Two days away from the heralded return of boxing to Yankee Stadium, and we are split pretty close down the middle on who we think will prevail in the junior middleweight clash pitting Miguel Cotto against WBA champion Yuri Foreman.
Picking Foreman to upset Cotto has become the fashionable stance in recent weeks, but TSS wonders if we arent relegating Cotto to a vocational dirt nap a bit too soon. Yes, the man has wear and tear issues. Margarito battered him and made him take a knee in surrender in their July 2008 encounter. Whether or not he had plaster in his mitts is, in this context, immaterial; via legal or illegal means, the punishment he inflicted had to sap something from Cottos tank.
It would be too crude to compare a boxer to a tire, but the premise sort of works: if a tire gets used too much, on rough terrain, the treads wear down, and its shelf life is shortened. Then Cotto got roughed up and cut by Joshua Clottey in his next stiff test, in June 2009. After that, the Puerto Rican who never says no to a stern challenge, was taken to the woodshed by Manny Pacquiao last November (TKO12 loss). The Filipinos precision launches stopped Cotto in round 11, and the case could be made that he was all done a couple rounds earlier.
So…how much tread is left on the tire?
We wont know until Saturday night. Reports leaking out from his camp with Manny Steward in Tampa say Cotto doesnt look like a shell of himself. His legs look good, sturdy and lively underneath him. Steward told TSS that he looked hard at the ex champ when camp began, because he was worried that too many wars had removed too much from his reservoir. But, the trainer said, after a week he was sure that the 29-year-old is still an A grade fighter.
Now, the 29-year-old Cotto (34-2, with 27 KOs) might not have to have a full tank to beat Foreman (28-8, just 8 KOs, none since 2006). We dont yet know what level the Belarus-born Israeli immigrant is at. Scanning his resume, it isnt easy to pick out that signature win. Well go with his last outing (Nov. 14, 2009), when he won the title from 34-year-old, inactive for 14 months Daniel Santos (UD12). Foreman used his typical style–movement, movement, movement, solid jab, some right hands to keep his foe honest and take some zest from him–but he also showed more of a killer instinct. Late in the game, hes seemed to grasp that it is better to step it up, and press for a stoppage, rather than go the safety-first route to a stoppage win. Good thing for us fight fans; it is less likely that chopsbusters will refer to the Brooklyn-based rabbi-in-training as Yuri Boreman if he does have a killer instinct on display against Cotto. A win over rugged Ukrainian Andrey Tsurkan looks solid on anyones ledger, but after that, his list of wins thins. The triumph over Irishman James Moore in 2008 doesnt seem as stellar now as it did in 2008, as Moores shine has dimmed since. He had motivation issues going in, and has fought just once since the Foreman loss. All in all, matchmaker Johnny Bos did a magnificent job helping Foreman get wins against C and B- level hitters.
But Cotto isnt that. I mean, we will know for certain on Saturday, but even B- Cotto is better than anything Foreman has had to contend with since turning pro in 2001.
Foremans ultra-mobile style could make Cotto look 29-going-on-39 at Yankee Stadium. Miguel isnt the most explosive when hes getting into position to unleash his hooks. We can picture him trying in vain to cut off the ring, and rein in Foreman, round after round. And what about the weight class? I can picture Miguel looking too much like his brother, Jose, at 154. I dont think Cotto brought all his power with him when he jumped from 140 to 147 in 2006 so Cotto might not have the power edge some are banking on in da Bronx.
But what does TSS U think? You think maybe Foremans rep has been over-bolstered by a fawning media, entranced by his hypnotic back-story? Think Cotto turns geriatric on saturday, and this is his last stand?
Weigh in, astute fightwatchers…