Miguel Cotto had established himself as one of the great boxing stars of his generation well before he ever began his fighter-trainer relationship with Freddie Roach in 2013. But when the two boxing legends came together, Cotto’s career very much appeared to be entering its final days. Prior to working with Roach, Cotto was 3-3 in his last six fights. Two of those losses had come against superstars Manny Pacqiao and Floyd Mayweather, but the third, and most recent, had been a one-sided unanimous decision to Austin Trout, in December 2012.
Trout was an undefeated champion at the time, so there was nothing disgraceful in Cotto losing to him. But dropping the decision to a younger, less-heralded fighter did suggest that the sport might be passing the Puerto Rican great by.
When I see an aging star bring in a high-profile hired gun to train him, I usually view it as a last-gasp of desperation. But in the case of Cotto moving to Roach, the result has been a sensational, late-career resurgence.
The first indication that Roach might be a perfect fit for Cotto came in their first fight together, a Round 3 TKO of Delvin Rodriguez in 2013. That was, of course, a fight that Cotto should have won. Rodriguez is a tough, skilled warrior, but he’s a journeyman/fringe contender level fighter. However, the manner in which Cotto won that fight took many of us by surprise. Cotto showed crisp, explosive aggression. An excited Roach told HBO’s Max Kellerman after the fight “Line them up.”
Cotto’s next step on the comeback trail was one of the most celebrated moments in Puerto Rican boxing history: his June 2014 destruction of lineal and WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. Cotto was once again aggressive from the opening bell, dropping the great Argentine champion three times in the first round, again in Round 9, and then forcing his surrender just six seconds into the tenth. Since then, Cotto has defended his title just once, hammering former middleweight champion Daniel Geale and stopping him in four.
Alvarez represents a different order of test, of course. Martinez, though a great fighter, was 39 and had undergone multiple surgeries in recent years. Cotto deserves tremendous credit for his performance in that one, but it’s fair to say that he caught Martinez at exactly the right time. Rodriguez and Geale were both good fighters, but simply not at the level of stars like Cotto and Canelo.
Canelo is a bigger, younger fighter. Just 25, he’s very experienced and he has seemed to get better with every fight in recent years. If Cotto can get by this one, he’ll deserve nothing but credit and acclaim.
Roach and Cotto both sounded confident about their prospects on an international media call earlier today. Roach predicted a knockout for his fighter. Roach tends to predict knockouts for all his fighters, but his additional comments made it clear that he’s pleased with the direction his partnership with Cotto has taken.
Cotto, too, was happy to credit the role that Roach has taken in his career, asserting that his career wouldn’t be where it is right now without the Hall of Fame trainer.
Roach’s legend is already established forever in the sport. He’s the trainer who built Manny Pacquiao. If he can get Cotto past Canelo, by knockout or simply by decision, it will be a shining moment in the careers of both fighter and trainer alike.