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Cotto could be on way to superstardom

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

NEW YORK – Oscar De La Hoya is one of the fastest men to have inhabited the welterweight division in the last decade. He's also one of its hardest-hitting.

But the Golden Boy found Shane Mosley amazingly quick and surprisingly strong in each of their two fights.

"He has such fast hands and feet, he can get into position to throw a punch when you think there's no way he can do it," said De La Hoya, who dropped decisions to Mosley in 2000 and 2003 but is now business partners with him in Golden Boy Promotions. "And because he has such speed, his punches really sting. You can definitely feel them."

None of that can be particularly good news for Miguel Cotto, the WBA welterweight champion, who isn't particularly fast or quick.

But Cotto, who is 30-0 with 25 knockouts and ranked No. 6 in the Yahoo! Sports Top 10 poll, doesn't believe it will pose a problem for him when he defends his belt against Mosley in an HBO Pay-Per-View bout on Saturday at Madison Square Garden.

"A lot of guys told me they were faster or stronger or whatever, but none of them did what they said they would do," Cotto said.

DeMarcus Corley had Cotto wobbling in their Feb. 26, 2005 bout. Ricardo Torres had Cotto down twice and nearly out in their bout on Sept. 24, 2005. And Zab Judah, prior to Mosley the most gifted opponent Cotto has faced, stunned the Puerto Rican several times early in the June bout.

None of the three bouts reached the finish line, though. Corley couldn't make it past five, Torres failed to complete seven and Judah was stopped in the 11th.

"He's one of those guys, he wants to win badly and he gets up in there and he goes for it," Mosley said in tribute.

A crowd of around 20,000 and a pay-per-view audience of about a half million is expected to watch what promoter Bob Arum said is the best fight on paper this year.

As it's turning out, any fight involving Cotto turns out to be a great fight.

"He gets hit and he gets hurt sometimes because he fights," Arum said. "Think about it. If he was worried about saving his pretty face and not getting marked up, he could dance around and shake his (back side) and do all these things, but who would want to see that?

"But the building is going to be full because the people know that Cotto gives them what they want to see. He is a fighter. And the great thing about this fight is, Shane is, too.

Even when Shane fought Winky (Wright) and it was clear he was a lot smaller, he didn't run. He got in and fought."

Cotto has won nine of his last 10 by knockout and has largely left his opponents looking like roadkill in the aftermath.

Muhammad Abdullaev, a 2000 Olympic gold medalist, was pummeled so badly during a ninth-round knockout in 2005 that he's only fought once since.

Others had to take extra months off and have never been close to what they were before facing him.

But don't get the wrong impression that Cotto is the type of puncher who can end a bout with one shot. He isn't the flashy type of puncher that Felix Trinidad was, who could end a fight at any time with a crunching hook or straight right.

Cotto needs time to get inside and beat down a fighter's will.

It won't be as simple against Mosley as it was against any of the other 30 men he's faced.

"I can take a pretty good shot," Mosley said. "And I'm not just going to be standing there and taking his stuff. If he's going to come in there and try that, he's going to walk through some fire."

There are many parallels between Cotto-Mosley and the 1980 bout between Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. Duran wasn't as quick as Leonard, but he was relentless and had the fierce style that made men melt.

Leonard was widely regarded as a pretty boy, but like Mosley, carried plenty of pop in his hands.

The difference is Duran and Leonard were in their primes and Leonard was as fast as any fighter alive at his weight.

Mosley's prime is past and he's down to a handful of remaining fights. He'll clearly have an advantage in both speed and quickness, but it won't be the same as if the fight had occurred five or six years ago.

Cotto has spent hours in the gym working on his jab, understanding it is the weapon that can neutralize Mosley's speed and allow him to apply his pressure. It is the same tactic that worked so successfully for Vernon Forrest when he defeated Mosley twice in 2002 and became the Fighter of the Year.

It's hard to pick against Mosley on Saturday considering his edge in speed and one-punch power. But it was just as difficult to pick against him in 2002 when he faced Forrest.

"I don't fight like anyone else, I fight like Miguel Cotto," Cotto said.

And for 30 fights in 30 tries, that's been good enough.

I say it will be good enough for him to make it 31 of 31 on Saturday, even if just barely.