Monday, October 7, 2013

Opinions and Observations: Cotto and Klitschko

In ten years, no one will look back at Miguel Cotto's official ledger and be surprised that he knocked out Delvin Rodriguez. At that point, Cotto most likely will be in the International Boxing Hall of Fame and Rodriguez will be viewed as a fighter who always fell short at the sport's highest level. Future boxing enthusiasts will see Miguel Cotto TKO3 Delvin Rodriguez and not give the fight a second thought.

That Cotto scored a victory shouldn't be considered news that is particularly shocking, but his aggressive mentality and insistence in going for the kill made the fight so damn entertaining. Teaming up for the first time with noted offensive trainer Freddie Roach, Cotto reached back to what had originally inspired his legions of fans. Gone were the days of the Miguel Cotto under Pedro Diaz, who seemed content to jab from mid-range. No, Saturday's Cotto was a return to the seek-and-destroy version that electrified the boxing world on his way up the ranks. 

In the lead up to the fight, Roach talked at length about reestablishing Cotto's left hook to the body, the fighter's signature punch which for some reason he had abandoned over the years. On Saturday, Cotto threw the hook often and with malicious intent. Leading with it and mixing in some strong right hands behind it, Cotto never let Rodriguez into the fight. By the third round, Rodriguez was plastered against the ropes from Cotto's power shots and the fight was waved off (in truth, the stoppage was disturbingly premature, but no one seems to care about Delvin Rodriguez, so no outrage).  

As Teddy Atlas frequently says, boxing is 70% mental (sometimes he says 90%, but you catch the drift). From my perspective, Roach did a couple of things to bolster Cotto's confidence for the fight. Perhaps first and foremost, he convinced him how he could still be an aggressive fighter, how that style could still work against Rodriguez, a durable guy with some pop, and that he could still be special. Secondly, Roach made sure that Cotto had a real training camp. Thus Cotto needn't worry about gassing out or fading. Unlike past training forays, where Cotto was in less than optimal shape, the fighter attacked like he had 15 rounds in him; there wasn't any conserving of energy.  

Cotto deserves a lot of credit for selecting Roach. Cotto has had a vagabond training career where he went from his uncle to essentially training himself to Pedro Diaz to Roach. It's clear that Cotto wasn't happy with his performance offensively against Austin Trout, where he had only intermittent success in landing short right hands from close range. Even though Diaz is an incredibly talented trainer, Cotto didn't like the style mesh. And with Roach's emphasis on offense and aggression, Cotto could assure himself that his attack would be more acute and emphasized.  

The two potential opponents who make the most sense for Cotto's next fight are Saul Alvarez or Sergio Martinez (most likely at a catchweight). Cotto would most likely be an underdog in both fights. In my view, I'd take a shot at the older champion coming off knee surgery who has been knocked down a lot. That fight would give Cotto a chance to become the lineal middleweight champ and win a belt in his fourth division. For Martinez, he would have the opportunity to make another huge payday before he rides off into the sunset.  

No, Delvin Rodriguez won't be going to the Hall Of Fame. Yes, Cotto looked like a killer. Let's not read into the fight too much other than to say that Cotto still looks like he has a fair amount left in the tank and that for one night, he gave boxing fans a sweet reminder of why the fell in love with him so many years ago.  


Russia and the Ukraine. In the Soviet era, the Ukraine was under the U.S.S.R.'s imperial thumb. As the Soviet Empire collapsed, there was no love lost between the nations. Ukrainian Presidents suggested that the country look to the West for how best to run its democracy. Russia withheld precious natural resources in a pipeline dispute.  

Thus, it was this backdrop of historical animosity and rancor that Wladimir Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin accepted a dangerous United Nations Humanitarian Mission in Moscow. The fighters aimed to demonstrate that if representatives of the two nations could just hold each other, touch each other a little, maybe give some hugs, that better relations could be had between the confrontational neighboring states. And it was a stirring scene, with Klitschko and Povetkin professing their affection for each other throughout the evening – over a hundred times in fact! Ring announcer Michael Buffer, orange, but not a member of the Ukraine's Orange Revolution, watched the action with a tear in his eye, and with four 20-something models from each nation sitting patiently beside him.   

There was so much touching and grappling going on during the match that the unrefined American in me half-expected the Skinemax softcore music to come on. Maybe the ring lights would dim a little. Povetkin was spending a lot of time on the ground on all fours, either from knockdowns, pushes and slips, so much so that I felt like he was just begging for Wlad to take their new-found diplomatic warmth to the next level.  

But Povetkin's yearning to consummate the relationship was ultimately left unfulfilled by Klitschko. Perhaps fighting in Russia, where such same-sex skirmishes are publicly frowned upon, Wlad deemed that behavior to be too risky. Maybe in the interests of subterfuge, Wlad decided to leave a little on the table and let boxing fans jump to their own conclusions. Or instead, it's possible that the fight was a giant act of role playing, using the ring as a Moscow Brokeback Mountain tableau where Wlad, the unshaven foreign muscle man, wrestled with the boy-next-door Povetkin and his flowing blond locks.... 

But I digress.  

The boxing nerd in me really loved Klitschko-Povetkin. Hold on! Before you request to have me committed, hear me out. During the fight, I wish there had been a glorious and grand marquee outside of the arena flashing, "Wladimir Klitschko Throws and Lands Uppercuts!" In my mind, sidewalk newspaper boys would announce this shocking scene with triumphant glee. "Five cents to read about Wlad's uppercuts!" ESPN would have this development on its crawl as "Breaking News" at the bottom in heavy rotation. 
In his 64th fight, and his 24th title fight, Klitschko decided to add to his arsenal, which is commendable for a veteran fighter who had enjoyed so much success with just three punches – jab, right hand and a left hook. But Klitschko, as so many of the great ones do, decided he needed to get better. He spent the seventh and eighth rounds landing short uppercuts during clinches and at close range, and they were damaging. I was laughing out loud as Klitschko was playing with his new toy. Luckily he didn't throw any body punches, or I might've gone into shock. 

Klitschko's best weapon of the night was his left hook, traditionally his third-best punch. Scoring an impressive knockdown in the second round with a lead left hook (disguised as a jab), Klitschko used the punch throughout the fight to negate Povetkin's straight right hand. As the match progressed, Povetkin still came forward, but his right hand stayed locked in its holster with increasing frequency. Klitschko's reliance on his left hook provided further evidence of his cerebral gifts in the ring. Yes, he's tall and can punch anyone's lights out, but his intelligence is a huge part of his success in the sport.  

Sure, Klitschko held too much for my liking. The fifth round was a complete abomination – John Ruiz placed panicked calls to the U.S. Copyright Office only to be rebuffed due to the government shutdown. But let's settle something here: For those who claim that Klitschko is some stiff Eurobot, all of his holding moves, from head locks, to pressing down on the neck to turning an opponent to walking an opponent during a clinch, were straight out of the Kronk. These were techniques taught to him by Emanuel Steward as ways to suppress infighting and to protect his chin. Lennox Lewis, another Steward pupil, incorporated many of these moves, as has Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather, non-Steward fighters who may foul more subtlety, but foul nevertheless.  

In addition, let's disabuse ourselves of the notion that Wlad is some great sportsman. He was downright dirty on Saturday. In the 11th round, he landed a brutal three-punch combination – right hand, left hook, right hand. It looked like Povetkin was ready to go. But instead of following up on the exchange and going for the kill, Klitschko just threw Povetkin to the ground with contempt, like he was done with him. In the 12th, Klitschko took an open hand and flung Povetkin across the ring and onto the floor. Throughout the fight, Klitschko was hitting Povetkin on the ref's off side during breaks. These are not the moves of someone who places a significant emphasis on great sportsmanship.  

Saturday wasn't Wlad, boxing emissary, it was Wlad wanting to mess Povetkin up. It was like a reverse of the Terminator series where Wlad morphed back into the evil Arnold Schwarzenegger of the first film. He was in Moscow to cause grievous bodily harm and prohibit a future revolution from unfolding.

On another note, Luis Pabon needs to ref fights only in Storage B. He quite frankly is one of the worst in the business and Saturday further solidified his incompetence. Pabon lost control of the fight. Pabon, finally deducting a point from Klitschko in the 11th, provided a cruel bit of gallows humor for those watching the fight. Had he done his job earlier in the match and taken points away for Wlad's myriad infractions, the fight certainly would have been more aesthetically pleasing, not to mention an opportunity for a more level playing field for Povetkin. Instead, we got 36 minutes of two EuroHulks practicing open-field tackles. In addition, Pabon clearly messed up the seventh round, where of the three knockdowns, no more than one of them was actually clean. Pabon reflexively went to the count instead of taking a stand against Wlad's incessant pushing.
Finally, against probably the best opponent of his career, Wlad lost maybe one round. In a battle of Olympic super heavyweight gold medalists, it was Wlad who further cemented himself as an elite fighter. Povetkin had the right game plan. He was in tremendous condition – a problem for him in past bouts – but ultimately, he was as ineffectual as the rest of the faceless Wlad opponents from this era. Yes, the heavyweight division sucks, as it did during much of the reigns of Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes, Rocky Marciano and Joe Louis, but great fighters dominate whoever is put in front of them. And that's what Wlad is doing.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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