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Cotto Struggles To Make Weight For Title Shot

By Gabrielle Paese

September 10, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Puerto Rican boxing prospect Miguel Cotto said that rumors of his weight problems are greatly exaggerated, but the Boxing Commission’s scale does not lie. Cotto (20-0-0, 16 KO) tipped the digital readout at 149 pounds less than five days prior to his weigh-in for his WBO super lightweight (140) title shot versus Brazilian Kelson Pinto (20-0-0, 18 KO) at the newly inaugurated Jose Miguel Agrelot Coliseum in Hato Rey.

"People are making a big deal about my weight, but I have been at this weight close to a fight before and I never have any problem during the weigh-in," said Cotto during the prefight press conference. "My fans will see on Friday when I make the weight easily and then again on Saturday when I win the fight that losing the weight in the last week won’t weaken me at all."

Boxing experts argue that losing nine pounds in five days will dehydrate Cotto and make him tire more easily in the later rounds of the fight, which will be broadcast on HBO. Cotto won his last fight by decision over South African Lovemore N’Dou in May in Las Vegas. This is his first shot a title and local promoters Peter and Ivan Rivera, in conjunction with Top Rank, will be putting on the first sports spectacle at the new coliseum, which opened last weekend with a salsa concert.

Meanwhile, Pinto said this isn’t the first time he’s fought in Puerto Rico, having won an amateur title in Caguas in 1999 with a victory over Puerto Rican Juan Diaz. Pinto and Cotto faced off twice as amateurs, with Pinto getting the upper hand both times. The Brazilian said he’s confident he’ll get a fair fight.

"It doesn’t make much of a difference to me where I fight him," said Pinto. "I know the fans will be behind Cotto, but when we step into the ring the only thing that will matter will be me and him."

On the other main draw, WBO super welterweight champ Daniel Santos (28-2-1, 20 KO) faces Mexican Antonio Margarito (30-3-0, 21 KO). This will be Santos’ fourth defense while Margarito is moving up in weight class.

The two squared off in Bayamon in July of 2001 once before, but that fight was stopped in the first round and ended in a no-contest after an accidental head butt opened a cut over Margarito’s right eye.

Santos did his training in Miami, where he claims there are fewer distractions and it’s easier for him to keep to his weight. Margarito, who completed his final preparations at Big Bear, Calif., said his experience versus Santos in 2001 won’t count in this fight.

"That fight was over before it started and there’s not much I could take from it. I do know that he has that powerful left and that’s what I’ll be watching out for," said Margarito, who was reluctant to predict a knockout. "I can say that it will be a good show."

Margarito last fought on Jan. 31, knocking out Hercules Kyvelos in the second round. Santos’ last fight was April 17, with a unanimous decision over Michael Lerma.

Basketball federation reform in the works?

Puerto Rico’s basketball federation over the years has taken a laissez-faire approach to its politics and general direction: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Well, the basketball federation sure ain’t broke, but following Puerto Rico’s sixth-place finish at the Athens Games, there are a lot of people on the island who’d like to fix it anyway.

Federation president Hetin Reyes is the current leader under attack, although no one wants to be remembered as the one who pulled the plug on Reyes’ 16-year tenure. On one hand is Superior Basketball League president Henry Neumann, who coexists with Reyes and is at the moment, defending Reyes from the critics, perhaps in the hopes that he can work around the veteran leader, who is up for reelection in November.

On the other hand are those who want change now, like Puerto Rico team GM Salvi Vilella. They don’t have the patience to wait for Reyes to act. Vilella was responsible for bringing the team’s sponsors on board and made a great investment in the program by using his power and influence in the business world. The island quintet got paid to play in Athens thanks to Vilella, who has made it no secret that he would like to see the Puerto Rico team programs run in a more businesslike fashion.

Under the federation’s current structure, the power belongs to Reyes, and he has been reluctant to give even an inch. This week, under indirect pressure from his former mentor Jenaro "Tuto" Marchand, Reyes conceded to allow a seven-person panel investigate the inner workings of the federation and make recommendations. Marchand, the current general secretary of FIBA-America (the International Basketball Federation), denies he’s applied any pressure – directly or indirectly, although it was FIBA that started the ball rolling last month by issuing a statement declaring a need to evaluate Puerto Rico’s basketball program.

So far, the federation has rolled out the red carpet for a potential investigative committee, albeit at the insistence that all seven panel members be impartial and that none of them hold ties to FIBA.

"We are completely in favor of the formation of a committee to study our basketball program," said Neumann. "The original idea was Hetin’s, our only objection was as to one of the members. We felt the presence of a representative from FIBA-America [Alberto Garcia] was a conflict of interest. The committee should be made up of disinterested people who have the public interest in mind but at the same time have some knowledge of our basketball."

Reyes and Marchand have avoided any head-to-head conflict over the past decade, and if Marchand’s goal is to oust Reyes, he’ll need the support of Reyes’ entire board of directors. That will be no small feat, since Reyes hand-picked the board and the board in turn voted Reyes into power under the federation’s 26-year-old electoral process.

"Every three years the president names the directors of the leagues [who make up the board] and the directors then name him president," said Rodriguez. "Someone told me that it’s not a very democratic process. It took him 26 years to notice."

Tuto [Marchand] and Emilio Huyke were the authors of the constitution, said Rodriguez, who added that the federation’s selection process dates back to 1978 when then Gov. Carlos Romero Barcelo "decided to get involved in basketball."

It was Marchand who named Reyes to head up both the Superior Basketball League and the federation back in 1988. When the league separated from the federation in 2001, Reyes remained atop the federation and Henry Neumann took over the league.

If the federation does need reorganization, one thing’s for sure: it won’t be at the hands of a seven-person committee. The last committee to investigate basketball, formed last year at the behest of Representative Severo Colberg Toro, was powerless to implement any reform.

Finally, it will be difficult to implement any reform at all within the federation, especially since most of its members like it more or less the way it is. The current call to arms comes from the island quintet’s recent sixth-place performance in Athens. Team officials and coaches have called for a year-round national basketball program, an ideal they’ll be hard-pressed to achieve given the players’ commitments to various international leagues.

"We are all for improving the basketball federation, although I have to say the federation is already one of the best in the world," said Neumann, who cited as evidence Puerto Rico’s sixth-place Olympic finish and its U-21 team ranking among the top three in the world. "We are the country with the most youth category basketball programs in the world and I would say our federation is already very successful. But those who think they can improve upon it should come up with their recommendations and make their studies."

Gabrielle Paese is a sports reporter in San Juan. She was 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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