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Is Cotto Ready For Title Fight? Notes From Top Rank Triple Crown II Card

By Gabrielle Paese

December 12, 2003
Copyright © 2003 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Sports fans are a tough audience. Through their collective eyes, a simple victory is never enough. Take junior welterweight boxing prospect Miguel Cotto for example. Cotto has yet to fight for a title, but boxing fans are already picking him apart. Is he good enough to beat IBF, WBA and WBC belt holder Kostya Tszyu, WBO champ Zab Judah and the other top boxers in his weight class? Is he as good as Felix "Tito" Trinidad was? How does he stack up pound-for-pound versus other boxers, Puerto Rican legends in particular?

The fact that Cotto did not knock out his formerly undefeated rival Carlos Maussa this past Saturday night in Bayamon on the Top Rank Triple Crown II fight card was cause for criticism. You could hear it in bars, coffee shops, even on the supermarket line. Cotto might earned the TKO after Maussa's corner called it quits in the eighth round, but Puerto Rican boxing fans wanted to see nothing less than Maussa sprawled on the canvas.

Technically, Cotto (18-0, 15 KO) is an excellent boxer. Even against a taller opponent with a longer reach, Cotto knew when to throw his punches and when to cover up. He bloodied Maussa, first over the right cheek in the third round, then the left in the fourth. But even former Boxing Federation president Hector Cardona, Puerto Rico's Olympic Committee chief admitted after the fight that Cotto was not convincing.

"He needed to knock him out. He didn't have that knockout punch," said Cardona.

Cotto himself said he had trouble hitting Maussa with body shots because of Maussa's superior reach. While the Colombian lacked the technique and Cotto was clearly superior in the ring, the Caguas native landed most of his blows to Maussa's face.

"It wasn't as easy as it looked. I felt his punches but I knew how to take them," said Cotto, who said he wasn't worried about the particulars of how he got the victory.

"Little by little I'm going to get to a title fight," said Cotto post-fight. "When they [Top Rank] put it together for me, that's what I'll work for."

Top Rank vice president Tod DuBoef guaranteed Cotto's reappearance on Feb. 28 in New York versus Sammy Sosa's cousin, Victoriano Sosa. DuBoef was mum about a title shot.

OK, so if local fans trashed Cotto in victory, you can imagine how flyweight Eric Morel fared after losing his WBA title by unanimous decision to Lorenzo Parra (19-0, 15 KO) an unknown Venezuelan fighting for the first time outside of his country.

Parra used a punishing hook to debilitate and confuse Morel Saturday night through 12 rounds. The previously undefeated Morel (now 33-1, 18 KO) had defended his WBA belt six times prior to his fateful meeting with Parra. Yet one defeat does not end a boxing career (just ask John Ruiz, who fights Hasim Rahman this weekend).

Morel said he'll come back at 115, where Morel said he feels his career will thrive.

Finally, WBO 105-pound champion Ivan Calderon successfully defended his belt with a unanimous decision victory Saturday over compatriot Alex "El Nene"

Sanchez. Calderon (18-0, 3 KO) was too much for Sanchez, but Sanchez (29-4-1, 20 KO) managed to go the distance.

Calderon said he was happy to see that "the little guys" could sell out the 10,000-seat Ruben Rodriguez Coliseum.

Panamanian entry Cafajeste wins Caribe Stakes

Make it nine years now since a Puerto Rican entry has won at the Caribe Stakes, which Canovanas' El Comandante racetrack hosted this past Sunday. Panamanian colt Cafajeste beat out Puerto Rican hopefuls Monoestrellado and Despreciado to win the $300,000 Caribe Stakes for 3-year-olds over 1,800 meters. Cafajeste covered the distance in 1:53.73, beating out Monoestrellado by three lengths.

"He was pressuring me and tried to bump me but I still managed to win the race," said Panamanian jockey Cornelio Velazquez of Monoestrellado's rider, Juan Carlos Diaz. "I'm used to all those tricks."

Winter league All-Star game pits Dominicans versus Puerto Ricans

It doesn't count toward the regular season, but hopefully it's a major step toward interleague play. The Dominican All-Stars will test their skills versus their Puerto Rican counterparts Dec. 14 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in an event promoters hope will serve to revive local interest in the ailing winter baseball league.

Big leaguers Alex Cintron, Luis Matos, Alex Cora, Ramon Vazquez head Puerto Rico's team, which will be managed by San Juan's Carmelo Martinez, whose team is currently leading the Puerto Rican league.

The Dominican team, managed by Felix Fermin of the Aguilas Cibaenas, will feature stars such as Rafael Furcal, David Ortiz, Neifi Perez, Angel Berroa, Luis Polonia, Guillermo Garcia and Alberto Castillo.

"We might not have the big names like the Dominican team does, but we have big league experience," said Martinez of Puerto Rico's lineup.

Puerto Rico's complete lineup also includes Edwards Guzman, Lou Lucca and Ramon Castro, of Santurce, Orestes Marrero, Raul Gonzalez, Omar Garcia, of San Juan; Luis Daniel Figueroa, Edgar Clemente, of Carolina; Hector Ortiz and Alexis Rios, of Caguas and Alex Diaz and Jose "Tony" Valentin, of Mayaguez. Dickey Gonzalez, Josue Matos, Jaime Navarro, Jonathan Albadalejo and Jose Alberro are all potential pitchers, as well as Jose Santiago, Juan Padilla, Frank Rodriguez and Bobby Jenks.

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

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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