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Friday, October 30, 2009

Team Cotto – Composing Their Symphony of Destruction

When it comes to accomplishments in pro boxing, Joe Santiago can’t hold a candle to Freddie Roach. When it’s time to grab a quote from the camps of Miguel Cotto or Manny Pacquiao, the first name you search for is Roach’s, and not because R comes before S. But the beautiful thing about boxing is that no matter how much you’ve done or how high your profile is, on fight night, you can have the last word, or better put, your fighters have the last word, and Santiago plans to be the one in the winner’s circle on November 14th in Las Vegas.

“I know that he has done a lot in boxing,” said Santiago, Cotto’s trainer, of Roach during a recent media teleconference. “I have a lot of respect for what Freddie Roach has done. But it has nothing to do with us. It’s the fighters that are going to do the fighting. They are going to do their work and we have our work to do. As long as our guy wins we are going to get recognized for it. Once Miguel wins, they are going to recognize that we have a great corner, a great team. That’s the way I look at it. It has nothing to do with me and Freddie Roach. We are preparing Miguel Cotto to fight many Pacquiao. That’s my job and that’s the way I look at it.”

It’s the right thing for Santiago to say, not only because it deflects attention from him to where it should be – on his fighter - but also because with just one fight as head trainer of the WBO welterweight champion, any brasher statements would be perceived as pure arrogance compared to Roach’s body of work in the corner. But as much as Santiago would like to diffuse any comparisons between himself and Manny Pacquiao’s longtime trainer, the fact is that this is a compelling storyline in the lead-up to the biggest fight of 2009, and the questions have been flying in at breakneck speed ever since the bout was announced.

Can Santiago handle a fight of this magnitude?

Can he come up with a plan to stop the Pacquiao bullet train?

Has Cotto basically decided to train himself, with Santiago and company just there to hold pads and keep him in shape?

They’re all valid questions, yet Santiago has taken the sometimes pointed barbs with grace, something that’s a little easier to do knowing that he has the type of fighter that can answer those questions with a victory on fight night. And given that this is the biggest fight of Cotto’s career, knowing that he handed the reins over to Santiago instead of a bigger name after ending his tumultuous business relationship with his uncle Evangelista in April speaks volumes.

“I have known him (Cotto) for seven years and I know they had talked about bringing in well-known trainers but I think the fact that I have known him a long time and he feels comfortable with me gave me an advantage over all those guys,” said Santiago, a former nutritionist for Team Cotto who learned his new trade as an understudy to Evangelista Cotto. “I think it’s just a question of getting everybody on the same page and I think we’ve done that.”

So what about those questions? Will Santiago be a deer in the headlights on fight night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas? I’ll go out on a limb and say no, just based on the new team’s performance in Madison Square Garden in June, as Cotto scored a 12 round split decision win over Joshua Clottey. Was it perfect? No. Were there kinks that needed to be ironed out? Yes. But Cotto came back from a bad cut early in the fight and some shaky moments to readjust his fight plan and box his way to a well-deserved victory. And Santiago and new cutman Joe Chavez were there every step of the way in what was Cotto’s first true test since his punishing loss to Antonio Margarito in July of 2008. And what may have sold Cotto on keeping Santiago as head trainer for the Pacquiao fight is that during the Clottey bout the drama took place during the three minutes of each round, not in the 60 seconds in the corner, a far cry from the days when his uncle was in charge.

“That first time we were very conscious of what we needed to do,” said Santiago. “It was a team effort and everyone did their part. We all worked hard on what we needed to do. I think the preparation was good and on the night of the fight we were all doing what we were supposed to do. I am very grateful to the Cotto family for having me work on such an important event. This time around I think we are all going to be better for it.”

So call it a test passed, not failed.

“I commend him for coming in and fighting a tough guy like Clottey,” added Cotto’s strength and conditioning coach Phil Landman. “Getting a cut like he did in the third round, he never thought about quitting and he toughed it out for twelve rounds and he won the fight. I think you have to look at it from that perspective and give him credit for it.”

You do, but you also have to wonder if a speedy power-puncher like Pacquiao will be the one to truly reveal if the Margarito bludgeoning took too much out of Cotto. Clottey is prone to taking rounds off, and he did so in the Cotto fight, blowing a golden opportunity to pull off the upset. Pacquiao won’t be as passive, and if Cotto is cut or hurt, you won’t have to ask the Filipino assassin twice to finish the job. So now comes the most important part of the whole equation – can Santiago come up with a gameplan that gives his fighter the best chance to win?

First order of business – dealing with Pacquiao’s speed.

“I think that Miguel has shown everybody that he can deal with speed, with (Shane) Mosley and with Zab Judah,” said Santiago. “I don’t think it is a problem with speed. I think the rhythm that Manny brings to the fight, I don’t think people think Miguel can stay with that speed. But I think he will. I not only think he can stay with the rhythm but I think he will enjoy fighting that kind of fight. I think it will be a very interesting fight and I think Miguel will come out victorious in the fight by just doing what he always does, coming forward, throwing punches and being strong.”

True, Cotto showed the ability to stop Judah and win a close decision over Mosley in their 2007 bouts, but a) that was two years ago i.e. pre-Margarito, and b) Judah had great success nailing and stunning Cotto with straight left hands (Pacquiao’s specialty) before some judiciously placed low blows halted the action and gave Cotto precious time to clear his head. If Pacquiao can get off his straight lefts with that type of frequency, this one can get ugly quickly. Cotto followers know this, and they counter with their man’s underrated boxing skills, which were on display early against Margarito and late against Clottey. Agreed, Cotto showed a gear in both fights that was different to his usual stalking attack, but neither Margarito or Clottey will ever be associated with the phrase ‘fleet of foot’, putting another mark in the Pacquiao column.

So where does Cotto win this fight? With strength you can see and strength you can’t. The first part is where Landman comes in. The odd accent in the Cotto camp, the South African fitness guru has been with the Boricua bomber since he jumped up to welterweight against Carlos Quintana in 2006, and it’s hard to argue with Cotto’s body of work since he came on board as he scored late round stoppages of Judah and Oktay Urkal, decisioned Mosley and Clottey, and made it into round 11 against Margarito, showing that he’s able to go the championship distance with relative ease. That’s the mark of a good strength and conditioning program, so as far as Landman is concerned, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

“For the most part the work has been on the same format as we have done before,” he said. “We have changed a few things to address what Pacquiao is bringing to the fight, but Miguel is looking super good and I am really happy with the work that has been done.”

What has changed is that Cotto is making an effort to stay in shape between fights, making the actual camp more about fight preparation and not weight loss.

“If he continues in between fights it is easier to get back into a rhythm again. After the Clottey fight, we knew we were going to have something big again before the end of the year. When he came into camp, which he’s done a couple of times before, at weight, with a lot of preparation behind him, it has definitely helped out. Miguel has wanted a program for when he is out of camp and it has been a big help to us.”

“Without a doubt, Miguel has done everything asked of him,” added Santiago. “It has been hard to accomplish everything we have needed to accomplish. We have a plan that we look at every week that needs to be done and he has been very good at it. We are now looking forward to finishing it off and we look forward to the 14th.”

And with everything going according to schedule in their Florida training camp, it’s up to Landman to get him strong enough – as a true welterweight – to muscle Pacquiao when the fight gets into close quarters. Of course that’s the strategy Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton hoped to use against the ‘Pac-Man’, and we all know how that worked out for them. Luckily, Cotto is still a debilitating body puncher, an art De La Hoya rarely bothered with and one Hatton seemed to have forgotten the higher he rose up the ranks. If Cotto can get in the odd shot to the gut here and there, if the fight does get into the later rounds, he can have the chance to impose his will on Pacquiao.

And that’s the second key when it comes to strength – inner strength. You can’t point to it and say ‘there it goes,’ but you’ll know it when you see Cotto, bleeding, bruised, and battered, still plugging away and still trying to finish a fight. Make no mistake, Pacquiao is a tough cat, but Cotto is a whole ‘nother animal, and to those who will look to his loss to Margarito as proof that he may not be as tough as I think he is, I’m not the only one who thinks that there should be a huge asterisk next to that victory after Margarito’s ‘wrapgate’ debacle.

But you won’t hear Team Cotto talking about that fight. To them it’s in the past, even if the memories of it keep creeping into the present.

“As far as we are concerned, the Margarito fight is over and done with,” said Santiago. “We are preparing for a new challenge and I see him just as hungry. We always go into win. The confidence when he goes up into the ring – I don’t see that changing. I don’t think many guys would have stood up to Clottey the way he was fighting with the cut and everything. I think you just have to look at the challenge ahead and we are preparing for that.”

It is a challenge ahead, and should Cotto send Pacquiao crashing to his first defeat in over four years, there will be no more whispers about Cotto, wondering if he left his best in the same MGM Grand ring in July of 2008. There will only be celebration in Puerto Rico, and not just for Cotto, but for the quiet man in the corner.

“Miguel is obviously at the point of his career when we know he is at his best and he’s going to show everyone that he is at his best,” said Santiago. “I think Manny Pacquiao is in for a tough night. Cotto showed in the Clottey fight how much he wants to win and how much it means to him to win. I think that desire is a very important thing to have, to win, and Miguel has it.

On the 13th we will be 145 lbs. no question. On the 14th it is going to be a great night. And on the 15th we are going to celebrate with the country of Puerto Rico.”

Source: boxingscene.com


  1. mosley and juda's speed is different from pacman these two guys are black and pacman is an asian the differences between them and pacman is the food they eat on their regular meal.filipino are not kind of people eating too much oilly food but filipinos, they eat different kinds of food which has a natural protien came from fish and meat.maybe we can say mosley and juda's speed is 20 kph but pacman might be 21 kph a difference of one point that makes little ahead from these two previous opponnent of pacman, a little diference but big impact. i think thats the difference there of mosley, juda, compare to pacman

  2. Do you realize how stupid you sound saying that? Typical moron statements from moron fans.How the phuck do you know what Judah or Mosley's diet are like?