proper mental attitude as they seek a professional career.
He said, “We have the Boxing Federation and it does not work hand in hand with professional boxing. They believe that the boy has to do his own thing for the honor, desire and pleasure of representing Puerto Rico and that’s phenomenal, that’s amazing. But you don’t go to Costco, you don’t go to Sams or the supermarket with your medal that you won for Puerto Rico.”
“You need money,” Cotto said. “And in the case of boxing, you need to cross over to professional boxing to get what you want.”
From this perspective, I can relate to this message. In December, 2001, I visited numerous boxing gyms and facilities in Bayamon. Speaking with numerous coaches, including Wilfredo Rivera, a former professional who fought for world titles.
Rivera trains more than one aspiring fighter and oversees the Santa Juanita Boxing Corner, financially funded with support from the city of Bayamon, a small and spacious facility at no cost for those who enroll to fulfill a mission that Cotto achieved.
There, Rivera provides safe instruction and equipment. There is little or no mention of the Puerto Rican Boxing Federation, a major issue that Cotto is seeking to reform. Rivera uses his contacts and resources as a successful professional in attempts to make inroads for his students.
Cotto wants to see this change, also reforms in how former fighters from Puerto Rico and in the sport are provided for their well being when they leave the ring. He was fortunate, Top Rank with HBO the network of champions, when he competed, secured paydays with security for the future.
It was witnessed in New York and Top Rank is known to be a major advocate in protecting their fighters when they call it a career.
Cotto will continue to be an advocate. He wants boxing on the same page. He is constantly looking for improvement, cooperation, and more so now as an active promoter. He seeks the proper association for betterment of the amateur and pro fighters.
“Because if boxing has an association, all those characters who take advantage of the boxer will see their participation limited,” he said, referring to professional alphabet soup sanctioning groups with the letters and amateur federations.
He says, there has to be unity and not take advantage of the fighter on all levels. Cotto was one of the smart and astute fighters that would not tolerate nonsense and was always a step ahead of them.
“We have to unite, agree to create, and educate the boxer so that he (or she) is not abused,” he said. “Boxing is the only sport they make the athlete understand that he is not the boss of the group.”
For sure, this is a difficult mission to bring to a successful conclusion. Attempts from others have been futile over the years, then again, Miguel Cotto never gave up a fight leading to some hope.
He is now on the other side and that speaks to a positive. Because, Miguel Cotto has always been an advocate for the sport.
Rich Mancuso:Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso. Watch “Sports With Rich” with Rich and co-host Robert Rizzo Tuesday evening live 8pmET on the SLG Network and YouTube