By Tom Donelson
Member Boxing Writers Association and International Boxing Research Organization
Miguel Cotto has had a good career with only four losses but those losses included soon to be half of fame Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather along with slick boxer Austin Trout. The one loss that may have rankled Cotto the most was to Antonio Margarito who later was found fighting with additional plaster before his fight with Shane Mosley. He revenged that loss later and now he was facing the tough Delvin Rodriguez in one of those cross road fights to see what he has left.
Cotto had lost his last two fights in a row coming into his fight with Rodriquez. He gave Mayweather a good fight but that was followed up by a loss to Austin Trout, who outboxed him. Cotto teamed up with the legendary Freddie Roach to see if Roach magic could take him back to the top. In normal times, this fight would be a mismatch since Cotto is an upper echelon fighter and Rodriguez is a good fighter but not in Cotto ‘s class. The real test is whether Cotto would win easily as if he fought Rodriguez in his prime or if he lost or struggle; then maybe his career was over.
Cotto began the first round pursuing Rodriguez, who wanted to use his jab and box to set up counters. At the minute mark, Cotto landed a vicious hook to the body. This was followed by more body shots that caused Rodriguez to flinch. Rodriguez own attempts to counter Cotto, proved ineffectual over the first three minutes.
At the beginning of the second round, Cotto went from hooking the body to hooking the head as he landed those hooks to Rodriguez’s head. Cotto consistently cut off the ring; forcing Rodriguez to fight. Halfway through the second round, Cotto added a solid right hand to the body and Rodriguez was covering up his body. Near the end of the round, Cotto landed a right hand followed by a left hook that buckled Rodriguez knees. The bell ended the round before Cotto could do any more damage.
The beginning of the third round, Cotto forced Rodriguez to the ropes and he threw a right hand to the body; partially blocked by Rodriguez. Cotto then launched a short, sharp left hook that nailed Rodriguez’s face. Rodriguez slipped to the canvas as his knees buckled and he even managed to dragged the judge to the ground with him. The judge didn’t even bother to count as he simply waved off the fight
Cotto looked like the Cotto of old and not like an old Cotto. Cotto moved aggressively throughout the bout and he used body shots to set up head shots. Cotto unleashed his entire arsenal of punches and now he put himself into a position to once again fight in a major event. There are plenty of fighters to choose from and this Cotto who fought in Orlando, Florida against Rodriguez could be a good competitor to Canelo Alvarez, when Alvarez is ready to come back after his loss to Mayweather. Cotto had Alvarez in sight but a loss to Austin Trout derailed that bout. Cotto showed that he still has the skills to be an upper echelon fighter.
Wladimir Klitschko won yet another championship fight and no one will ever want to remember his battle with Alexander Povetkin, which was hardly a classic. Essentially the fight went like this, Povetkin would move forward and if Klitschko wasn’t peppering Povetkin with accurate shots, he merely held on to Povetkin. Povetkin gave a good effort but like most heavyweight in the Klitschko’s era; he was just wasn’t good enough.
Heavyweight division today can be classified as the super heavyweight division and Klitschko’s brothers are the best Superheavyweight. The question is how we rate the Klitschko’s brothers. Wladimir had not lost a fight in nine years and his record in championship fights is 22-2. Wladimir has won as many championship fights as Muhammad Ali and only Joe Louis has won more. The only question is whether Vitali, his older brother is the better fighter and that is a question that we will never answer since neither fighter will fight each other. Wladimir and Vitali are not quick handed fighters like an Ali in their prime and Vitali did lose to Lennox Lewis in Lewis last fight; so it is hard to argue to rate either fighters as better than Lewis. Both fighters are a combined 34-3 in championship bouts and this would have been even higher if injuries did not hamper Vitali for a four years layoff.
Many pundits and historians do not view either Vitali or Wladimir highly when compared to others and Wladimir victory over Povetkin was hardly a masterpiece. Two of the knockdowns in the fight were caused as much as Wladimir throwing Povetkin down as oppose his punches, not that Povetkin weren’t nailed by big shots. The judge allowed Wladimir plenty of leeway when it came to holding and there were judges who would have taken points away for excessive holding; if not at least gave warnings. The fight was a boring mess with occasional solid clean shots by Wladimir.
So that leaves us the question how do you rate either of the Klitschko’s brothers? Wladimir suffered some embarrassing knock outs earlier in his career as he moved toward the championship. His first fight with Lamon Brewster is how many pundits still view Wladimir; a big fighter with a glass jaw. In the first Brewster fight, he was easily winning the fight before he started to run out of gas and Brewster stopped him. Samuel Peter nearly stopped him in 2005 when he sent Wladimir down three times but Wladimir boxing skills won the fight. From the first Peter fight, Wladimir became a different fighter as he survived being knocked down and win a fight. Under the tutelage of Emmanuel Steward, Wladimir learn to fight tall and started to resemble Lennox Lewis, who was another of Steward’s protégée. Between Lewis and Wladimir Klitshcko, Steward’s heavyweight fighters won 35 championship bouts from 1993 until Steward’s death. (Wladimir has won three fights since Steward’s death under the training of boxer-trainer Jonathan Banks, a Steward’s protégé.)
As for historical point of view, Wladimir own career resembles Larry Holmes, who fought in an era without a great competitor. Holmes hit his prime when the great era of heavyweights was ending. By 1977, Foreman retired for next the decade plus Ali and Frazier were at the end of their career. Ali would fight Holmes but the Ali who fought Holmes was an old shot 38 year old fighter whose best was long past. The biggest fight for Holmes would prove to be Ken Norton in 1978 in one of the great heavyweight battles. Holmes would have a big PPV fight against the hard hitting Gerry Cooney, who never was the same after his fight with Holmes.
Cooney never fulfilled his potential and this took the historical luster off the fight. Neither Wladimir nor Vitali have faced any great heavyweights and this past century has been a down era for heavyweights. While we have seen many super heavyweights over the past decades, they have not the skills of past heavyweights and the smaller heavyweights lack the power to beat Klitschko’s brothers. Talented boxers like Eddie Chambers and Tomaz Adamek have lacked the power and size to compete with the Klitschko’s.
Wladimir and Vitali can be classified as great heavyweights simply because they beat everyone in front of them and often easily. It is not the fault of the Klitschko that they were head and shoulders above their competitors and rarely have they have been challenged. Wladimir has won 15 championships in a row, and his 22 victories in championship ranks ahead every heavyweight but Joe Louis and Ali whose mark he has tied. Sometimes numbers tell the story and in this case, both Klitschko’s have numbers that rank them in the upper tier of heavyweights. They are not in the class of a Ali or Louis; but they have had a Hall of Fame of career.