cotto  2

Freddie Roach has trained some of the greatest fighters of the last 25 years, including Manny Pacquiao, Mike Tyson, Bernard Hopkins, Virgil Hill, James Toney and a slew of others.  He made a statement a few days ago that was largely overlooked, but one that was astonishing given the caliber of fighters he’s handled.  “This is the best training camp I’ve ever had with any fighter.,” Roach said before Miguel Cotto was to take on Delvin Rodriguez on Saturday at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.

Roach trained Cotto for the first time on Saturday, and the results were astounding. After a brilliant camp, Cotto turned in an equally brilliant performance against Rodriguez, winning by third-round knockout in a fight that was reminiscent of his heyday.  Cotto blistered Rodriguez repeatedly throughout the fight with a series of left hooks, punishing Rodriguez every time Rodriguez moved near him.  After assaulting the body, Cotto finished the bout with a crunching left hook to the head that dropped Rodriguez and caused referee Frank Santore to stop it at 2:42 of the third.

Rodriguez wasn’t in the same class of fighter that Cotto had faced for the better part of the last 10 years, but it was nonetheless an impressive and dominant victory that sets Cotto up for big fights against the likes of Sergio Martinez, Canelo Alvarez and, perhaps down the road, Floyd Mayweather again.  Cotto had entered the fight on his first two-bout losing streak. He’d put forth a strong effort in a loss to Mayweather, but looked like he was at the end when he fought Austin Trout in December.  After that bout, he dumped trainer Pedro Diaz and hired Roach, who worked wonders with him.  “It was the result of a good and hard training camp,” Cotto said. “I was working comfortably and working in peace.”

Cotto is always stoic with a microphone in his face, and he had little of consequence to say after the bout. He said Saturday’s fight was about going “back to my roots.”  His roots are as one of the game’s best left-hookers and most feared body punchers.  Rodriguez was unable to back Cotto up or even force him to stand his ground. He waved a weak jab at Cotto, who ignored it and attacked Rodriguez’s midsection with a vengeance.  Cotto had to lick his chops when he realized that Rodriguez couldn’t stem his attack with a jab and then when Rodriguez chose to fight off the ropes.  That’s usually a bad move when facing Cotto.  “It was a great performance,” Roach said of Cotto. “Anyone who wants to fight off the ropes with a guy like Miguel, it’s a matter of time before he gets to them with those body shots.”

The question will now center on who Cotto faces next. He’s a promotional free agent, so he can go in any direction he wants. Roach said before the fight he’d like to see him face Sergio Martinez, the WBC middleweight champion, and Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer has spoken of a potential Canelo-Cotto bout.  Either would be sensational. And if Cotto looks like he did on Saturday against either Martinez or Alvarez, it could be a long night for either star.

As Roach said simply of Cotto later, “He’s back.”