I heard a person who would know say that if you want people to think you’re a genius never smile when being photographed. There’s something about Miguel Cotto’s impassive demeanor that makes me think he must be gifted in some special way, like a cyborg or some ancient tree.
Which is not to say that he’s mechanical, I think he’s a natural fighter. If a guy like Andre Berto always seems like he’s thinking it through, analyzing, Cotto has none of that, the remorseless implementation of the computer age, a CPU over clocking to its maximum capacity. He’s much the opposite of his fiery compatriot, his predecessor on the throne, the quintessential Puerto Rican slugger, Felix Trinidad, who's fighting was a joyous, alcoholic, and celebratory dance. Cotto is as serious as the tomb, and it’s moving and intimidating, but it’s not humanizing.
That’s why it has been hard for me to get a handle on him since the Margarito humiliation. If you build someone up as special they’re bound to disappoint, but with Cotto there was never much to hold onto, just the steely imperturbability, the stately march of commerce across the heartland, how could that break down? It wasn’t that he was thought invincible before then, he’d been seriously hurt against lesser lights like Demarcus Corley, Ricardo Torres - and more understandably Zab Judah and Shane Mosley – but there was always the feeling that he could hold it together, that even if he lost he wouldn’t be broken, that the center would hold.
All that came crashing down against Margarito, and it’s one of the great tragedies of the handwrap disgrace; we don’t know fully if the machine was brought down by an overload of its’ processors handling too difficult a task, or by a virus introduced to the system.
Cotto clearly has the higher ceiling than Clottey; he can do more things well. Cotto is better schooled, more athletic, and a stronger puncher, but it’s hard for me to feel sure about him anymore now that I know he is all too human. Like a boy’s realization that his father is not an unerring oracle, or seeing his idealized woman fray around the edges it is a cruel blow and one there is perhaps no full recovery from.
In his first fight back from the Margarito loss Miguel Cotto faced Michael Jennings, a domestic level British fighter. He crushed Jennings, beating him to the body and landing with the thudding, hurting power that is his hallmark. It was everything one could want in a comeback fight, but the way I watched was totally different than before, like checking to make sure you’re boozy friend doesn’t embarrass himself at the wedding.
We’ll see if he ever gets to be the special someone we all hoped, Josh Clottey will be a good test. I hope Cotto wins the fight on Saturday, it will make the welterweight picture much more interesting in the future, with four genuine articles – Mayweather, Mosley, Pacquiao, and Cotto- within striking distance. I think he will win, Clottey is a fine fighter, but like I said before he has only one speed, and I don’t think it’s enough to smash through Cotto. I’m not even that worried about the sort of insidious wearing down of the circuitry that Margarito managed against him, Clottey doesn’t exert that sort of will and has only scored one stoppage in the last five years.
I see a competitive match, but one in which Cotto lands the more pleasing punches and wins the fight clear. Clottey seems to me one of those people in the world forever fated to be found wanting on the big stage, it’s not a flaw of character but one of destiny. I think Cotto’s got more on his horizon, but I can’t help but feeling it will be one of ultimate disappointment. When results alone are all we see, it is harder to be forgiving to someone so gifted. There didn’t ever seem to be much personal given from Cotto, he was a purely unemotional investment, and as such truly vulnerable.
My German professor used to say, “Mensch ist nicht Machine;” Man is not a machine. That’s very true, but when you’re neither, even great success means you might ultimately be less than both.