Cotto vs. Quintana, just part of the card in AC
By Lyle Fitzsimmons Dec 2, 2006, 9:08 GMT
Atlantic City, NJ - For all the interesting copy generated by the idea of two life-long Puerto Rican rivals fighting for a world title belt this weekend, it's easy to forget that it wasn't really supposed to be that way.
Oh sure, Miguel Cotto's rise to a prominent place among the sport's heavy hitters has been expected and planned since the 26-year-old phenom fought for his native land at the 2000 Summer Olympics.
So his presence on the Boardwalk Hall card as one-half of the matchup for the vacant WBA welterweight championship Saturday night is hardly the stuff of which Pulitzer Prizes - or even interesting stories, for that matter - are made.
His foe on the other hand, fellow unbeaten 147-pounder and P.R. native Carlos Quintana, is another kettle of tropical Caribbean fish.
The unheralded southpaw racked up wins in his first 22 professional fights through early 2006, but had never beaten anyone of much note en route to an assumed-to-be sacrificial Las Vegas date at the fists of unbeaten Colombian prospect Joel Julio in June.
Instead, in what was labeled as an eliminator for the WBA crown, the 30-year- old confused and befuddled his heavily hyped 21-year-old foe and earned the title try with unanimous scorecard nods of 118-110, 117-111 and 115-112 at Caesars Palace.
The match will headline Top Rank's eight-bout seashore card - also featuring WBO 147-pound champion Antonio Margarito in a defense against Joshua Clottey - to be televised by Showtime at 9 p.m. ET and tape-delayed at 9 p.m. on the West Coast.
'Everybody has their own legacy and their own trail to walk,' Quintana said.
'There is no question that Cotto has his own path in Puerto Rico and he was probably the No. 1 boxer for a long time. But now I am in his way and if I win this fight, then I will have to walk my own path and stand for my own way in Puerto Rico.'
Quintana's words aside, the card is set up as a showcase for the two headliners to look impressive, win/retain their titles and begin beating the drums for a match to unify at least half of the division's recognized belts sometime next year.
Another Puerto Rican native, tall slugger Kermit Cintron, recently seized the vacant IBF championship with a stoppage defeat of Mark Suarez, but he failed miserably in a previous title challenge against Margarito.
Meanwhile, Floyd Mayweather Jr. wears the WBC crown after his 12-round rout of Carlos Baldomir, but the 'Pretty Boy' has his eyes on a mega-fight with junior middleweight cash machine Oscar De La Hoya next spring.
That leaves Cotto and Margarito in charge and under pressure in AC.
'I've dreamed about getting to this level and I have been working toward this goal ever since,' Cotto said. 'If you dream about something and you work hard at it, you can achieve your goal. We have worked really hard to get this type of fight.'
Just how tough the fight will be hinges on how much progress Cotto has made since his last run-in with a high-end left-hander - a February 2005 date with former world belt-holder DeMarcus Corley that saw him reeling around the ring before rallying for a fifth-round TKO victory.
And though his only previous exposure to a southpaw came early in his career against a badly overmatched foe, the daunting combination of that inexperience and Quintana's easy silencing of Julio in a similar 'heralded prospect vs. crafty lefty veteran' matchup doesn't seem to faze Cotto.
'It is hard to tell really what to expect,' he said. 'I know that after seeing Corley I would know what to do if I had to fight him again. I have never faced Quintana, so I am not going to know what I need to do until we get into the ring. That is when it is going to be decided.'
The world title bout is the first in a nine-year career for Quintana (23-0, 18 KO), who turned pro in 1997 and captured the WBC Fedecentro welterweight crown in his 11th fight in 2001.
He won 10 more in a row through 2005, then earned the vacant WBO Latino welterweight belt with a 10th-round stoppage of Raul Eduardo Bejarano in February 2006. Four months later came the Julio win, which yielded both the WBC's Latino crown and the shot at Cotto for the WBA's overall championship.
Cotto (27-0, 22 KO) became a professional in February 2001, won his first regional title in his 14th fight and took the WBO's vacant 140-point world belt with a sixth-round stoppage of unbeaten Kelson Pinto in September 2004. He defended the crown six times - including five by KO - before relinquishing it for the seven-pound scale move.
'Sometimes when you work so hard to make the weight,' he said, 'you do not feel like you are going to have as much left for a fight and you do have to fight in spurts. You have to rest a little, pick and choose when you want to fight. At 147, I will not need to do that. I feel good working at this weight and think it is really going to help me.'
'I think going back to the Pinto fight (and) the (Randall) Bailey fight (in December 2004), I felt I was good and strong enough even though I did have a little trouble making the weight. But I felt real strong for those two fights. Since then, I have been thinking maybe it is time to move up.'
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