Posted by Sabrina B. @gametimegirl
Heavy snow in New York delayed the kickoff of this week’s planned media tour to formally announce junior middleweight titleholder Miguel Cotto’s first defense against Ricardo Mayorga, but promoter Don King didn’t let it damper his enthusiasm for the recently-agreed to fight.
He was in mid-promotion form Wednesday night when telling ESPN.com about the fight.
“It think it’s a very exciting fight, something explosive, because Mayorga and Cotto, they create excitement,” King said of the Showtime-distributed pay-per-view fight that will take place March 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.. “Mayorga’s only real opponent has been himself. But he’s a very talented guy and he creates excitement. People want to know: Which Mayorga will they see? He’s on the comeback trail, but he’s still loco, still crazy, still the crazy man.”
The media tour will kick off next week instead, in New York on Wednesday and then on to Cotto’s native Puerto Rico on Thursday. King, who promotes Mayorga, will be co-promoting a fight with Top Rank’s Bob Arum, Cotto’s promoter, for the first time since they teamed to put on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Zab Judah welterweight title bout in April 2006.
King and Arum are famous rivals, having waged a decades-long battle for promotional supremacy. But they are now in their late 70s and they’ve mellowed toward each other somewhat. They get along better these days than ever before.
“It’s going to be a pleasure to work with a real promoter like Bob Arum,” King said.
Cotto, Puerto Rico’s No.1 active fighter, is already in training camp with trainer Emanuel Steward in Hollywood, Fla. The former welterweight and junior welterweight titleholder has been idle since winning his 154-pound belt by stopping Yuri Foreman in the ninth round at Yankee Stadium in June. Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs) underwent shoulder surgery after the fight and elected to take the rest of 2010 off.
“On March 12, the fans will have a great show,” Cotto said. “Top Rank put together an exciting card for the fans. This kind of show is what boxing needs.” In Mayorga (29-7-1, 23 KOs), Cotto will face a powerful puncher known for his wild brawling and trash talking ways, although he has usually come up short against his biggest name opponents, getting knocked out by Shane Mosley, Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad in recent years.
“I know Mayorga very well,” Cotto said. “He likes to talk too much, but I’ve never seen nobody that wins a fight talking. On March 12, he will know who Miguel Cotto is.”
Mayorga, the former welterweight champion and a former junior middleweight titlist, has also been quite inactive. Mosley knocked him out in the 12th round in September 2008 and he fought for the first time in the 27 months since on Dec. 17, knocking out journeyman Michael Walker in the ninth round.
“Cotto’s a great fighter,” King said. “You always expect Puerto Ricans to be ready. But who wants it the most? The one who’s dedicated, committed and wants it the most is going to win. At this stage, I would have to say it’s Mayorga.”
Although Mayorga is getting a shot at Cotto’s title, he’s just 3-3 in his last six, including the knockout losses to Mosley and De La Hoya in his previous two junior middleweight fights.
Still, Steward said he believes Mayorga is a dangerous opponent.
“It’s a fight that could be a wild, crazy fight possibly,” Steward said. “Mayorga is going to challenge anybody. So I think Miguel’s short, accurate punches will be a factor. Mayorga needs swinging room. You can’t never relax with a guy like Mayorga because his punches are wide and looping from all angles. You gotta be out of the zone or go all the way inside on him. You can’t be in the middle because he can catch you with any one of his shots. Miguel might have to do some boxing to go with his punching. Mayorga is very heavy handed but not technically sound.”
If Cotto wins, Arum is planning for him to face Antonio Margarito in a rematch in June. Margarito stopped Cotto in the 11th round of a welterweight title fight in July 2008. In his next fight, Margarito was caught trying to enter the ring against Mosley with loaded hand wraps. He was subsequently suspended and didn’t fight for more than a year. Many believe Margarito got away with facing Cotto with illegal gloves.
A win over Mayorga will pave the way for a rematch Cotto once said he would not give Margarito because of the scandal. But that’s changed, Steward said.
“He said he would fight Margarito again,” Steward said. “If we get past Mayorga, he’ll fight Margarito again and that will be a huge fight.”
King said Arum and Cotto can look past Mayorga all they want.
“They’re excited about a Margarito rematch. They think they will beat Mayorga and that’s why they took the fight,” said King, who was ready to close a deal with for Mayorga to get a shot at middleweight titlist Felix Sturm in Germany when Arum approached him about the Cotto fight. “Sometimes be careful what you wish for. If Mayorga does his job, as I anticipate he will, there will be a new champion on March 12.”
And even though King and Arum are buddies these days, King couldn’t resist a little dig, the kind of talk that should help inject some life into the promotion.
“It’s going to be something exciting and a thrill for me to give Bob one when Mayorga beats his man,” King said. “He deserves it. Bob’s been working hard. A little punch in Bob’s kidney wouldn’t hurt. He still has Manny Pacquiao, though, and that’s who we after. Bob said he can’t speak for Pacquiao, but when we get through with Cotto, that’s who we want. That’s why Mayorga took this fight, because he wants to beat Cotto and then get a shot at Pacquiao.
“He gave himself a hard task. Should he overcome this, the reward would be going after Pacquiao. So we’re going to try to put a little spark into Bob’s life.”
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him onÂ Twitter.