- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Even as trash-talking Ricardo Mayorga lambasts junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto yet again, Cotto remains the calm, stoic figure he has always been. Mayorga's boasts and rants do not seem to move him one iota.
The same can't be said for Emanuel Steward, Cotto's Hall of Fame trainer, who has been listening to Mayorga talk and talk and talk for the past few months as they promote their fight Saturday night (Showtime PPV, $49.95, 9 ET) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Steward is an affable sort, but he has been on a slow burn listening to Mayorga (29-7-1, 23 KOs), the former welterweight and junior middleweight titleholder, who always verbally pounds his opponents -- but has rarely done anything to back it up in recent years.
Mayorga, who apparently is not very studied in boxing history, has been referring to Steward, one of the most successful and revered cornermen in boxing history, as a failure during the promotion.
"I've said it before and I'll say it again, Emanuel Steward is a failure in this boxing business," Mayorga said during one of his media sessions. "He's had some sort of fame and been very lucky in his career because he helped a very famous name [Thomas Hearns] back in the day. That's how he grabbed some sort of attention and fame. But how sad for Cotto to change his style and try to change his boxing game at this late stage of his career. It's only going to mess him up and play into my favor."
Finally, at Wednesday's news conference -- for a fight that marks the first co-promotion between once-bitter rivals Bob Arum of Top Rank and Don King in five years -- Steward had heard enough.
"It's a good thing that fights are not won at press conferences because we'd be knocked out of the box," Steward said. "Miguel Cotto is going to knock out Mayorga. It won't go over four rounds. [Mayorga] has been training since January, but he doesn't have the skills or the power. Miguel is in great shape, punching sharp and accurate. It's going to be exciting. Both are known for good fights but there is no way Mayorga can avoid being knocked out inside of four rounds."
At that point Mayorga, of Nicaragua, who has lost every significant fight he has had since 2003 -- to Cory Spinks, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley -- got up and pulled off his shirt to show off his physique while interrupting Steward's remarks.
"You're out of your class. You can pull your shirt off, you can get butt naked up here but it still doesn't mean you're going to win the fight," Steward said. "You won't be talking after Saturday night. You won't be pulling up nothing. You'll be laying flat on your back. We're planning our celebration. We've got two parties already planned.
"As we all get older in life, we think a little bit before we do things. And I've noticed in watching Mayorga's last fight, he's slowing down on his impulsive style of fighting. Fundamental boxing will win -- a solid, hard left jab [from Cotto], which will get there faster than Mayorga's wide looping punches."
Steward and Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs) formed a fast bond even though this will be only their second fight together. They have come to respect and like each other.
"Just the confidence in myself," Cotto said, when asked how Steward has helped him. "We are trying to find the Miguel Cotto of 10 years ago. To get me back to the way it was when I started. After 10 years to change things about my style is very hard."
Cotto, of Puerto Rico, had been trained from his amateur days through 2009 by his uncle, Evangelista Cotto. However, they had a bad falling out a couple of months before Cotto defended his welterweight title against Joshua Clottey in June 2009.
Cotto promoted assistant coach Joe Santiago, who manned the corner for the fight with Clottey, which Cotto barely won via split decision. But after Cotto was crushed in a 12th-round knockout loss to Manny Pacquiao in November 2009, he decided it was time for another change.
So instead of sticking with the inexperienced Santiago, he turned to Steward.
In their first fight together last June, Cotto moved up to junior middleweight and stopped Yuri Foreman in the ninth round at Yankee Stadium to win a title in his third weight division.
"I feel very good working with him," Cotto said. "He wants me to go back to my boxing style and it's working very well. This is our second camp together and we are getting to know each other and working much better together this time around."
Steward received a lot of credit for some subtle changes Cotto made for the fight with Foreman and, by all reports, their South Florida training camp for that fight and the Mayorga fight could not have been more professional and tranquil.
"I can retire any time I want with all I've done in my career," Cotto said. "I don't have to do this. But I'm ready for the fight. Having Manny Steward on our team, he doesn't just work with Miguel Cotto. He works with the whole team. We are pretty grateful for Manny and the way he works and the way he teaches us to be better."
Said Steward, "Miguel was always a beautiful boxer and I am trying to get him back to doing that more. We are working better this second time around because we know each other better. He is very smart and is open to everything I bring to him."
That, apparently, also includes being the one to return the verbal fire on Mayorga.
Best of Mayorga
Few fighters have ever talked as much smack as Mayorga, and he has continued to do so during the build up to Saturday's fight with Cotto. A few gems:
•"I'm either going to knock Cotto down or I'm going to bust him open with a cut on one of [his] two eyes. I guarantee you that's going to happen in the first round. As soon as that bell sounds, I'm going after him. I'm going to kill this guy. I can sense that Cotto has a genuine fear of me. I can see it in his eyes. I can see it in his face."
•"I can acknowledge that Miguel Cotto was a good, if not great fighter, at a lower [weight] class. At 154 pounds, he is in the wrong territory. It's not his category. When he beat Yuri Foreman, he basically beat a guy with one arm and one leg. I'm going to shatter Cotto's dreams."
•"Whoever is on Cotto's side, they're going to have to wear black come Sunday. Tell the athletic commission to have 911 really close by the ring Saturday night because Cotto is going to be in bad shape."
•"I guarantee you that after the fight, Cotto nor Manny [Steward] will be at the post fight press conference. Cotto will be at the hospital and Manny will be there with him."
• "What are you planning on doing when I beat you? Continue in boxing or look for a job?"
Kirkland staying busy
When James Kirkland came out of prison earlier in the year, the plan laid out for him by promoter Golden Boy and managers Cameron Dunkin and Michael Miller was to return March 5 and, assuming all went well, next fight April 9 on the Erik Morales-Marcos Maidana HBO PPV undercard.
But Kirkland (26-0, 23 KOs) is going to squeeze in another fight before the April 9 fight after annihilating Ahsandi Gibbs in just 34 seconds on the undercard of Saul Alvarez's victory against Matthew Hatton on Saturday.
Kirkland's handlers aren't wasting any time. He will be back March 18 in the co-feature against an opponent to be determined on Telefutura's "Solo Boxeo Tecate" card in Costa Mesa, Calif.
Lightweight Luis Ramos Jr. (17-0, 8 KOs) faces Jose Hernandez (10-4-1, 4 KOs) in the main event.
"As soon as the fight last week ended, I told [matchmaker] Eric [Gomez] to find a spot for him so we could get him right back in there," Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer said. "Maybe we'll get him another 30 seconds before the April 9 fight, maybe even a minute."
Kirkland weighed 162 pounds for the fight last week, but has designs on eventually getting back down to the 154-pound junior middleweight division, where he was steamrolling his way to a title shot before he was incarcerated on charges of gun possession by a convicted felon. He sat out almost exactly two years before last week's return and was just as aggressive as he had been before he went away.
"I was very happy with what I saw," Schaefer said. "Talk about not missing a step. He is just absolutely pure excitement. I can't wait to have him back again and then we want to step him up for April 9."
Ward-Abraham has home
The Super Six World Boxing Classic semifinal match between super middleweight titlist Andre Ward and Arthur Abraham is headed to the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., Ward promoter Dan Goossen told ESPN.com. The Showtime fight is scheduled for May 14.
"It's no secret that Home Depot is the leading candidate," Goossen said. "I'm trying to get some things ironed out with [Abraham promoter] Sauerland [Event] and then we can move forward with Home Depot Center. They're my partners and we have to be in mutual agreement. They have agreed to come out to Southern California for the fight, pending a few issues we are still working on. But I don't see any problem overcoming them."
Ward (23-0, 13 KOs) has won his first two bouts of the tournament, plus a non-tournament fight, to emerge as the clear favorite to win it. Germany's Abraham (32-2, 26 KOs) won his opening bout before two lopsided losses followed by a non-tournament win in February. The semifinal will be Ward's first fight of the tournament outside of his hometown of Oakland, Calif., although he will still be fighting in his home state.
Goossen said that heavyweight Cristobal Arreola (30-2, 26 KOs), who is from nearby Riverside, Calif., would fight an opponent to be determined on the untelevised undercard. Goossen said he hopes Showtime will show highlights of Arreola's bout.
•Despite what was termed as a "nick on his eyelid" during a recent sparring session, lightweight contender Michael Katsidis (27-3, 22 KOs) will still face Robert Guerrero (28-1-1, 18 KOs) on the HBO PPV undercard of the Erik Morales-Marcos Maidana fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on April 9, Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com. Media reports out of Katsidis' native Australia said that Katsidis, who trains in Thailand, had suffered a cut that required five stitches. Schaefer said those reports, according to Brendon Smith, Katsidis' trainer and manager, were untrue. Schaefer said there was some initial concern that Katsidis might not be able to fight and that Golden Boy was looking for a potential replacement opponent. On Wednesday, Schaefer said that he received confirmation from Smith that Katsidis was OK and would be ready to fight. "Brendon Smith is a very cautious guy and would not allow a fight to go forward unless everything is OK and, frankly, nor would we," Schaefer said.
•With middleweight Matthew Macklin of England having his fight against Winky Wright called off because Wright withdrew last week, citing a hand injury, Golden Boy, which recently signed Macklin, is working on another fight for him. However, instead of appearing on the April 9 Erik Morales-Marcos Maidana HBO PPV undercard as originally scheduled, Golden Boy's Schaefer said he was working on moving Macklin (28-2, 19 KOs) to the undercard of Amir Khan's junior welterweight title defense against Paul McCloskey in England on April 16.
•Former welterweight titlist Paul Williams, who plans to return to that division following his second-round knockout loss to middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in November, is slated to return to the ring June 11 on HBO. Originally, there was talk of Williams coming back April 30, but that was pushed back. According to promoter Dan Goossen, he will go over potential opponents with HBO next week. For the televised undercard, junior featherweight titlist Akifumi Shimoda (23-2-1, 10 KOs) of Japan could come stateside to make a tough mandatory defense against 23-year-old rising contender Rico Ramos (19-0, 10 KOs), 23, who is also promoted by Goossen.
•Former junior lightweight titlist Roman "Rocky" Martinez will open Showtime's April 16 card from Puerto Rico, Carl Moretti of Top Rank told ESPN.com. Martinez (24-1-1, 15 KOs), who is from Puerto Rico has not fought since losing his belt via unanimous decision to Ricky Burns in Scotland in September in one of the most action-packed fights of 2010. Moretti said the probable for Martinez is Puerto Rico's Luis Cruz (17-0, 14 KOs) with Mexico's Martin Honorio (29-5-1, 15 KOs) a more remote possibility. Martinez got the spot when junior welterweight Mike Alvarado withdrew from his fight with Vernon Paris after suffering a biceps injury in a win against Dean Harrison on the Feb. 19 Nonito Donaire-Fernando Montiel undercard.
•A match between quality lightweight prospects, John Molina (21-1, 17 KOs) of Covina, Calif., and Las Vegas-based Uganda native Sharif Bogere (19-0, 12 KOs) is penciled in as the "ShoBox" main event (Showtime) on May 13, probably in Las Vegas. Bogere, who is promoted by Golden Boy, has turned heads with his all-action style and the lion head dress he wears into the ring. Molina, promoted by Dan Goossen, is coming off a stirring come-from-behind 11th-round knockout of Hank Lundy in July on ESPN2.
•Promoter Frank Warren has added super middleweight prospect James DeGale to Saturday's card in Glasgow, Scotland headlined by junior lightweight titlist Ricky Burns' defense against Joseph Laryeah. DeGale (9-0, 7 KOs), a 2008 British Olympic gold medalist, will face short-notice opponent Alpay Kobal (7-12-2, 5 KOs) of France in a scheduled eight-rounder. DeGale won the British title in his last fight in December with a strong performance against Paul Smith in a big step up in competition level. He is hoping for a showdown with countryman George Groves (12-0, 10 KOs), another top prospect. The fight has been discussed between the camps, but while it is waiting to be made, DeGale wanted to stay active, so Warren added him to Saturday's show. "I've been ticking over in the gym with my trainer Jim McDonnell and he makes sure that I'm never too far from my fighting weight, so when Frank Warren asked me if I wanted the fight, I said yes straight away," DeGale said. "I want to fight as much as possible this year because I believe I'm only a few fights away from a world title opportunity."
•Former lightweight champ Joel Casamayor (37-5-1, 22 KOs) got a new opponent this week for his fight at Plant Hollywood in Las Vegas on Friday night (MultiVision Media PPV, $24.99, 10 ET). Casamayor was due to face former junior lightweight titlist Mike Anchondo in the welterweight match, but Anchondo withdrew last week and has been replaced by Mexico's Manuel Leyva (20-1, 12 KOs). Heavyweights Tye Fields (45-2, 41 KOs) and Michael Grant (46-4, 34 KOs) meet in the scheduled 10-round main event. Casamayor has lost two of his last three bouts and knows another defeat could be a career-killer. "This is a 'make it or break it' fight for me, no question about it," Casamayor said. "I had Robert Guerrero out in the 10th round of my last fight [in July] and if it had been a 12-rounder, I would have knocked him out. But no question, this is make or break. I'm 39 years old."
•The target date for former junior welterweight titlist Devon Alexander's return to the ring is June 25 on HBO, which owes him a fight following his Jan. 29 loss to Timothy Bradley Jr. in their title unification bout. Golden Boy and Don King are in discussions for Alexander to face Lucas Matthysse in Alexander's native St. Louis.
"I may be orthodox but my knee is reformed." -- former junior middleweight titlist Yuri Foreman, an orthodox Jew studying to be a rabbi, who makes his ring return against Pawel Wolak on Saturday night's Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga Showtime PPV undercard after sitting out for the past nine months while recovering from a knee injury suffered last summer in his title loss to Cotto.
"Tell Don King to add a white flag to the collection he carries around. He'll need it to wave when Mayorga surrenders on Saturday night." -- Manny Steward, who trains junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto, predicting the outcome of Cotto's defense against Ricardo Mayorga in Saturday night's Showtime PPV main event.
Miguel Cotto may be of the stoic sort, but his trainer Emanuel Steward has no interest in letting Cotto's rival, Ricardo Mayorga, have the last word.