There's a trash talker somewhere deep inside of Miguel Cotto dying to get out.
There's a guy inside who wants to talk about the brutal punishment Cotto delivers, how his opponents rarely are the same after he fights them, how he's vastly underrated.
But, alas, Cotto is as good at stifling the inner trash talker as he is at breaking down his opponents, and so no juicy revelations about his Nov. 10 defense of his WBA welterweight title in New York against Shane Mosley are forthcoming.
The hot flashes on this day?
"Shane Mosley is a gentleman," Cotto offers. "I respect him."
In a sport in which the egos are so out of control that Charles Barkley would appear like a shrinking violet, calling your opponent in your biggest fight a gentleman and professing the utmost respect for him is hardly the way to garner attention.
Cotto (30-0, 25 KOs) eventually offers that he believes he's the best fighter in the world, but he says it in such a way that he almost sounds apologetic for delivering the opinion.
One almost has to coax him to say he believes he's going to defeat Mosley.
He's not the type of guy who is going to sell a ticket by talking, yet he drew 21,000 to Madison Square Garden in June to see his win over Zab Judah. And promoters expect to get close to that number again when he faces Mosley in a fight that appears like a dead heat going in.
He doesn't have the penchant for the street talk that has propelled Floyd Mayweather Jr. to ticket-selling stardom. He has neither the movie star smile nor the engaging demeanor which have made Oscar De La Hoya the game's biggest draw for more than a decade.
And he acts as if he's stumped when he's asked about the crowds in New York and the record pay-per-view numbers he does in his native Puerto Rico.
"The people, they're boxing fans," Cotto said. "They support the fighters."
Leave it to Top Rank's Bob Arum, who has promoted Cotto since he turned pro, to make the point.
"He draws because he gets in there and fights and doesn't shake his (butt)," Arum booms. "Tell me the last time you watched Cotto fight and it wasn't a great fight?"
There is little fancy about Cotto, 26, in the ring, but then there's little fancy about Cotto in real life.
He was married young and has a stepson, Jose, who is 11 and only 15 years younger than he is. He's also got three children of his own, 10-year-old Miguel Angel, an 8-year-old daughter named Alondra and a 6-year-old son named Miguel Jr. whom he refers to as Jun-Jun.
He divorced his wife, Melissa, though he maintains a cordial relationship with her. But he's largely a single parent, which is hard in any walk of life but is particularly difficult when you're a professional fighter and need to be isolated for weeks at a time.
Asked to describe himself as a father, Cotto doesn't hesitate.
"Consistent," he said. "I love my children and I try to do the best for them."
Consistent is also the same word that can be used to describe his work between the ropes. Fight after fight, round after round, Cotto slogs forward, jabbing and then attacking the body.
He may be the best body puncher in the sport, a guy whose determination to attack an opponent's midsection is so complete that he didn't relent even after two inadvertent low blows in his June fight with Judah put him on the brink of disqualification.
He debuted as a pro as a super lightweight and spent most of his career as a 140-pounder. He won the WBO 140-pound title by delivering a savage beating to previously unbeaten Kelson Pinto.
But Cotto was having great difficulty making the weight and it started to show in his performance.
"He had nothing to give and he was still trying to lose weight," said his cut man, the astute 1999 Trainer of the Year, Miguel Diaz. "You can't do that and expect to look great. The next weight, that's the perfect one for him. He's comfortable and he's still very strong."
Cotto understands that a win over a high-profile opponent like Mosley can raise his profile immensely in the U.S., where he remains largely unknown outside of Hispanic-dominated areas.
Mosley is one of the most accomplished fighters of his generation. He was briefly recognized as the best fight in the world several years ago, owns a pair of victories over De La Hoya and has won world titles at 135, 147 and 154 pounds.
Many fighters in such a situation would change their routine and try to perfect their preparation.
But Cotto, who pays close attention to even the most minute details, is changing nothing.
"Why change," he asks reasonably, "when everything is working the way it should work?"
It's a reasonable point. And if it's the beginnings of the inner trash talker about to sneak out, all the better.
Cotto, though, quells that thought in a hurry.
"I have to be at my best to beat Shane Mosley, because he is such a great fighter and a big man in this sport," Cotto said. "He has done what only a few could dream to do."
Alas, you're never going to get Cotto to taunt an opponent.
You'll just have to be satisfied with a guy who is about as good as there is alive today and who consistently delivers edge-of-the-seat type of action.
It's not trash talk, but it's a pretty good tradeoff.
- Miguel Cotto
- Shane Mosley