Miguel Cotto: New York's Mr. Manhattan
Cotto appeared to be infused with energy during what was a highly-contentious battle, this, from the deafening cheers of a partisan crowd's chants of "Cotto, Cotto." His victory before 17,734 mostly Puerto Rican fans in the 19,763 capacity venue helped him to rise to rose to 34-1 with 27 knockouts.
Cotto also bounced back from a vicious beating that he taken several months earlier during an 11th-round knockout loss to Mexican Antonio Margarito in July of 2008.
Although Cotto had defeated Michael Jennings in five rounds at The Garden that previous February, Clottey had gone the distance in a loss to Margarito.
Clottey had vowed to take advantage of what he considered to be Cotto's fragile psyche as a result of the punishment absorbed against Margarito, who left him with a bloody face and a broken nose after having floored him and caused bleeding from one of Cotto's eyes.
But Cotto was clearly lifted by the spirited crowd against against Clottey, overcoming a gaping laceration over that same eye that had been left bleeding against Margarito.
"Miguel Cotto, over the last ten years, has sold more boxing tickets than any other pugilist in New York," said promoter, Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank. "Miguel Cotto is the New York attraction. He proves it year after year."
The 29-year-old Cotto (34-2, 27 KOs) will try to do so yet again on Saturday night, when the former three-time world champion challenges 29-year-old, WBA junior middleweight (154 pounds) champion, Yuri Foreman (28-0, eight KOs), of Brooklyn, at the new Yankees' Stadium in The Bronx.
This time, however, Arum expects Foreman to compete for attention against Cotto, being a local, rabbinacle student and the first native Israeli to earn a professional boxing title.
"Yuri Foreman, his whole history, he has lived in Brooklyn for a long while and is part of the very large Jewish ethnic population in the city," said Arum, who is also Jewish. "Yuri is an observant religious Jew who is going to become a rabbi. He fits in New York City better than he fits in Tel Aviv."
Cotto, however, believes that he will enjoy similar popularity as he did at Madison Square Garden -- even though this he's fighting a full week earlier than the following weekend's Puerto Rican Day Parade.
"First of all, I would like to thank all of the Puerto Rican fans that have come to the arenas over the past years to watch my fights. I am very excited about fighting in Yankee Stadium and all of the fans that will go to the Bronx to watch," said Cotto.
"It means a lot to fight in the legendary Yankee Stadium. I go to that place every year, and I am very proud of the fans," said Cotto. "I am going to feel like a Yankee on this night. I am going to feel like [Yankees' players] Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter."
At The Garden, Cotto is 6-0, having vanquished the likes of former world champions, Clottey, Shane Mosley, Zab Judah, and, Paulie Malignaggi -- often before sellout crowds.
Back in June of a year ago, Clottey was floored by Cotto for the first time in the fighter's career in the first round and showed that he would not back down by slamming Clottey to the canvas following a fifth-round clinch.
In defeating Clottey, Cotto won for the fourth time on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, earned his sixth triumph without a loss at The Garden, and, improved his mark to 7-0, with three knockouts when fighting in New York.
But after the brutal loss to Margarito, the punishment absorbed against Clottey, and that within his last loss -- November's 12th-round knockout against Manny Pacquiao -- many question whether Cotto is ripe for being upset by Foreman.
Cotto's popularity in his own country was questioned prior to the loss to Pacquiao, this, by Tony Perez, a Puerto Rican travel agent who booked several people to watch Pacquiao-Cotto in Las Vegas.
Often compared to Puerto Rican greats such as Felix Trinidad, Wilfred Benitez and Wilfredo Gomez, Cotto's issue, said Perez, is that his relative personality -- not his abilities in the ring -- are the reason he sometimes falls short.
"Miguel has a difficult time in being appreciated for what he is in Puerto Rico because of his character. He's extremely introverted, he never smiles. And if you watch him here, the way he is acting during the promotion, you can see that it's very difficult to get him to smile," said Perez, who booked travel for Trinidad's loss to Bernard Hopkins as well as his victories over Oba Carr and Fernando Vargas.
"Tito was a very friendly individual. Tito would stop and sign autographs and kiss babies. He was like a politician. And Wilfredo Gomez was just a monster of fighter and had a good personality too," said Perez.
"Wilfred Benitez won a championship when he was 17 years old and the people of Puerto Rico are very astute about their boxing. They know their boxing and they follow it," said Perez. "They follow Cotto too, but maybe not the way that they followed Tito."
But Cotto's trainer, Manny Steward, disagrees, believing him to be as popular as ever.
Steward points to a recent incident following last month's Sergio Martinez-Kelly Pavlik fight in Atlantic City as a testament to Cotto's lingering and lofty status among his fans.
"When I was leaving the arena in Atlantic City after the Pavlik-Martinez fight, I was bombarded by so many Puerto Rican fans, many of whom hadn't even come to the fight," recalled Steward, who will be in his first fight with Cotto against Foreman.
"But they were waiting for me, and I never had any idea that this man was so popular with the Puerto Rican fans," said Steward. "I had known of his record crowds at The Garden."
Steward said that throngs of Cotto supporters followed him out of the venue, up the boardwalk during a downpour.
"I had to tell [HBO's] Larry Merchant and [HBO's] Jim Lampley to go ahead of me. I had to walk on the boardwalk, in the rain. And by the time I got the hotel, which is normally ten minutes away, it had taken over an hour to get there," said Steward.
"They were telling me that Miguel was all that they have, and it really has put a burden on me," said Steward. "It is a very emotional fight in a lot of ways for our camp. So I have put my heart and soul into this training camp, not just to win the fight. There is a lot on the line in this fight for Miguel Cotto."
Miguel Cotto's record in New York
Waklimi Young, UD 4, Hammerstein Ballroom, April 28, 2001
Muhammad Abdulaev, TKO 9, Madison Square Garden, June 11, 2005
Paulie Malignaggi, UD 12, Madison Square Garden, June 10, 2006
Zab Judah, TKO 11, Madison Square Garden, June 9, 2007
Shane Mosley, UD 12, Madison Square Garden, Nov. 10, 2007
Michael Jennings, TKO 5, Madison Square Garden, February 21, 2009
Joshua Clottey, SD 12, Madison Square Garden, June 13, 2009