ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Alfonso S. Gomez said he had heard Miguel Cotto had made unflattering remarks about him. He couldn't put his finger on where he had read these disparaging remarks, who Cotto said them to or when they were uttered.
But he was sure Cotto had said something and, well, by golly, he was going to do something about it when they meet at Boardwalk Hall on Saturday in the main event of an HBO-televised card for Cotto's WBA welterweight title.
The reason for Cotto's greatness can be found in his response.
"Why should I think of Gomez, or talk of him?" Cotto said, dismissing the thought with a wave of his hand. "I did all my work in training."
That statement can be interpreted two ways. The first would be that Cotto feels he's so superior to Gomez that he doesn't want to waste time worrying about him.
The second, and unquestionably correct interpretation, is that Cotto prepares for all of his opponents as if they were the reincarnation of Sugar Ray Robinson.
Cotto has yet to take an opponent lightly, working as hard for Jason Doucet as he did for Shane Mosley.
There's a remarkable consistency to him. From the day he turned professional, he's never called one fighter out. His response has been he'll fight whoever his promoter thinks is best for him to fight.
And so, as Top Rank chose the opponents, Cotto cut them down with his trademark body assault that slowly but surely breaks a man's spirit and willingness to fight. It's hard to keep moving forward when it feels like you're being cracked in the ribs with a baseball bat every 15 seconds or so.
But as he's racked up the wins and beaten the bigger name opponents, Cotto has maintained the same approach. There's little that is different about him today than there was when he turned pro after the 2000 Olympics other than his notoriety and his net worth.
He trains with a fervor that is reminiscent of the way the late Walter Payton would punish his body in preparation for an upcoming NFL season. He has never called out or trash talked one of his opponents.
The fight that should occur sometime this year is one against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr., a bout that would be the 21st century version of Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran I.
Mayweather has inexplicably made dismissive statements about Cotto and suggested Cotto hasn't done enough to merit a bout with him. Instead, Mayweather is planning for a September rematch against Oscar De La Hoya that carries little intrigue and then is considering a 2009 rematch in England against Ricky Hatton.
Mayweather should be doing everything in his power to land a bout with Cotto, because wins over De La Hoya and Hatton will do nothing to increase his stature in the business. If he's simply about money, as his nickname suggests, he'll continue to beat up on fighters he's already handled with aplomb.
But if Mayweather wants to be remembered as one of the greatest fighters ever, he needs to take on the one challenge he hasn't met. Floyd, though, talks as if the bout won't happen.
"Floyd doesn't want that fight," Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward said of a bout with Cotto. "He's doing all these things, wrestling and all this other stuff, to make money, but he's not thinking about fighting guys like Cotto. The only way he takes that is if Cotto starts talking about him."
As desperately as Cotto would love to see Mayweather standing across from him in the ring, he's not going to change the style that has made him successful. So he's not going to chase Mayweather in the media.
He's going to leave the business end in the hands of Top Rank and his management team and will fight whomever they deem worthy at any given time.
"I don't have to do it," Cotto says of calling out Mayweather. "If he doesn't want to fight me, there are a bunch of big names at 147. I don't need Mayweather."
Cotto will continue his vicious run through the division on Saturday, when he takes on Gomez, the one-time realty television star whose primary claim to fame is beating a washed-up Arturo Gatti.
On his best day, though, Gatti was nowhere near as good as Cotto and it seems a stretch to believe Gomez can pull the upset.
Cotto, is treating Gomez as if he's Mayweather. He's anticipating the biggest challenge he's ever faced.
But that approach is what has made him one of the game's best and why he's ranked No. 4 in the Yahoo! Sports rankings of the world's finest fighters.
"The great thing about Cotto is that you know what you're going to get," Hall of Fame promoter Arum said. "Some of these guys, one little thing is off, they get seven hours sleep instead of eight, and they can't function. Cotto gives you his best every time out, no matter what the situation."
Gomez exudes confidence and says he's convinced he's going to pull the upset. Cotto simply shrugs.
He's not interested in getting into a war of words with Gomez, Mayweather or anyone else. But he plans to make a statement with his performance, as he's done it 31 times so far as a pro.
"My father told me once, 'You don't need to talk about what you're going to do, just go do it,' and that's what I have always remembered," Cotto said. "It's not the talking that counts. It's how you perform in that ring that matters."
- Miguel Cotto