Thursday, May 3, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Miguel Cotto sits in a cheesy-looking throne that earlier was the target of a Hacksaw Jim Duggan reference and does his best to not openly hate the swarm of people invading his space.
People who have seen them all say this is one of the most tame press conferences for a Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight. No doubt the soft-spoken Cotto has a lot to do with that.
On Wednesday afternoon in the Hollywood Theatre at the MGM Grand, the only thing that came close to trash talk was from Cotto’s trainer, Pedro Diaz, who said, with Oscar De La Hoya doing the translating, that talking doesn’t get you the victory, only fists do. Mayweather’s adviser, Leonard Ellerbe, eventually snapped back that Diaz should keep his opinions to himself, a forced kind of verbal sparring that was made even more silly by the fact that Diaz doesn’t speak English.
Cotto (37-2) doesn’t sell fights; he (usually) just wins them. The lavish production of fight-week events — cameras constantly flashing while everybody who put money into the fight gets a turn at the mic — doesn’t interest him in the least. That’s more for Mayweather (42-0).
Sitting in that chair with a couple dozen reporters stacked around him, Cotto did his time. He answered questions in both English and Spanish and even forced a smile once or twice. Standing behind the pack watching his fighter waste time they could have spent training or resting was Diaz, who was a surprise addition to camp when Cotto cut ties last year with legendary trainer Emmanuel Steward.
Cotto has said he wasn’t sure how the pairing would go with Diaz, who led the highly successful Cuban national boxing team before defecting to the United States. But as they enter their second fight together, the duo have settled into a comfortable business relationship built on the singular goal of returning Cotto to the top.
“He’s a quiet guy, but he knows what he has to do,” Cotto said.
Nearly four years ago in MGM Grand Garden Arena, Cotto lost the first match of his career in a bloody technical knockout to Antonio Margarito. Cotto had never been hit like that before, possibly because Margarito’s corner is suspected to have used illegal hand wraps that formed plaster underneath the gloves.
That news did little to heal Cotto either physically or mentally. He lost again in 2009 to Manny Pacquiao, the second of a two-fight union with trainer Joe Santiago. Before that, Cotto had been trained for the majority of his career by his uncle, Evangelista Cotto, until a bad breakup.
In Cotto’s last six fights leading into Mayweather, he’s used four different trainers. Contrast that with Mayweather, who has trained with his uncle, Roger, for the entirety of his professional career.
The difference is that Mayweather isn’t searching for anything. Cotto was, and in Diaz he believes he’s found it.
De La Hoya, who’s promoting the fight with Golden Boy Promotions, said he noticed the difference leading up to last year’s rematch with Margarito, which was Diaz’s first fight in Cotto’s corner. De La Hoya likened it to his 2001 decision to change trainers and bring in Floyd Mayweather Sr.
“He gave me life,” De La Hoya said. “He gave me this energy that I hadn’t felt in such a long time, and that’s what I see in Miguel Cotto and his new trainer, is that he feels like a completely different fighter.”
The key to the Cotto-Diaz dynamic was getting payback against Margarito in Madison Square Garden last December. Without that fight, Cotto couldn’t get Mayweather, and even if he could he wouldn’t be mentally strong enough to do anything with the opportunity.
Diaz’s training camps, both of which were based out of Cotto’s gym in Orlando, Fla., are much more scientific than anything Cotto dealt with before. At first that made him apprehensive, but the results have won him over. Their similar low-key personalities ahead of a big fight doesn’t hurt, either.
“When you train at the best capacity you can, when you have somebody who always wants to get the best from you … you have a great chemistry with him,” Cotto said. “That’s the kind of chemistry Pedro and I have.”
The way Cotto sees it, that chemistry resurrected his career. It gave him the biggest fight of his life Saturday night. And if he wins, it will be the reason why.
“You see it in his eyes, you see it in his training, and you see it in the ring,” De La Hoya said. “His confidence is really high and the trainer has a lot to do with it.”
Now if Cotto could just get out of that chair and get in the ring, both he and Diaz would like to go to work now.