The fight of the year for welterweights?

By Francis Walker
Updated: April 17, 2009

Miguel Cotto addresses the media to discuss his next bout against Joshua Clottey. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Miguel Cotto addresses the media to discuss his next bout against Joshua Clottey. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

NEW YORK — Forget the heavyweight division because all of the non-stop-hard hitting action is in the welterweight division. On the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade on June 13, WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto returns to Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Cotto (33-1, 27 KOs), making the first defense of his championship, battles IBF 147-pound champion Joshua Clottey (35-2, 20 KOs). HBO will televise beginning at 10:45 PM/ET and 7:45 PM/PT on World Championship Boxing.

Cotto returns to the Big Apple

Madison Square Garden has proven to be “Cotto’s House.” Cotto has fought at the Garden on the eve of his Puerto Rican Day Parade three times from 2005-07. Overall, Cotto is 6-0, 3 KOs in the World’s Most Famous Arena and has cemented victories against Sugar Shane Mosley (W 12), Zab Judah (TKO 11), and Paulie Malignaggi (W12).

In Cotto’s last appearance, he stopped previously once-beaten, but overmatched Michael Jennings in the fifth round for the vacant WBO 147-pound title in February. It was Cotto’s first bout since losing the WBA welterweight title and undefeated record to Antonio Margarito (TKO by 11) in July ’08.

Miguel Cotto speaks to the media during a press conference to announce his welterweight clash with Joshua Clottey at Madison Square Garden. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Miguel Cotto speaks to the media during a press conference to announce his welterweight clash with Joshua Clottey at Madison Square Garden. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Cotto wanted to prove that he had what it took to recover from such a brutal loss to Margarito, suspended in January after the California Athletic Commission found a “plaster-like” substance in his hand wraps prior to the start of his bout with Sugar Shane Mosley. (Mosley went on to knock Margarito out in the ninth round.)

Cotto was still the same Cotto of old. Waiting patiently, applying pressure, throwing hard combinations to the body, and simply breaking his opponent down.

Cotto, along with promoter Bob Arum and supporters at Top Rank were extremely pleased.

Evangelista no longer working nephew Cotto’s corner

For the first time in his boxing career, Cotto will be fighting without his uncle/trainer Evangelista Cotto. The two were involved in an actual scuffle in their native Puerto Rico last week and police had to called-in.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Cotto said. “It’s a family matter. I prefer to keep [it] this way.”

Cotto was very silent and low-key regarding the issue involving his uncle who had been with Cotto since his amateur days, but had already assigned a new trainer – nutritionist Joe Santiago.

When asked about Santiago’s experience, Cotto said: “Joe trained up and coming fighters and worked with me for a few years.”

Clottey’s big chance his arrived

WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto & IBF welterweight champion Joshua Clottey pose for photographers and the boxing world. The two will meet at Madison Square Garden, New York City on June 13. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto & IBF welterweight champion Joshua Clottey pose for photographers and the boxing world. The two will meet at Madison Square Garden, New York City on June 13. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Many people believe that Paul Williams and Winky Wright were the two most avoided fighters in boxing. The same can be said of Ghana’s Joshua Clottey.

“This is the opportunity that I have worked so hard for all these years,” the 32 year-old African said. “I am thankful for the opportunity to fight Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden.”

Clottey has worked extremely hard for the chance to fight in the biggest venues against the best fighters of the welterweight class. For the last five years, Clottey has called out all of the top welterweight boxers. All Clottey got in return was a dial tone.

Clottey had to wait eleven years before he could fight for a world title. After handing Richard Gutierrez his first professional loss, Clottey challenged Antonio Margarito for the WBO welterweight title in December 2006.

Clottey fought the boxing match of his career, but an injury to both his left and right hands cost him during the second half of the fight. Clottey came up short on the judges’ scorecard: 118-109 and 116-112 (twice).

Since then, Clottey has reeled off five consecutive victories ((5-0, 1 KO). Clottey was the last opponent to have stepped into the ring with Diego Corrales before he died.

In April ’07, Clottey spoiled Corrales’ welterweight debut with a solid. Clottey dominated Corrales — rocking him round eight before dropping him in rounds nine and 10. Corrales was warned for spitting out his mouth piece after he was on the verge of being stopped.

In Clottey’s last bout in August, he challenged longtime Gleason’s Boxing Gym rival and former Undisputed World Welterweight Champion, Zab Judah. Clottey’s granite chin, solid defense, and consistent attack slowly crippled Judah’s chances of recapturing the then vacant IBF welterweight title.

IBF welterweight champion Joshua Clottey has waited a long time for a chance to headline a main event against the world's best. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

IBF welterweight champion Joshua Clottey has waited a long time for a chance to headline a main event against the world's best. Photo Credit: Francis Walker

Clottey was unfazed by Judah’s speed and experience. Clottey ripped hooks and uppercuts across Judah’s face that left lacerations above both eyes. The bout went to the scorecards after Judah couldn’t see and Clottey was awarded a well-deserved technical decision through nine rounds to capture his first world championship.

Clottey believes that the fight with Cotto will be “bigger than the Judah fight.” A win against Cotto could position Clottey toward other big fights. Perhaps against the guys that has turned him down for years: Berto and Sugar Shane Mosley.

Willy Blain challenges Lamont Peterson for interim title

Lamont Peterson (26-0, 12 KOs) will take on Willy Blain (20-0, 3 KOs) in a battle of unbeaten world junior lightweight contenders for an interim WBO 140-pound championship.

Peterson-Blain will be the co-featured attraction to Juan Manuel Lopez’ WBO super bantamweight title defense against WBO bantamweight champion Gerry Penalosa on April 25, in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

Both fights will be aired on HBO Boxing After Dark beginning at 10 PM/ET.

“I believe firmly in the fact that Willy can get itself the interims title of the WBO in Puerto Rico,” said Spotlight Boxing’s Dietmar Poszwa, a partner of German-based Universum Box Promotion. We want to get the second world champion title for Spotlight after our first world champion Firat Arslan.”

Blain is a 30 year-old Frenchman. Blain has fought professionally since November 2004 fighting exclusively out of Germany. Blain has an impressive amateur background.

He was a Junior French Champion (1993-1996), a French Amateur Champion (1997-2004), a Bronze Medal winner at the 2000 European Championships, and Silver Medal World Champion in 1999.

Blain is going to need every ounce of experience if he wishes to prevent Peterson from winning a world title.

Peterson too has an impressive amateur pedigree. Peterson is a former U.S. National Champion (2003), National Golden Gloves Champion (2001), and National Junior Olympic Champion (2000).

Peterson, 25, Washington, D.C., has fought professionally for more than three years and has amassed a perfect record against pretty good opposition. Peterson-Blain should be a good one, but Peterson is the younger of the two and is the more polished of the two.

Felix Sturm returns

WBA middleweight champion Felix Sturm (31-2-1, 13 KOs), famous on the U.S. fight scene for losing a controversial split-decision to newly retired Oscar De La Hoya nearly five years ago, defends his crown against unbeaten, but largely unknown Japanese contender Koji Sato (14-0, 13 KOs).

Sturm, 30, Germany, will be making the sixth defense of his second reign as WBA 160-pound champion. Sturm is a very muscular and well-conditioned middleweight. He’s a good boxer as proven in marquee fights against De La Hoya, his rematch with Javier Castillejo, and his two fights with Randy Griffin.

Sturm is in the same class with IBF champion Arthur Abraham and unified WBC/WBO champion Kelly Pavlik.