Cotto-Mosley: Haven't we seen this before?
Originally Published: November 8, 2007By Don Steinberg | Special to ESPN.com
Al Bello /Getty ImagesFelix Trinidad, right, came into his own the night he beat Pernall Whitaker in Madison Square Garden.Sometimes it seems like there are only a handful of story lines in boxing and the same narratives keep repeating, with fresh actors playing roles that were written long ago. Take this scenario: An undefeated young knockout artist from Puerto Rico is welterweight champion, and although he has been battering opponents into submission, he remains under-recognized by the American public. To boost his exposure, his promoter sets up a fight at Madison Square Garden against a future Hall of Famer, a popular American with wide name recognition. His opponent is a fast-handed former multiple titleholder who once was considered the world's best pound-for-pound fighter but now is nearing the end of his career and could be ripe for defeat. That should sound familiar: It's Miguel Cotto, 27, versus Shane Mosley, 36, on Saturday. Or it's Felix Trinidad, 26, versus Pernell Whitaker, 35, on Feb. 20, 1999. Even in boxing, where the torch frequently passes from old to young in matchups like these, the recurring elements between these two scraps have a certain touch of "Groundhog Day." "I've been mentioning that to people myself," says HBO analyst Larry Merchant, who called the Trinidad-Whitaker bout from ringside at the Garden. "The parallels are strong. Two Puerto Rican welterweights, two Americans who were both lightweight and welterweight champions." Trinidad against Sweet Pea. Cotto against Sugar Shane. "Even though Cotto has won the title, this is a kind of defining moment in establishing an identity in the U.S.," Merchant says.
It was the same way for Trinidad, who at age 26 had a 33-0 record with a brutal 29 knockouts. No opponent had taken him the distance in five years, but he needed to step up and beat a name-brand guy to become a pay-per-view attraction. So there was Whitaker, a former Olympic gold medalist and four-division titleholder with a 41-2-1 record. In his prime, Whitaker had been a defensive freak, as hard to hit as a headless ghost. But he was on the comeback trail. He had lost a disputed decision to Oscar De La Hoya in 1997 and later that year tested positive for cocaine. Plus, he would be fighting after a 16-month layoff. Still, Whitaker had a glittering resume -- 10 years of title fights against guys like De La Hoya and Julio Cesar Chavez -- that got Trinidad attention he never had received before. From the opening bell, Trinidad began landing his hard right and backing Whitaker up. He floored Whitaker with a straight right to the face in Round 2. Whitaker got in his share of pops, but the younger Trinidad kept coming, tying up and muscling the smaller Whitaker and throwing in an occasional forearm or elbow for good measure. It was either a punch or a Trinidad elbow in the fifth or sixth that broke Whitaker's jaw. Twice Whitaker lowered himself to the canvas -- voluntarily, it appeared -- to avoid punishment, although neither time was ruled a knockdown. When Whitaker rallied to score some big blows in the seventh, Merchant said, "Whatever happens, you're seeing the champion heart of a once-great prizefighter." Whitaker survived to lose a unanimous decision. He was hit 278 times. He would fight just once more before retiring. He now is a trainer.
Al Bello /Getty ImagesLike Felix Trinidad-Pernell Whitaker, pictured, Miguel Cotto-Shane Mosley pits an up-and-coming Puerto Rican star against a speedy veteran.
Trinidad-Whitaker and Cotto-Mosley
|Felix Trinidad vs. Pernell Whitaker||Miguel Cotto vs. Shane Mosley|
|Madison Square Garden||location||Madison Square Garden|
|Feb. 20, 1999||date||Nov. 10, 2007|
|IBF welterweight title||title||WBA welterweight title|
|Puerto Rican, 26||champion's nationality, age||Puerto Rican, 27|
|33-0, 29 KOs||champion's record||30-0, 25 KOs|
|American, 35||challenger's nationality, age||American, 36|
|Lightweight, light welterweight, welterweight, junior middleweight||challenger's prior titles||Lightweight, welterweight, junior middleweight|
|Sweet Pea||challenger's nickname||Sugar Shane|