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Warning to Mayweather: Cotto back on track after devastating loss to Margarito

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

One who saw the fight might say it was the speed, power and punching accuracy that led Manny Pacquiao to a victory over Miguel Cotto on Nov. 14, 2009.

Cotto himself will tell you differently.

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Mayweather and Cotto will fight for Cotto's WBA World super welterweight title. (AP)

Losing for the first time – and losing as badly as he did – was a far bigger factor in that second career defeat to Pacquiao. Cotto was an undefeated world champion and one of boxing's biggest stars when he was beaten by Antonio Margarito on July 26, 2008, in one of the great fights of recent times.

Cotto was way ahead in that fight, but no matter what he landed, he couldn't keep Margarito off of him. But as the fight wore on, Margarito's blows had devastating effect. Cotto had to surrender in order to avoid serious, long-lasting injury.

As it turns out, Cotto did suffer a serious long-lasting injury in that bout. His psyche was ruined and he wasn't the same man after the fight. He carried that loss with him, his confidence drained, his belief in himself no longer absolute.

About six months after Cotto-Margarito I, Cotto may have gotten an explanation for the beating he had taken when Margarito was accused of putting illegal knuckle pads on before a fight with Shane Mosley.

Still, his belief in himself simply wasn't the same. And while his talents were good enough to get him wins over Michael Jennings and Joshua Clottey after losing to Margarito, they weren't nearly enough to beat an elite fighter like Pacquiao. In order to win at that level, everything, including the mental and physical game, needs to be working together.

[Forbes: Manny Pacquiao among America's most influential athletes]

Cotto said it wasn't until he beat Margarito last year in a rematch that he finally got over his demons.

"After the Margarito fight on Dec. 3, I feel much, much better with myself," Cotto said. "I think this is the right moment for this fight [with Mayweather]. I have everything I took from Margarito's victory, things he stole from me, things he grabbed from me. I have it back, and I feel much better right now."

The three wins since the loss to Pacquiao, plus stopping Margarito in December after 10 one-sided rounds have done wonders for Cotto's self-confidence. He knew Margarito didn't cheat in December, as he suspected the Mexican had done in 2008, and so he knew he could win when a fight was fair.

That has him believing he'll be able to handle the unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr., the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, when they meet on May 5 for the World Boxing Association super welterweight title in Las Vegas.

"Nobody is invincible in life," Cotto said. "I know that because I've passed through this point in my life. I'm ready for anything Floyd brings me on May 5. The question is, is Floyd ready for anything Miguel can bring to him? I know he's a hard worker. He said to everybody he's a hard worker, but he's going to have in front of him on May 5 a hard worker like him. On May 5, I'm trusting in myself. I know what I have to do on May 5th to get the victory."

Hooks and jabs

• Cotto should be very happy with the Nevada Athletic Commission's appointment of Tony Weeks as referee for his fight with Mayweather. As long as fighters are working, Weeks allows them to fight on the inside and doesn't get overly involved. Winning the in-fighting will be critical for Cotto.

• If you missed bantamweight Anselmo Moreno's ninth round TKO of David De La Mora on Saturday, do yourself a favor and find a replay. Moreno is legitimate. He's an elite fighter who can compete on more than even terms with anybody at 118 and 122 pounds. And yes, that means even Nonito Donaire Jr.

• Why is Jermain Taylor still fighting? Why? Anyone? Anyone who thinks he has a chance to do anything significant in boxing anymore is kidding himself. The only thing Taylor has a chance to do now is to be hurt. Retire already.

• A Juan Manuel Marquez-Brandon Rios fight does nothing for me. I would have been far more interested in either a Marquez-Mike Alvarado fight or a Alvarado-Rios fight. It would be nice if boxing promoters rewarded fighters who did well and not those who lucked into a victory, as Rios did on April 14 over Richard Abril.

• It was good to see that Golden Boy Promotions landed a deal for boxing on Fox Sports networks, including Fuel TV. No complaints about that, but until main-event quality fights start appearing on network television, all the shows in the world aren't going to build new fans. Those kinds of shows are watched only by the hard-core fan base. To grow the sport requires reaching those who aren't already avid fans.

READERS ALWAYS WRITE

Ward will top rankings soon

For the most part, I think the current Yahoo! Sports boxing rankings are spot on. I expect Andre Ward to be No. 1 outright very soon. I don't think Lucian Bute stands much a chance against Ward because, as Carl Froch said, "He's too slick, just couldn't hit him." Bute and Froch have similar styles.
Keegan Harricharan
Florida

Thanks, Keegan. I think Ward is a special talent who doesn't get enough recognition because he's not loud or boastful and he's not a big knockout puncher. But he is as good as anyone out there other than Mayweather or Pacquiao and he just may be on their level right now.

Bute deserves higher ranking

I believe Lucian Bute should hold at least seventh place in the rankings. While Timothy Bradley is a great talent, Bute is better. Not only that, the Klitschkos (while deserving to be in the rankings) should hold ninth and 10th positions. They fight tomato cans every time they step into the ring. While, they shouldn't get punished for the lack of talent in the division, making them higher than Bute is like punishing him because the heavyweight division lacks talent. What are your thoughts?
Jerome Peterson

I personally don't have Bute in the top 10. He's a very good fighter, but I don't think he's had the wins that others, specifically Cotto, have had. Bute's biggest win is probably over a way-past-his-prime Glen Johnson. Who else that's remotely close to the top 10 has he beaten? No one. I don't think that disqualifies him, but I think it puts him below other guys. It's hard to argue the nuances of whether a guy should be six or 10, but the Klitschko brothers absolutely dominate everyone they fight. They win virtually every second of every round and deserve credit for that.

Mayweather not the best if he ducks Pacquiao

I have been a lifelong fan of boxing and regard it as one of the truest sports today. How can Mayweather say he is the best fighter in the sport when he has repeatedly dodged Pacquiao for several years now? Pacquiao has defeated De La Hoya, Margarito, Hatton, and Cotto, Mayweather's next opponent, in dominating fashion. Do you think a loss to Cotto will cause Pretty Boy Floyd to reconsider negotiations with Pacquiao?
Kevin Stehr

If Mayweather loses to Cotto, it would probably help make a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, but it would occur for a lot less money than they could command today.

Quoteworthy

"I'm standing here today to tell Lateef Kayode and everybody he's got coming to support him on June 2 that his dreams are going to come tumbling down. It's a big difference when you are in that ring by yourself and facing the heat and fire I'm going to bring, and all [Kayode trainer] Freddie Roach can do is give you water. It's a whole new ball game. Welcome to the big time, brother." – Antonio Tarver, who meets Kayode in a Showtime-televised bout on June 2.

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