Cotto, Pavlik ready to bounce back!
Fighters to share PPV card in different cities
Report by Matt Richardson
Photos by Ed Mulholland / Fightwireimages.com
After losing in dramatic fashion in two of the highest profile fights of 2008, middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and former two-division champion Miguel Cotto will both return to the ring on February 21st on a pay-per-view card distributed by their promoter Top Rank, it was announced on Tuesday at an afternoon press conference at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
There is, however, one big caveat. Technically, neither fighter will be fighting on the same card. Actually, neither Pavlik nor Cotto will even fight in the same state. That’s because Cotto will headline his own card at the Garden in New York while Pavlik will make his second title defense at the Chevrolet Center in Youngstown, Ohio. IBF welterweight title-holder Joshua Clottey may also be on the card in an inaugural title defense against former title-holder Kermit Cintron. That fight is likely to occur in New York. Regardless of who fights where, it should be a solid card featuring exciting fighters.
And that fact, coupled with the way the card is presented (including a slight decrease in traditional pay-per-view prices from $50.00 to $44.95) is the way promoter Bob Arum says the sport should work in the future. “Boxing needs to move into a new era,” he said. “It has to present it’s product in different ways. We’re going to do a lot of novel things with this telecast.”
Some of those things include live musical performances as well as bringing in figures from different sports besides boxing to add to the telecast, commentary and live atmosphere in general.
“We’re going to have a lot of music and a lot of fireworks and we’re going to jazz it up for a younger audience without sacrificing the quality of good boxing,” Arum explained.
“In other words, for the purist, they’re going to get what they want but we’re going to do it in an exciting, innovative manner with very little talking in between the fights. It’s going to be one fight after another,” said the promoter.
It is the quality of the fights, however, that will lead to an overall positive or negative assessment. And despite criticism to the contrary, Arum feels he is offering competitive fights to the public. Cotto (32-1, 26 KO’s) will fight for the vacant 147-pound WBO belt when he takes on the unknown Michael Jennings (34-1, 16 KO’s) while Pavlik (34-1, 30 KO’s) will box mandatory challenger Marco Antonio Rubio (43-4-1, 38 KO’s).
Asked what he knew about his opponent, Cotto didn’t pretend.
“Nothing,” he said. “I don’t know anything about him.”
Pressed to decide if Jennings would mark the first easy fight after a string of tough ones, Cotto appeared indifferent.
“No matter,” he said. “The people said the same about (Alfonso) Gomez. He came to give me a good fight. He came to win. He didn’t come to lose. He came to try to win and I know that Jennings is coming to win the same way.”
“It’s a big opportunity for me; especially at Madison Square Garden as well,” Jennings told Fightnews. “I’m a boxing fan as well as a boxer. I know what it’s like to be asked to fight here. It’s unbelievable. Without a doubt it’s a massive fight. Every fight is important no matter who you fight. So, to be fighting Cotto as well, it’s brilliant.”
It will be the first fight for the Puerto Rican Cotto since his first professional loss last summer, an eleventh round technical knockout against Antonio Margarito. Cotto said that, in retrospect, he has learned to cope with defeat.
“I felt a little sad,” he said. “I never tasted this type of experience like a professional. But the past two or three days after the fight I understood. He made a good fight. He came in in huge shape and I feel comfortable in the way I lost. It was his night. He was better than me that night.”
Cotto also defended himself against criticisms that he “quit” against Margarito when he took a final knee at the bout’s conclusion.
“No, I just felt tired. I just didn’t feel like the beginning, you know? I like to prevent any type of bad punch that can put me in worse condition. After the fifth, sixth round my legs didn’t respond to me.”
Pavlik, meanwhile, will also be attempting to bounce back from a bad beating after losing a lopsided decision to the ageless Bernard Hopkins last October. They key to success for Pavlik is to go back to his roots. That means back to the middleweight division, back to the way he used to fight and, even, back to his hometown, his first fight in Ohio in three years.
“It feels good,” said Pavlik. “I get a chance to get back home and give the fans what they deserve. They made trips out to Atlantic City and Vegas for fights so I think it’s good for the fans back home.”
“You know, like I told one of the people, it wasn’t me that night against Hopkins,” Pavlik continued. “There’s not much that we can take from that fight or anything we can do off of it. If that was me fighting that night and that happened then I could say ‘oh, I have to go back to the drawing board and work on this.’ But that fight right now is just the past. We put it behind us. There’s nothing you can do about it and now I’m just going to focus on Rubio.”
“He’s a tough fighter. He’s hungry. He’s got a lot to prove, you know. He has good pop. He’s a tough fighter but we’ve got a lot to prove coming off the last fight and we’re looking to make a statement.”
Rubio, predictably, said he aimed to stop that from happening.
“This is a great opportunity for me and I know I have to take advantage of it,” he said. “Like every fighter my dream is to be a world champion and on February 21st I’m going to realize that dream.”
“Coming off my last fight I think it’s very important to go out there in front of my hometown fans and put on a great performance,” said Pavlik. “This is a do or die fight for me.”
The same could be said for Cotto.
The obvious question, coming off of both boxers’ last fights, is what do they have left in the tank? The answer, though, will not be obvious until both fighters finish their assignments in February. Asked if he was concerned about this, Arum didn’t hide his feelings. “Yes! I still am,” he said. “Look at Donald Curry, one of the greatest fighters I’ve ever promoted. And Donald Curry lost to Lloyd Honeyghan because he wasn't paying attention and he never was the same again.”
“I don’t think so,” Cotto said. “I’m just prepared well enough for every fight. I feel pretty good. I’m not feeling like I lost anything. I feel good. You’re going to see what Miguel Cotto can do.”
“Look, they’re young enough so that physically it doesn’t take that much out of them at this stage,” Arum reasoned. “Mentally, it’s a question of what it has taken out of them. How has it affected their confidence? I don’t know . . . you don’t know . . . they don’t know.”