Cotto back on track

Kevin Iole

One who saw the fight might say it was the speed, power and punching accuracy that led Manny Pacquiao to a victory over Miguel Cotto on Nov. 14, 2009.

Cotto himself will tell you differently.

Losing for the first time – and losing as badly as he did – was a far bigger factor in that second career defeat to Pacquiao. Cotto was an undefeated world champion and one of boxing's biggest stars when he was beaten by Antonio Margarito on July 26, 2008, in one of the great fights of recent times.

Cotto was way ahead in that fight, but no matter what he landed, he couldn't keep Margarito off of him. But as the fight wore on, Margarito's blows had devastating effect. Cotto had to surrender in order to avoid serious, long-lasting injury.

As it turns out, Cotto did suffer a serious long-lasting injury in that bout. His psyche was ruined and he wasn't the same man after the fight. He carried that loss with him, his confidence drained, his belief in himself no longer absolute.

About six months after Cotto-Margarito I, Cotto may have gotten an explanation for the beating he had taken when Margarito was accused of putting illegal knuckle pads on before a fight with Shane Mosley.

Still, his belief in himself simply wasn't the same. And while his talents were good enough to get him wins over Michael Jennings and Joshua Clottey after losing to Margarito, they weren't nearly enough to beat an elite fighter like Pacquiao. In order to win at that level, everything, including the mental and physical game, needs to be working together.

Cotto said it wasn't until he beat Margarito last year in a rematch that he finally got over his demons.

"After the Margarito fight on Dec. 3, I feel much, much better with myself," Cotto said. "I think this is the right moment for this fight [with Mayweather]. I have everything I took from Margarito's victory, things he stole from me, things he grabbed from me. I have it back, and I feel much better right now."

The three wins since the loss to Pacquiao, plus stopping Margarito in December after 10 one-sided rounds have done wonders for Cotto's self-confidence. He knew Margarito didn't cheat in December, as he suspected the Mexican had done in 2008, and so he knew he could win when a fight was fair.

That has him believing he'll be able to handle the unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr., the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world, when they meet on May 5 for the World Boxing Association super welterweight title in Las Vegas.

"Nobody is invincible in life," Cotto said. "I know that because I've passed through this point in my life. I'm ready for anything Floyd brings me on May 5. The question is, is Floyd ready for anything Miguel can bring to him? I know he's a hard worker. He said to everybody he's a hard worker, but he's going to have in front of him on May 5 a hard worker like him. On May 5, I'm trusting in myself. I know what I have to do on May 5th to get the victory."

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