Coming Up: In Praise Of Cotto And Diaz

By Tom Donelson
Updated: January 11, 2008

GlovesIOWA CITY, Ia. — After a recent article on five of the more influential fighters for 2007, a critic asked, “What about Miguel Cotto or Juan Diaz?” Good question.

Cotto is a star in his own right and has evolved into one of the better fighters in boxing on a pound for pound basis. Decisive victories over Jab Judah and Shane Mosley propelled Cotto into more than just a celebrity but a one of boxing bests.

Cotto has a built in audience. In Puerto Rico, good boxers become household names and heroes. Felix Trinidad was one of Puerto Rico sports idols and Miguel Cotto has now joined Trinidad as a Puerto Rico superstar.

Cotto is a fighter in search of his own Moby Dick as he prepares for his biggest fight, a possible match up with Floyd Mayweather. For the past year and half, he has selected fighters with quick hands and feet with thoughts of Mayweather.

He took on Paulie Malignaggi, the flashy Brooklyn fighter, and pounded him merciless. For 12 rounds, he never gave Malginani any chance to breath and he repeated the same performance against Zab Judah, before eventually stopping him.

His fight with Mosley was the third step in his preparation for Mayweather. While Mosley did not have foot movement of either Judah or Malignaggi but Mosley was armed with a quick hands and tough chin.

Mosley had been one of boxing elite fighters for the past decade; great as a lightweight and one of the best pound for pound and even at 36, his hand speed still threatened Cotto.

With experience in big fights, Mosley was Cotto’s biggest threat and nearly derailed the Cotto express as Cotto escaped with the narrowest of decision. Defeating Mosley showed that Cotto could win a big fight against an elite fighter.

And now he is as prepared as he would ever against Floyd Mayweather, the best pound for pound fighter presently in the world. While Mayweather talks of retirement, there is one thing about Mayweather; he is a big money fighter who may not be able to resist the millions resulting from a Cotto-Mayweather.

Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz has been one of the best lightweights and has yet to reach 25. No losses in 33 fights, Diaz is a aggressive take no prisoner style of fighter but over the years, he has learn the fine art of boxing to support his aggressive style.

Diaz does not have one punch knockout power but he wears his opponent out.

His last two fights against Julio Diaz and Acelino Freitas were perfect examples as he kept moving forward with quick handed combinations before both fighters no longer had the strength to resist as the Baby Bull sapped the vigor of his opponents.

Since winning his title against Lakva Sims, Diaz has been overshadowed by others. When discussion of worthy champions are mentioned, there are rarely mentions of Diaz, but over the past three years; there have been very few champions as consistent as Diaz and he has improved with every fight.

With a style that often shortens a career, Diaz is still young enough to make a bigger impact on an unsuspecting public.

The biggest business left in the lightweight is Joel Casamayor, the old Cuban boxer who still has a trick or two left. Casamayor has been one of the better lightweights and junior lightweights around, but at the age of 36; the hand speed has slowed down.

Casamayor still has enough guile to stay in any fight. For Diaz, this could represent the big name needed to bump him into superstardom.

It should be noted that Diaz began his career as a junior welterweight before moving down and it could be his destiny to move back up for the one fight that could seal his legacy; a bout with Ricky Hatton.

Both Cotto and Diaz are primed for big money fights that could produce new chapters in their fighting career. 2008 could be that year that both add to their own legacies as great fighters of this era.