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Cotto, Pavlik Look To Get Back On The Horse

BY Michael Woods ON January 12, 2009
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Fight fans, I need to hear from you. The economy is on our minds too much here in the US, and with that context in mind, I’d like to hear what you think about Top Rank’s innovative slate for Feb. 21. Miguel Cotto (32-1, 26 KOs) will headline at Madison Square Garden, against  a fella named Michael Jennings (34-1, 16 KOs). Also, Kelly Pavlik (34-1, 30 KOs) looks to return to form, and re-establish his stature in the game with a middleweight title defense against Marco Antonio Rubio (43-4-1, 38 KOs). That bout takes place at the Chevrolet Center, in Youngstown, Ohio, Pavlik’s homebase. This presumes that the Chevrolet center hasn’t somehow been liquidated before the bout, sold off by General Motors, the dying US auto manufacturer, which offers Chevys to an increasingly broke and disinterested populace.

Fans can take in the headline bouts on the pay per view, which will cost $44.95. The first three bouts will emanate from MSG, climaxing with the Cotto fight. Then, the broadcast will transfer to Ohio, for the Pavlik-Rubio scrap. Fans at MSG will watch Pavlik, and fans at the Chevy Center will watch Cotto, on closed circuit.

Will you be buying? The consumer who is looking to cut costs in these uncertain times certainly wishes these bouts would not be on PPV, and I admit I am somewhat surprised that Arum is going in this direction. Are Jennings and Rubio of a caliber to warrant these fights being offered at a premium? The PPV buyrate will ultimately answer that question, of course.

Now, please don’t feel bad if you don’t know Jennings…I do this for a living, and I was only aware of his name, nothing more, until I Boxrec’d him.

Yikes. His record looks like some of these condos that flew up overnight in Manhattan as real estate prices flew to the moon over the last few years. It is built with flimsy material, and the defects are easy to spot with the naked eye. It doesn’t take much scrutiny to determine that Jennings is a toothless non-threat, who has next to zero hope of derailing a Cotto-Margarito early summer redo. The Brit talked tough in New York, at a Tuesday press conference to hype the event.

“I'm not coming here for a holiday,” said the 31-year-old hitter at Madison Square Garden.  “I am coming to fight and to take full advantage of this opportunity.” By full advantage, the cynic in me says, he means he will take pleasure in spending the cash he accepts in exchange for taking a full dose of Cotto’s fury.

The 28-year-old Puerto Rican, whose identity as a boxer and man was thrown into question when he signaled to his corner that he didn’t want to eat any more Margarito leather in the 11th round of his welterweight title defense in July, didn’t seem overly worried that his chops had left the building in the ensuing six months.

“I don't know anything about my opponent,” he said.  “I have not watched any tapes of him.” And he will not have to. Basically, he could sub in a tape of Pavlik’s June 2008 bout with Gary Lockett if he wants to evaluate his foe.

Cotto spoke about his desire to re-enter the fightgame after he took some time to lick his wounds and see how he handled his first pro loss. “Right now I feel good, but I miss the gym and the fights.  I am hungry to get back.  I have walked around at about 176 or 178.  The people in Puerto Rico have made me feel real good, as well as my family. In New York there is a strong Puerto Rican population and Latin community and to fight here makes me feel at home.”

“I would like to get the rematch right away with Margarito, but I have to wait for the company to decide then we will see.  It is a rematch that I want,” he said, and then added a parenthetical that may well speak a bit louder than he intended.  “Not badly (laughing), but I want it.  When I fight him again, I will try to be a better boxer.”

That rematch figures to take place in NYC, coinciding with the Puerto Rican Day Parade, on Saturday, June 13. The parade always takes place on the second Sunday in June, and draws about 2 millions spectators. Cotto has scrapped at MSG in concert with the parade in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Cotto was asked if he’d watched the Margarito scrap, and showed an admirable looseness. “I never watched the fight,” he said. “I've been there, so I don't need to see it (laughing).”

Beyond Margarito, what else is out there for Cotto? “If Manny Pacquiao wants to stay at 147 and fight one of the biggest names in boxing - I am available,” he said. Who wants to bet me on a gentleman’s basis that fight WILL NOT happen. I still think Cotto’s strength and style will make Freddie Roach steer clear of that pairing for Manny.

For the record, for those dwindling number of folks who care about such matters, the vacant WBO 147 pound title will be up for grabs on Feb. 21. “When I win this title (WBO welterweight), I will feel like a champion,” Cotto said. “We want to give the people a good show.  I am going to work hard.  I want to be champion again and I am going to be champion again on Feb. 21.”

True dat…..

For the record, Jenning’s lone loss came to one Young Mutley—who takes my vote for 2009 Fightgame Name of the Year—in January 2006. Mr. Mutley’s current record stands 25-3, but 15 of those wins have come against guys with sub .500 records. Take from that what you will.

We can expect the Pavlik-Rubio main event to feature 90% more back and forth action than Cotto’s get-back-on-the horse tussle. The Mexican Rubio will be a pretty heavy underdog when he meets the Youngstowner, who like Cotto has had to wrestle with self doubt after getting a schooling from Bernard Hopkins in October. Rubio’s record is crafted from material of a bit stronger fiber than Jennings’ (wins over solid vets Fitz Vanderpool, JC Candelo, Jose Luis Zertuche) but we can expect Pavlik to screw up Rubio’s nine-fight win streak. The Ohioan’s power will come into play against Rubio, who too often resorts to a plodding one-at-a-time rhythm that will leave him open to Pavlik combos.

In NYC, Rubio talked the talk. “This is a great opportunity for me and I have to take advantage of it.  Like any fighter in the world, my dream is to become champion of the world and on February 21 I will realize that dream when I beat Kelly Pavlik.”

Pavlik, who got the royal treatment from the media leading up to the Hopkins bout, as some anointed him boxing’s next big thing, said he was excited to get back to work.

“This is a great show and I'm excited to be a part of it,” Pavlik said. “I've been a big fan of Cotto and he puts on a great show. Rubio's a tough kid.  He's got a lot of heart and he's determined.  He is dangerous and has a lot of power.  We both have a lot a stake here.  This will probably be his last opportunity for a world title. But this is a do-or-die fight for me and I will take nothing lightly.”

Pavlik talked about his reaction to the Hopkins stunner.

“It took about a week to get over the loss.  I talked to my wife and my dad.  Then we moved on.” The fighter made clear that his loyal fans didn’t jump ship just because Hopkins showed he isn’t a finished product.  “The fans have been very supportive as you can see by the ticket sales of this fight,” Pavlik said. “I still feel like a champion but I feel as if I need to go in and shine on February 21.  I need to dominate. There are some nay-sayers out there, which will make me want to win even more and show them that I am still the best fighter in the room.”

TSS Universe, will you be buying the show? Or is this one event that should have been slotted for premium cable, not PPV? Weigh in!

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