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Cotto turns back the clock, destroys Rodriguez

Ringside by Phil Doherty
Photos by Scott Foster

Miguel Cotto is 32 years of age. That is an indisputable fact. What's not as easily discerned is how his biological and pugilistic ages coincide. Last night in front of 12,000 screaming Puerto Rican faithful from the Amway Center in Orlando, Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs) destroyed the classy but outclassed Delvin Rodriguez (28-7-3, 16 KOs) by TKO just 18 seconds into the third round of their HBO-televised contest.

While the impressive display erased significant doubts regarding Cotto's current state of mind and body, others may yet linger with regards to Cotto's potential performance against the current crop of young lions and veteran champions.

Top Rank President Todd duBoef left the door open to at least the possibility of a matchup most fans want to see next: a Canelo-Cotto superfight, although promotional bad blood between Top Rank and Canelo's promoter, Golden Boy, seem to cast a dim light on that horizon.

However, duBoef reminded the press of Bob Arum and Don King's ability to broker a cross-promotional superfight in 1999 between Tito Trinidad and the Golden Boy himself, Oscar de la Hoya. "Sometimes all it takes is an hour alone in a deli," du Boef explained.

Many wondered how Cotto would rebound following the first two successive losses of his career; last year's unanimous decision defeats against Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout. Cotto himself admitted during last night's post-fight presser when asked to rank this victory amongst his others: "After the defeats of last year, having some doubts and then starting to work with Freddie (Roach) and starting to get my composure, my confidence is back and all the changes and adjustments with my team I have to rank it at the top of the list."

Cotto's addition of five-time trainer of the year Freddie Roach for this camp paid hefty dividends early as the Puerto Rican's promised body attack rematerialized with devastating effect. Cotto started the first round with a jab to the body, a jab to the head and body, followed by his money shot--the left hook to the liver. Indeed, Cotto's eyes rarely left Rodriguez's midsection as the former three-division titlist stalked the taller man, effectively cutting off the ring to land solid body-head combinations.

Cotto scored a solid overhand right in the second round, working Rodriguez towards the ropes where he landed a double jab and a big straight right which forced Rodriguez to circle away. He mixed in a right to the body that caused Rodriguez to wince in pain. Cotto kept moving in, blocking two sweeping rights by Rodriguez and planting two left uppercuts into the chin of the now-overwhelmed opponent. A right-hand, left hook combination clearly hurt Delvin just before the bell to end the second round.

Cotto picked up where he left off to start the third with another left uppercut and a right hook to the body, (blocked on Rodriguez's arm), followed immediately by the wicked left hook upstairs to floor Rodriguez. Referee Frank Santore Jr. started waving off the assault as he too went crashing on top of the Danbury, Connecticut, native.

Rodriguez affirmed during the post-fight conference he believed the stoppage was premature, stating: "I was good, I'm not gonna lie, I was a little dazed, but the referee stopped the fight. He gave me no chance to come back at all. I wasn't even warmed up yet."

The gutsy Rodriguez had to admit he wasn't entirely prepared for Cotto's punching power however, explaining, "I got too relaxed when he got inside early I didn't really feel the power. I didn't really feel he was a strong guy. I got too relaxed and you know what, he caught me with that hook and then I really felt the power. He can really hit."

What's also a hit is the relationship between Roach and his new pupil. Roach recently called the Cotto camp the "best of his career" and elaborated the point following the bout.

"From Day One to today he's come so far," said Roach. "We opened camp at 171 lbs. and we got in shape. His work ethic was unbelievable. We had two-a-day workouts every day, three hours every morning from five AM to eight AM…it's not really that hard when you get a guy that wants to work that hard. He made my job easy for me. It's so nice to go to the gym and not have a guy late or waiting for a guy for 31 days."

Despite Cotto's work ethic, Roach went on to explain the key to Cotto's recent success had more to do with the "less is more" approach, stating, "You know, the thing is when you get older sometimes doing more is the wrong thing to do. I think running six days a week for a guy that's been around as long as he has and as and as I have is a little bit crazy."

Roach admitted his hopes to extend Cotto's career through the customized training techniques. He remarked: "The thing is he's only 32, but you don't measure age with a fighter by that. You measure it by fights, by tough fights and he's had some tough fights in him and so forth but the thing is we're just thinking more logically about it."

Roach's reasoning reminds one of the oft-quoted quip from Mark Twain: "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

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Crawford outboxes Klimov

By contrast, undefeated lightweight contender Terence Crawford (22-0, 16 KOs) of Nebraska earned few new fans in his technical boxing display against Russian Andrey Klimov (16-1, 8 KOs). Crawford boxed southpaw en route to a unanimous decision victory with smart punching precision and deft defense to earn scores of 100-90 from all three judges.

The boo birds roosted early and chirped loudly from the rafters of the Amway Center as fans failed to appreciate the sweetness of Crawford's science. For his part, Klimov did very little to change the pace of the bout—trailing Crawford in punch output 107 to 27 by the end of the seventh round.

The good news for Crawford appears to be a forthcoming mandatory WBO title shot against Scotland's Ricky Burns tentatively scheduled for December as Burns recovers from a broken jaw suffered in his defense against Ray Beltran last month.

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Velez decisions Nguyen

Undefeated Puerto Rican featherweight Jayson Velez (21-0, 15 KOs) earned a grueling ten-round unanimous decision victory against Dat (rhymes with gnat) Nguyen (17-3, 6 KOs) of Vietnam. Despite boasting the height and reach advantages, Velez couldn't keep Nguyen off him as the determined challenger pressed the action.

There was some confusion at the end of the first round as a whistle sounded to signal the ten-second warning, causing Nguyen to begin walking defenseless to his corner. When action resumed, Nguyen resumed his pursuit of Velez and scored a solid one-two combination that briefly stunned the Puerto Rican, who also exhibited swelling under his right eye.

The two men fell into an exhausting rhythm as Velez repeatedly scored thudding straight rights to Nguyen's head but could barely slow him down. For his part, Nguyen continued working his way inside and pushed Velez to the ropes, leaning on him in an effort to wear him down. Velez came back strong in the eighth round with crisp three-punch combinations and both men traded skull-thudding blows.

In the tenth and final round Velez continued to land the lead right hand and Nguyen continued to eat it up, pushing forward again and again despite the withering fire. Both men earned a well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd and ringside observers. Judges found in Velez's favor with margins of 98-91 and 96-93 (twice).

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Melendez KOs Davis

It didn't take long for Puerto Rican light middleweight destroyer Jorge "The Destroyer" Melendez (27-3-1, 26 KOs) to score the first knockdown of the evening just seconds into his scheduled ten-round tussle with Jamaal Davis (14-11-1, 6 KOs)of Philadelphia. Melendez launched a short right hook to Davis's head and another as he fell to his knee, causing referee Sam Burgos to administer a standing eight-count. Action resumed with Melendez aggressively launching overhead rights and uppercuts at his opponent.

Amazingly the second knockdown of the round came behind a Melendez jab, depositing Davis butt-first to the canvas. Melendez continued the abuse into the second round, sending Davis stumbling forward towards the ropes with another overhand right. Sensing the opportunity to close, Melendez mixed in right uppercuts to Davis's head and finished with a right cross to seal the deal as Burgos stepped in at 2:29 of round two.

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Verdejo stops Eyer

Rising Puerto Rican lightweight boxing prospect Felix Verdejo (8-0, 6 KOs) notched a second-round TKO victory against Gary Eyer (11-4-1, 7 KOs) of Duluth in front of a near-capacity Puerto Rican crowd from Orlando.

Verdejo, whose name translates to "greenish", clearly showed his professional stripes with better speed and power than his opponent. The Puerto Rican landed repeated left hooks and straight rights to Eyer's face in the first round, causing his nose to bleed steadily. Another solid right hand in the second turned the trickle into a torrent, forcing referee Tellis Assimenios to halt action and bring the ring doctor over for a look.

Action was allowed to continue with Verdejo pouring on the abuse with wicked left hooks, scoring two in succession to Eyer's head. That was enough for Assimenios, who waved off the fight at 2:53 of the second round.

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Carrasquillo decisions Chadwick

Puerto Rican middleweight Moises Carrasquillo Jr. (4-0, 3 KOs) scored a four-round unanimous decision victory over the game Steven Chadwick (2-5, 1 KO) of Orange Park FL in a four-round southpaw battle. Carrasquillo invested in body shots early in the fight, paving the way for solid straight lefts upstairs. One of these started Chadwick's nose to bleeding in the second round. Carrasquillo proceeded to work in uppercuts during the third and fourth rounds as Chadwick bravely continued coming forward. Chadwick scored shots of his own but not enough to sway the judges who each scored it 40-36 for the Puerto Rican.

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Charlton draws with Tomlinson

Featherweights Lamar Charlton (1-5-2, 1 KO) and Ricky Tomlinson (1-0-1, 1 KO) fought to a spirited split decision draw after four rounds in the opening bout from Orlando's Amway Center tonight. Fighting from a more controlled style than normal, Charlton appeared to land the cleaner, more effective shots while Tomlinson responded with busy flurries of his own. Judges scored the bout 39-37 for Charlton, 39-37 for Tomlinson and 38-38.

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