When we think of some of the best Puerto Rican boxers in history, I think of their heart, fighting spirit, and flair in their style.
For Miguel Cotto, this is precisely what he had. All the tools in the box to make a successful career in arguably the hardest sport.
Cotto himself had an exciting career and had a style that developed over the years and adapted to each opponent he faced.
In his early career, he was your typical come-forward pressure fighter, but he developed over the years into a beautiful boxer-puncher with his refined skills and approach.
In this boxing style analysis blog I’ll take a deeper look at how Cotto turned into one of the most celebrated boxers, who in my opinion doesn’t get enough credit at times.
You can watch my video version or continue reading below:
Cotto was originally born in Rhode Island, to Puerto Rican parents, and relocated to Caguas, Puerto Rico when he was 2. When he go into boxing as a young boy he trained with his uncle to help him lose weight, and he no way anticipated himself becoming a boxer in his career path.
From here he would go on to be one of the top Amateurs Puerto Rico has seen, competing in some of the top international events including the Pan American Championship and 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Cotto would finish their amateur career with an impressive 125–23.
From here would turn professional to live out his expectations and dream to become a world champion. However, a bad car accident very early in his career almost saw it cut short. As his right arm was broken in 9 places. Doctors at the time said it would take him at least a year and a half to recover. Cotto however defied all odds, returning to the ring ahead of schedule which just shows you the determination he had to come back.
Cotto would go on to continue the impressive form he started, and quickly get the inevitable comparisons with another Puerto Rican the great Felix Trinidad. And the one to take the mantle from him
As Cotto progressed throughout his career, he fought everyone you can think of in his era, including the likes of prime Shane Mosely, Zab Judah, Antonio Margarito, Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, Sergio Martinez, and even Canelo Alvarez.
He was the first Puerto Rican boxer to win world titles in four weight classes, from light-welterweight to middleweight. In 2007 and 2009, he reached a peak active pound-for-pound ranking of seventh by The Ring magazine, and although he was never considered number 1, he certainly challenged himself against everyone.
The sweetest victory for me has been his rematch win over Margarito!
But now let’s have a closer analysis of Cotto’s fighting style and the elements which made the Puerto Rican so successful.
Cotto’s Boxing Style
Miguel Cotto had very much a changing style as he progressed throughout his career. As an amateur, he was known for being a slick-out-puncher boxer with brilliant footwork. But as he turned pro in his early career, he adapted to the professional game, by being a far more aggressive pressure fighter looking to land big punches, body shots, and knockouts!!
However, as the opposition stepped up for Cotto, he would leave himself in some vulnerable situations and get hit far too often. Looking to fight back, instead of clinching or using footwork to get out of the way. It was the moments when Miguel was hurt but still continued to fight which saw much respect from boxing fans.
For me, it was when he started working with the likes of Emmanuel Steward and Freddie Roach that Puerto Rican really turned into the calculated boxer-puncher he should have always been as he moved up in weight.
The experience he gathered over many years in some hard battles saw him able to use all his boxing skills to his advantage as he finished off his career with much respect. Every fight he would be in was a tough encounter for any opponent. As Cotto could adapt and change his approach to what was in front of him.
But let’s look at the specific areas that made Cotto such a delight to watch in the ring.
Now area point I want to make about Cotto was his very good high guard textbook stance.
When at mid to close range he would keep his guard in a high position ready to block incoming shots. But he would also have his strong lead hand ready to jab or throw lead hooks.
While the right would just be in front of the chest ready to catch shots, block hooks or return fire. The chin would also be for the most part tucked from mid-range.
The lead foot was in line with the rear heel, shoulder-width apart. While his weight would be evenly balanced on both feet as he would like to change from attack to defense using the bounce step.
He would change his guard from time to time to mix up the angle to throw his jab, while also even getting behind his lead shoulder when using defense.
Overall Cotto’s stance and brilliant fundamentals helped his success in the ring.
As the old saying goes, the jab is the most important punch in boxing. This is what clearly helped Miguel Cotto be so successful! He would use the jab to help push back his competitors to the ropes, so he could set up his combination punches or use his famous left hooks.
It also helped that Cotto was in fact left-handed fighting out of an orthodox stance making these punches much heavier and more dangerous for the opponent.
The other thing I loved about Cotto’s jab is that he really tried to vary it up throughout his career. This would include body jabs, double jabs, jabs to occupy the guard, and of course those power jabs which he would step in with. He is a great example of someone with a higher guard varying up this punch.
See this in action below:
However, I will say he did have some flaws including not using enough head movement and feinting or fencing with it more often.
He said much favored the power of it and much is this is a good thing when he faces better opponents, they were able to work out the actions and rhythm he would throw it.
One of the other things I want to address about Cotto was his tremendous use of setting his Rhythm in the ring. Especially in the prime of his career. For those that are unclear about rhythm in boxing, it is
“You could define it as the timing of repeated movement patterns. It is used for footwork movement, upper body movement, punching, or a combination of all of them.“
All you need to do is even watch his old training session of shadowboxing to see him in a full beautiful flow. Where he uses footwork, feints, upper body movement, and punches within it.
Rhythm is something that takes time to develop and Cotto developed it throughout his whole career and fine-tuned it as he progressed. He would do this a lot through things like level changing and foot feints.
Pressure fighter and stance
Now, this was definitely a style of fighting Cotto used in his early professional career, which a lot of young up-and-coming fighters end up doing as they build up their records. Cotto was no different.
He would primarily use his jab as discussed to push back his competitor to the ropes before setting up his power shots and combinations. Which would get through more often than not.
But when he would have an opponent hurt it wasn’t about rushing his own with punches, but instead taking his time edging closer and closer with his feet so he would then be in the best position to throw those powerful shots to get them out of there.
Too many times you will see fighters rush in when an opponent is hurt by throwing unnecessary punches. Cotto very much for the most part is more calculated in doing so. He would also
I also liked how Cotto’s textbook stance was great for applying pressure always making sure his lead foot was pointed toward his opponent and his lead hand always slightly edged forward ready to attack and set up his punches.
One of the things that make Cotto such an effective counterpuncher is his balance his feet are always in an excellent position to put something behind the punch.
See his fight against Sosa to really see Cotto put in a polished pressure fighter performance:
The Left hook and combinations
Without a doubt, Cotto’s favorite punch to land was that big left hook fight. As discussed earlier Cotto would use his strong lead hand to get him into position to throw his left hook. Once in position, Miguel would usually throw a right hand before firing a left hook which is a common follow-up.
This is because of the transfer of weight the right-hand forms adding more power to his hook! When on the inside, you would also see him throw lead hooks by taking a slight step to the left of his opponent before firing to get a better angle.
The other area I don’t think people talk enough about Cotto was his tremendous combination punching. He would be terrific at setting up a combo to create an opening on his competitor going from head to body or occupying the guard before quickly going to the body and around the guard.
One of my favorites has to be this beauty vs Manny Pacquaio. Which you can watch in the clip below:
Southpaw slayer & Switch-Hitter
Now arguably two of Cotto’s best performances in his career came against the Southpaws Zab Judah and Sergio Martinez.
In the fight against Judah, we saw Cotto getting caught coming into range at the start of the fight against the bigger reach of Judah as he tried to use power jabs. However, the thing I love most about this fight was Cotto, who clearly decided enough was enough. Deciding to turn up the heat trying his best to get on the inside and apply those left hooks and combinations against Judah.
Usually, it encouraged you to step your lead foot outside of the southpaw’s foot. Miguel would instead step in while throwing which worked a treat in this fight.
We also saw this done expertly in his fight with Sergio Martinez at a later point in his career. He was a lot more calculated in his approach this time. Instead of rushing in, he would look to feint and level change before stepping in and throwing the left hook catching Martinez multiple times.
Now as he was naturally left-handed, you would now and again see Cotto change up his attacks from a southpaw stance. Cotto, for the most part, would try to stick to his base and orthodox stance and I feel a lot of fighters that lead with their stronger hand seem to do very well. For example, Andre Ward, Oscar De La Hoya, Usyk, and Lomachenko to name a few.
Probably one of the best fights of Cotto switching stance was against Zab Judah.
See the above in action below:
“The greatest Phase of footwork is the coordination of the hands and feet. When the hand and feet work together automatically, the art of moving is perfection itself.”Edwin L Haislet
This was something Cotto would do with his footwork, in particular, he was on the offense he would use his feet, balance, and motion to put him in a position to attack from range, create angles or create power for his bigger punches.
However, when boxing on the outside, he would probably see resembles Ali’s footwork as Cotto would usually look to circle on the inside waiting to time his opponent his own jab or mistime any mistakes they would make. It would also allow Cotto to quickly cover distance while on the outside to reset himself before his next attack. Or he would simply do this to give him a chance to have a breather from his opponent’s attacks.
You would also often see Cotto use a bounce step which helps him to change direction quickly and when he would be on the edge of his opponent’s reach to get himself out of range. Other fighters to use this successful including Salvador Sanchez and Manny Pacquaio.
Defensively Cotto was quite traditional or old school in the sense he would use a high guard defense and footwork as his main line of defense. I feel maybe as he came forward he could’ve had slightly better upper-body movement.
But I feel for the most part taking a shot on guard and using footwork to get out of the way would help him in most cases.
In a way, it reminds me of how Errol Spence fights defensively, instead of doing big exaggerated body rolls or slips, subtle footwork, or using the guard to block where better options as a whole for his style and approach.
With all I have gone through, you definitely tell that Cotto was a fighter who evolved into a brilliant boxer-puncher.
Interestingly watching him fight in his early amateur days, you can see him fight in a more out-puncher style. As he progressed later in his career, he definitely brought back some of this into his style again. To help to become a more complete boxer-puncher.
Cotto without a doubt could also punch and get himself in some competitive battles, but he could also be elegant in his motion.
A great fight I like to go back to watch Cotto was his fight with Canelo despite losing.
Miguel Cotto for me is a fighter who should be celebrated much more in my opinion. I feel the vast majority of those in the boxing world really took Cotto as there was no fluff or bull sh*t around him.
He came to box, he came to fight, he came to put on a show, and he came for his people and his family. And that is why we should be inspired and study this all-time great.
If you want more like this make sure to check out some of these boxing style breakdowns here.
Thanks for reading!
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