Cotto vs. Ali: The divorce of Miguel and Evangelista Cotto lingers on

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Miguel Cotto will call it a career after his fight with Sadam Ali. (AP)

Miguel Cotto will make the short walk from the locker room to the ring at New York’s Madison Square Garden on Saturday for his WBO super welterweight title bout with Sadam Ali with trainer Freddie Roach at his shoulder.

Roach is the second member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, along with the late, great Emanuel Steward, to train Cotto in the last eight years. Over what will be his final 14 fights, Cotto also was trained by Joe Santiago and Pedro Diaz.

That is in stark contrast to his first 34 professional bouts, when he went 33-1 with 27 knockouts and won world titles at super lightweight and welterweight. The man in his corner for all 34 of those bouts was his uncle, Evangelista Cotto.

As Cotto developed into one of the biggest stars in boxing in the early-to-mid 2000s, tensions rose between the fighter and his uncle. But after a win in New York over Michael Jennings, it all came to a head and Miguel Jr. and Evangelista got into a physical confrontation.

That ended their relationship and now, more than eight years later, they still haven’t spoken.

Cotto will end his legendary career on Saturday after the bout with Ali. Evangelista Cotto will be watching, albeit with mixed feelings. Despite the distance between them, Evangelista still cares for Miguel and hopes he does well. He said he hopes they can reconcile, but that it would be up to Miguel to reach out to him.

“I did open the door and I let it be known through the news media that I would love to talk to him,” Evangelista Cotto said. “I raised him from a very young age within boxing, but the way I see Miguel living now and the people he has surrounded himself with, I see no reconciliation coming from that side.

“Why should I call him? How could I do it? I was the one who was beaten. All it would take is one call, one visit, and it would be over. I am willing to talk with Miguel and I love him very much, and all it would take is for my nephew to call and say, ‘I’m sorry.’ ”

From a boxing standpoint, Evangelista Cotto feels that while he was replaced by some great trainers – Roach and Steward are two of the best who ever lived – no one has looked out for Miguel on other boxing-related issues.

Evangelista Cotto laces up the gloves for nephew Miguel in 2005. (AP)

When Cotto fought Manny Pacquiao in 2009, his second fight without Evangelista in his corner, they did so at a limit of 145 pounds, two under the welterweight limit. Making weight was always a hard task for Miguel, and Evangelista told Yahoo Sports he would not have agreed to that stipulation.

Miguel was 33-1 with 27 knockouts under Evangelista’s tutelage and went 8-4 with six knockouts with Santiago, Steward, Diaz and Roach in his corner.

“From the beginning, I was the one who provided the structure and the discipline,” Evangelista Cotto said. “There are many boxers, but as you know, very few make it. The better they are and the better their career goes, the more people start jumping in and want a piece of the action and try to make themselves part of the group.

“In addition to being the disciplinarian, I was protective of him, also. I tried to protect him from the people who wanted to be around him just because he was a famous, successful boxer. Those people don’t have a fighter’s best interests at heart; they just want to be part of all of the good times. I kept those people away so that Miguel could do his job without the distractions.”

Evangelista said he would have insisted on a clause in Miguel’s 2015 bout with Canelo Alvarez for the WBC middleweight title that limited how much weight Alvarez could have added after the weigh-in once he rehydrated.

That wasn’t done, though there was a limit of 155 at the weigh-in, and Evangelista Cotto believes that hurt his nephew in the bout, which Alvarez won by decision.

“Miguel needed someone to do those things and I did them for him for so long, but when I was gone, no one did it and you saw what happened,” he said.

He said he has no problem with Roach or any of his nephew’s other trainers and noted that many in the media are noting that Roach has brought back “the old Miguel.”

That, Evangelista Cotto said, makes him proud, even while he remains disappointed he’s no longer at his nephew’s side.

“When they say that Freddie brought back the old Miguel, what they’re saying is that he’s gone back to doing the things he was doing under Evangelista and working on the fundamentals again like we did for so long,” Evangelista Cotto said. “That’s a good thing. He’s a great fighter and when he’s doing those things, he is outstanding.

“My main thing is to have the truth come out. It’s like he washed me away and I was never a part of his career. That’s not true and he knows it’s not true. That is what is disappointing to me.”