In former champion Cotto, Steward sees room for improvement
NEW YORK -- The black SUV eased around a corner and settled into spot just in front of the Trinity Boxing Club. First out of the car was
The last man out of the car is not so familiar; at least not with Team Cotto.
For most of his career, Cotto has been the boxer's equivalent of a freight train, an aggressive power puncher who wore his opponents down with unyielding pressure. The style was both successful (he won his first 32 professional fights) and bankable (Cotto has sold nearly 100,000 tickets in New York, more than any other fighter) while catapulting him to the top of the welterweight division.
But recently, that fearlessness has proved costly. In 2008 Cotto was slapped with his first loss when
"Any time you are coming in with a fighter that has some very rough fights, you are concerned with the physical damage as well as mental damage," Steward said. "Some guys their coordination and reflexes are totally shot from the combination of the tough fights and emotions. But I did not see that from Miguel."
That's not to say Steward didn't see room for improvement. A consistent jab followed by a massive right hand is a hallmark of Steward's fighters and from the first day of camp Steward noted that Cotto's technique had gotten sloppy.
"I was very surprised in the first two days because his balance was so bad and his feet were spread so far apart and his head was down and he wasn't throwing combinations, just one punch at a time," said Steward. "Any fighter you see of mine is going to have good balance and distribution of weight. I made him just drop his hands and dance back and forth with his weight evenly balanced and he caught onto it and from that point on he went to a whole other level. His boxing has been superb and all of us have been very impressed."
"I didn't make any major changes, just subtle changes," Steward said. "He had to be doing something right to be where he is so I didn't try to make him be a whole new fighter. Just improve on a few areas, mainly the balance and the speed and maintain balance while he is punching in combinations."
Said Cotto: "My balance was awful before this camp and now it is much better than we expected. When you talk about balance, it is the way you throw punches and stay right on your feet. That is the balance we are talking about. Sometimes you can throw more than two punches and stay there."
That Cotto is even listening to Steward qualifies as a minor victory. His relationship with his first trainer, his father
"Miguel's boxing and energy level have been fantastic," Steward said. "His weight is a normal weight. He is finishing up his boxing, after 10 or 12 rounds, having never been exhausted in a very hot gym and his weight has been staying around 159. That means without any extra effort he could fight at 154 or 147. He looks wonderful."
Cotto will need every one of Steward's lessons in his 154-pound debut. Though unheralded, Foreman is an exceptionally skilled fighter with good movement and an awkward style that Steward admits will be more challenging than Cotto thinks.
"The opponent is very difficult, but in the past, Miguel has had great success with speed opponents by cutting down the guys, whether it was
"Miguel is a lot faster than a lot of people will expect from this fight. We know that Yuri is fast but Miguel is going to surprise a lot of people with his speed."