By Fiona Manning
Rising super lightweight boxing superstar Miguel Cotto almost came to blows Wednesday with his latest opponent, Carlos Maussa as the two posed for a “Stare-down” pic at the final press conference for their super lightweight war set to take place in Bayamon, Puerto Rico on Saturday night.
The presser, which was held at the Marriott in Isla Verde, Carolina, Puerto Rico, was well attended by the world boxing media which adores Cotto.
Cotto, 23, is felt by many boxing insiders to be the most exciting prospect the sport has seen for years.
He defends his WBC International super lightweight title against Maussa and has developed such a legion of fans, his promoter Bob Arum is billing it as “Latin Fury: Live From Puerto Rico.”
The fight, which is to be held at Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez, is guaranteed to pull in so many viewers, has been scheduled for PPV-TV.
It didn’t start out as being more than just another step in the upwards-moving career of the young superstar until Maussa started insulting Cotto to the media.
With his endless trash talking, he at first surprised Cotto and then infuriated him.
“He sure talks a lot,” Cotto told La Prensa San Diego. “Let’s see if he can back it up.”
At Wednesday’s conference, Maussa bizarrely described the man who represented his country in the Olympics as “untested and overrated.”
“Oh, that’s it, he’s going down,” said Cotto who is normally calm, friendly and relaxed, until he enters the ring that is.
It is an intriguing match-up since both fighters are undefeated. Cotto who is 17-0, 14 KOs, Caguas, has put in his usual tireless effort to prepare for Maussa, 16-0, 15 KOs, who hails from Monteria, Colombia
“I feel very strong and very prepared. Let’s hope Maussa has more than his mouth working for him,” Cotto said. “Traditionally, I find that fighters who talk big don’t have much going on in the ring.”
Cotto has able support both in his corner and on the undercard. His best friend, Ivan “Iron Boy” Calderon will defend his WBO flyweight title against former world champion Alexander “Nene” Sanchez. Both men are Puerto Rican natives.
Rounding out a dynamite Puerto Rican card, the country’s other superstar Eric Morel will defend his WBA flyweight crown against number one ranked challenger Lorenzo Parra, of Venezuela.
Promoter Bob Arum is beyond excited about Cotto.
“There’s something unique and special about Miguel. I would say he is definitely the best prospect we have had since [Floyd] Mayweather [Jr].
“We really and truly believe he will be a superstar. He is a great body puncher. Not good, great. He has a relentless style. He always presses the attack, but he has enough movement to avoid punches.
“It’s not like he comes straight at you. We think he has everything going for him. He has power, intelligence and ring smarts. He is a terrific prospect.
Close examination of Maussa’s outbursts points to some sort of professional jealousy. He is the WBC Latin American light welterweight champion but has not received the glaring adulation Cotto has since he began his professional boxing career.
Maussa who is now 32, only started his professional boxing career in the summer of 2000. He is coming down in weight to meet Cotto and hopes to take some tarnish off the perceived golden boy.
Cotto, who came out weighting 143 1/2 lbs after his final workout on Monday, said he was more than ready to face Maussa and ruin his undefeated record.
“We’ve done over 110 rounds of preparation for this fight with the help of light welterweight Emanuel Augustus and junior middleweight Dante Craig; who at 6’0 help us in dealing with Maussa’s height advantage,” said trainer Evangelista Cotto who is Miguel’s uncle.
Cotto began to fight at a very young age following in the family tradition. His father, uncle, brother and cousin had taken the same path before him as they made boxing the family business in the Cotto household.
In the little gym of Bairoa in Caguas where such world champions as Orlando “Cholo” Fernandez and Jose “Cury” Carrazo where made, Cotto began his dream of someday making a name in boxing.
Under the watchful eye of his father Miguel Angel Cotto and his uncle Evangelista Cotto, the young Miguel began what would turn out to become one of the most successful amateur careers in the history of Puerto Rico boxing.
His boxing skills, fast hands and quick movements in the ring became his trademark as the right-handed fighter began to get noticed internationally in 1997.
That year, Cotto won the bronze medal in the Central American tournament in Mexico City and followed that with a gold medal in a regional tournament in Colombia.
In 1998 Cotto captured the gold in the prestigious Pedro Julio Nolasco tournament in the Dominican Republic and then won the silver in the Pan American youth tournament in Mexico City, the Central American and Caribbean Games in Maracaibo Venezuela and the Youth World Championship.
The following year Cotto competed in the Pan American Games in Winnipeg and won the gold medal in the Jose Torres tournament in Puerto Rico to close out another good year.
Cotto represented Puerto Rico in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and lost a very controversial decision to Mahamadkadyz Abdullaev in his first fight.
Abdullaev from Uzbekistan would go on to win the gold medal in the 140-pound category. Cotto finished his great amateur career with a 95-23 record and with the expectations of a great professional career.
He signed with Top Rank as soon as he turned pro and after four fights, almost died in a bad, single-car accident on his way to the gym one morning.
“I am not a party guy,” said the happily married father of three. “I am either at home with my family, hanging out with Ivan Calderon or I am at the gym. I got up at four am to go to the gym, fell asleep at the wheel and crashed the car.”
The injury wrecked his shoulder, but four pins later he made a miraculous recover and as he likes to joke, sets off alarms at airports everywhere.
Cotto returned from his surgery to dominate all of his subsequent opponents. “Really,” he said, “I don’t think I have faced an easy opponent in my life. Certainly as a pro fighter I have already faced a lot of difficult, talented fighters.
“This is thing. I don’t underestimate any man who steps into the ring because I know what it takes. I know how hard it is to do what we do so I respect anybody who puts on the gloves for a living. Maussa should show some respect too.”