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Psyche Wars For Cotto & Pavlik

BY David A. Avila ON February 15, 2009
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Psychologically speaking, losing can be contagious.

It doesn’t take Sigmund Freud to understand that suffering that first loss can be numbing to the mind and psyche.

On Saturday, hundreds of miles apart from each other, Kelly Pavlik and Miguel Cotto will each try to overcome the windmills of their mind in their individual world title matches.

Cotto tangles with Great Britain’s Michael Jennings (34-1, 16 KOs) at Madison Square Garden for the WBO welterweight title while in Youngstown, Ohio it’s middleweight champion Pavlik defending against Mexico’s Marco Antonio Rubio (43-4-1, 37 KOs).

Both world title fights will be shown on pay-per-view on Saturday, Feb. 21.

“I’m really excited about this whole endeavor,” said Top Rank’s Bob Arum.

It’s a unique pay-per-view card that will feature two main events coming from two different states. But the question remains, can both fighters overcome the psychological barriers?

Last July, Puerto Rico’s Cotto was squashed by Mexico’s Antonio Margarito after 11 rounds. Many wonder if the former welterweight and junior welterweight champion can recover completely.

But don’t include Cotto in the bunch.

“No, it’s the same,” said Cotto (32-1, 26 KOs) during a telephone conference call. “I just prepare for a win. I don’t think about anything else.”

Margarito pummeled Cotto into submission with uppercuts and hooks until the stellar Puerto Rican welterweight could no longer stand it. It was the sort of loss that often takes the heart out of a fighter for good.

Ironically, Cotto was usually the dispenser of punishment, not the receiver. Previously he dismantled Zab Judah, destroyed Carlos Quintana and battered Alfonso Gomez. Then came Margarito who switched things up and took Cotto’s title. Currently the Mexican fighter has been suspended.

Don’t ask Cotto about Margarito.

“I don’t have any reaction,” Cotto says. “I don’t have anything to say.”

Jennings is much less known than Cotto, but in his native Lancashire he’s built up a following and only has one loss.

Can the Brit take advantage of Cotto’s psychological hiccup?

“I’m just ready for Michael Jennings,” says Cotto.

Several hundred miles west Pavlik defends his WBC and WBO middleweight titles. Most felt he was invincible after he beat former champion Jermain Taylor as fans from his hometown rallied behind him.

Then he stepped in the ring against former middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins last October and discovered why so many people call the Philadelphia fighter a Hall of Fame boxing genius.

“The Hopkins fight shows I have a lot of proving left to do,” said Pavlik (34-1, 30 KOs). “That loss means you got to go back to the drawing board.”

After the shocking win Hopkins hugged Pavlik and like a big brother told him that his future was in the middleweight division, not the light heavyweight level.

“He (Hopkins) pretty much told me that I’m going to be middleweight champion for a long time,” said Pavlik of his conversation with Hopkins. “Even a great fighter like Hopkins has four or five losses. You bounce back.”

The Chevrolet Centre in Youngstown will surely be filled with many of Pavlik’s fans to see if he can rebound to form against Mexico’s hard-hitting Rubio.

“It’s really important to bounce back especially in front of my hometown,” said Pavlik whose thousands of fans regularly travel to Atlantic City to watch him fight. “They don’t have to travel this time.”

Bouncing back to form can be tough if the air has been mentally deflated.

Cotto and Pavlik want to prove they’re untarnished by a loss.

“The thing that happened with Margarito last July is in my past,” Cotto says sternly. “I’m just going to go off and win my fight. It doesn’t matter how, I’m just going to be the winner.”

Fights on television

Fri. ESPN2, 5:30 p.m. Jesus Gonzalez (24-1) vs. Richard Gutierrez (24-2-1).

Sat. HBO ppv. 6 p.m., Miguel Cotto (32-1) vs. Michael Jennings (34-1); Kelly Pavlik (34-1) vs. Marco Antonio Rubio (43-4-1); John Duddy (25-0) vs. Matt Vanda (39-8).

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