Many great fighters have come from the boxing-rich island of Puerto Rico, one of those being WBA Super Welterweight World Champion Miguel Cotto, who hails from the city of Caguas and now carries the torch passed to him by the last great Puerto Rican pugilist, Felix “Tito” Trinidad.
Cotto is nearing the biggest and most difficult fight of his career taking place this Saturday, May 5 against Floyd “Money” Mayweather at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. which will be produced and distributed live by HBO Pay-Per-View®. Though he is the defending champion putting his 154-pound belt on the line, in many ways he is the challenger. That is simply because his opponent is Mayweather, undefeated at 42-0, a guaranteed first ballot Hall of Fame inductee and one of the greatest fighters of this era.
However, when boxers from Puerto Rico step into the ring, they don’t just feel the pressure of facing another man, they fight with the expectations of millions, carrying the burden of a culture that lives and breathes for the sport of boxing.
The history of Puerto Rican boxing presents a remarkable lineage: Light Heavyweight World Champion Jose Torres; Lightweight and Super Lightweight World Champion Carlos Ortiz; Lightweight World Champion Esteban DeJesus; Junior Welterweight, Welterweight and Super Welterweight World Champion Wilfred Benitez; 122-pound, 126-pound and 130-pound World Champion Wilfredo Gomez; 135-pound and 140-pound World Champion Edwin Rosario and Felix “Tito” Trinidad, who captured world titles at welterweight, super welterweight and middleweight.
In an interview with Puerto Rico’s El Nuevo Dia newspaper, Trinidad said Cotto will need to be fast enough to overcome Mayweather’s speed and upper body movement.
“He should stay toe to toe with Mayweather, round-by-round, close to Mayweather like all Puerto Ricans know how to do, put all his heart in and stay toe-to-toe,” Trinidad said. “Try to look for a good shot and soften him little by little.”
Trinidad continued, “It is going to be very difficult for Cotto because the other guy has the physical conditioning, the intelligence, doesn’t take many shots and is very elusive. Cotto can win, but it’s not going to be easy.”
In recent years, other Puerto Rican fighters such as Juan Manuel Lopez and Ivan Calderon have also earned popularity and fame; however Cotto has been the face of Puerto Rico boxing for nearly a decade.
The 31-year-old Caguas native has taken on a wide range of opponents in his 11 years as a professional, which has included world title reigns at super lightweight, welterweight and currently super welterweight. He has shared the ring with countless champions and top contenders including Randall Bailey, Joshua Clottey, DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley, Zab “Super” Judah, Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi, Antonio Margarito, Carlos Maussa, Sugar Shane Mosley, Lovemore N’dou, Manny Pacquiao, Carlos Quintana and Ricardo Torres. During this run, only future Hall of Famer Pacquiao and Margarito have defeated the Puerto Rican powerhouse, with Cotto avenging his controversial 2008 loss to Margarito with a cathartic and triumphant performance in December of last year.
A champion since 2004, Cotto who has successfully defended his titles 13 times, his accomplishments have earned him a shot at the top fighter in the sport.
His place as a Puerto Rican luminary is evidenced by the large crowds he has drawn to his mega-fights.
No other fighter in recent history has sold as many tickets in the city of New York as Cotto. Puerto Rican fans have come out in droves to see his fights live, buying more than 100,000 tickets for his seven bouts at Madison Square Garden and his fight in the outfield of Yankee Stadium.
Cotto, who already is a great champion, beloved by the people of Puerto Rico and beyond, has the golden opportunity to hand Mayweather the first loss of his professional career this Saturday night and solidify his place as a boxing legend.