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PUERTO RICO HERALD
Weighing In On Latin Fury Fight Card
By Gabrielle Paese
June 20, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
It's not every day that Puerto Rico plays host to a fight card with the draw of the June 28 Top Rank pay-per-view venture in Bayamon dubbed Latin Fury. The fight has a greater scope than the usual cards on the island, both for Puerto Ricans as well as for boxing fans. Two island beltholders, WBO junior middleweight champion Daniel Santos (28-2-1, 20 KO) and WBA flyweight champ Eric Morel will both defend on this card, which is also a showcase for Top Rank's highly regarded prospect, Miguel Cotto (15-0, 12 KO). Santos makes a mandatory defense versus Colombian Fulgencio Zuniga (11-0, 11 KO) while Morel makes his fifth title defense against Mexican Isidro "Chino" Garcia (22-2-2, 7 KO).
One week out, pre-fight conversation usually turns to fighting styles and boasts about how long a particular fighter will go before either giving or receiving a KO. This is not the case with the Latin Fury card. This week, the central theme of discussion is much weightier, as in who can't lose the pounds and who can.
On the one hand you have Santos, a native of Bayamon, who has been sweating to the oldies in Miami trying to put the junior back in junior middleweight. His trainer, Alejandro de la Torre, denies Santos' weight problem with religious fervor, a pre-rehab stage psychologists call Denial. The media in Puerto Rico is particularly suspicious, because Santos usually trains just yards away from the fight venue in Bayamon.
Santos isn't the only one at Jenny Craig. Two months ago, Cotto, who has successfully campaigned his entire pro career at 140, unveiled plans to move down to 135. Last week, he decided life was too short to give up his mother's rice, beans and pasteles.
"It's been four years since I [last] got down to 135 and I've been making the sacrifice to do it. I know that my fans expect a lot of me, but I've decided that for five pounds and a whim I'm not going to ruin all I've worked for," Cotto said during a break in his training at Caguas' Bairoa gym last week.
Cotto's rival from the 2000 Olympics, Mohammad Abdullaev was upset by Emmanuel Clottey earlier this month. Abdullaev defeated Cotto in the first round in Sydney and went on to win the gold medal. It's true that Cotto is trying to make it in one of the sport's toughest division (140 is also home to Kostya Tszyu, Zab Judah, Arturo Gatti, Mickey Ward), but Abdullaev's defeat opens another door for Cotto.
What's more, Top Rank was never thrilled with the idea of Cotto dropping down to 135, particularly because their other highly regarded prospect, Floyd Mayweather Jr., owns the WBC lightweight belt.
Cotto's manager, Peter Rivera, hasn't yet entirely given up on 135. The fight was originally scheduled as a contest for a regional, NABO title at 135.
"It's really difficult to move down in weight like that at the last minute and we've already discussed holding this fight at 138 because his opponent [Rocky Martinez] is also having weight trouble," said Rivera. "However, Miguel weighed in at 141 [this week], which means he's still right on pace to reach 135 by the day of the fight. I would hate to make an issue of changing the weight if he goes and loses it anyway. We'll give it to the end of this week and then we'll make a decision."
While Santos and Cotto struggle, Morel leaves no dessert cart unturned and still has no trouble getting his 5-7 frame down to 112 pounds for a fight, even though he admits his normal weight is more at 130. With an apparent shortage of rivals in his weight class, Morel reiterated this week that he'd be happy to move up to 115 or to whatever weight class Top Rank required. Maybe along the way, he can reveal his diet secrets to Cotto and Santos and we can all get back to heavier issues, like first-round KOs.
'Igor' breaks Cepeda's RBI record
Juan "Igor" Gonzalez finally did it. The milestone he was programmed to reach during the Texas Rangers' visit to Puerto Rico to play the Montreal Expos earlier this month eluded him. But not for long. Last Sunday, Gonzalez became Puerto Rico's career leader in RBIs, besting a record long held by Orlando "Peruchin" Cepeda.
"Records are made to be broken," Cepeda told the media.
Cepeda's career RBIs were 1,365 when he retired from the game at age 36 after his last season with the Royals in 1974. Gonzalez was one shy of Cepeda's milestone during the Rangers' final game of their three-game series here in San Juan versus the Expos.
Danny Santiago hopes to NBA opportunity knocks
While he's the master of the back-door play, Puerto Rico team center Danny Santiago would like an NBA team to welcome him through its front door this season.
"I'm going to the mini camps this year to try to get signed before the drafted players," said Santiago. "By the time the Olympic Qualifier (Aug. 20 in San Juan) starts, the NBA teams will already have their rosters and it will be harder."
Santiago spent this past season in the Italian League with Division I Virtus Roma. His last NBA contract was in 2001 with the Phoenix Suns.
Santiago also said he'll skip the Pan Am Games the first week of August in order to concentrate on his NBA chances.
"I'm in good shape, what I need right now is a little rest because the season over there is long," said the 7-0 center. "We only played once a week, but we worked out twice a day and the way they had us running, you would have thought we were Real Madrid [the soccer team]."
Santiago isn't likely to get much rest this month. He's in Culiacan, Mexico, helping Puerto Rico's team in its quest to defend Centrobasket gold. Following that, he'll likely see action with the Bayamon Cowboys for the rest of their season.
Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at email@example.com.
Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.