TO achieve success in boxing requires a degree of aggression and the valiant heart of a fighter. No amount of technical mastery can compensate for a lack of intestinal fortitude. That said, the reverse is also true. Strategy, intelligence and a fighter’s ability to channel their violent tendencies at just the right time can separate the fan-friendly brawler from an elite-level operator. Fury is better when disciplined, power when utilised sparingly and in a timely manner. A combatant’s natural fire should never be fully extinguished, merely harnessed and incorporated into a formidable, effective package. This became training legend Emanuel Steward’s mission after he was commandeered to work with Miguel Cotto – temporarily as it transpired.
The Puerto Rican hero was coming off his second punishing stoppage defeat – to Manny Pacquio, the first against Antonio Margarito – and Steward had noted, through his role as an HBO announcer, that while Cotto’s tenacity and fitness remained unrivalled, his technical skills and tactics bore little resemblance to those exhibited by the former World Junior silver medallist and 2000 Olympian in his amateur days.
“I thought he fought with unbelievably bad balance, his head was too low – he’s about 5ft 7ins, but he was fighting as if he was about 5ft 2ins,” Steward explains. “Later, we were working one day on the pads and I stopped and said, ‘Let me show you something’, and I measured him: he was like 4ft 10ins. I said, ‘Look, this is how low you’re fighting. Sometimes you have to lean in the ropes and block punches because you fight too low and your feet are spread too far apart.’ His elbows were out too high, but the first thing I started working on was his balance, getting his weight evenly distributed.