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Miguel Cotto & Puerto Rican Boxing (Rise & Fall)

This feature story was originally on on October 1, 2013

One of the most popular and beloved fighters from the boxing fanatic island of Puerto Rico returns to the ring this Saturday October 5th, 2013. This weekend Miguel Cotto (37-4, 30 KO's) returns to the ring in Orlando, Florida at the Amway Center against Delvin Rodriguez (28-6-3, 16 KO’s). Cotto is looking to make a serious statement and bounce back with his new trainer legendary corner man Freddie Roach. After two tough losses to Austin “No Doubt” Trout and Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. Hardcore Cotto fans are hoping he can gain his confidence back in the ring and return to glory. Cotto and his camp say he is looking better than ever. We will find out this Saturday if that is truly the case.

Still a lot of whispers in the boxing community of not only if Miguel Cotto’s career is declining but Puerto Rican Boxing in general. People want to know what has happened to Puerto Rican Boxing in 2013. Is Puerto Rican boxing on a serious decline? What has happened to the infamous Puerto Rico vs. Mexico boxing rivalry? Will we ever see fights on the level of Oscar “Golden Boy “De La Hoya versus Felix “ Tito “ Trinidad back on September 18, 1999. Will we ever see that again? Only a few years ago back in 2008 Puerto Rico held three of the four major welterweights’ titles (World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organization) when Carlos Quintana defeated Paul Williams to join Miguel Cotto and Kermit Cintron as champions in the division.

Now out of all the weight classes and divisions in all of boxing the only Puerto Rican born fighters with belts are Ramon “Rocky” Martinez the WBO super welterweight title holder & Wilfredo Vázquez, Jr. just recently won the vacant WBO International Super Bantamweight title in Florida. What has changed? What has aided in the decline? Is the boxing still as popular? Without question, boxing is and will forever be a huge part of Puerto Rico and its people. One thing that has changed is the emergence of boxing in Argentina and the Philippines’ in recent years. This has had an impact on boxing globally not just Puerto Rico.

Boxing and great boxers has always been woven into the fabric or Puerto Rican culture and its proud people. Boxing was first, introduced and practiced while Puerto Rico was still just a Spanish colony. Fights were organized in the homes among the workers of the sugar and coffee plantations, and the objective was to determine the best fighter among the employees. Fighting for money and bragging rights, it helped create an enormous feeling of pride and passion for the sport.

This pride has been passed on for generations leading to some of the greatest fighters the world has ever seen. Puerto Rican fighters of the past like Felix “Tito” Trinidad who holds the record for welterweight title defenses (15), also won belts at junior middleweight and middleweight. Trinidad's indomitable fighting spirit made him one of the island nation's most beloved champions of all time. Hector “Macho “ Camacho born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico and raised in New York's Spanish Harlem, Camacho won titles at junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight, impressing onlookers with his tenacity and courage in the ring. Wilfred Vazquez Sr. a champion at bantamweight, super bantamweight and featherweight, Vazquez had more than 50 wins (and an impressive 41 knockouts).

Those are just a few of the amazing boxers of that past that have become national cult heroes and helped make boxing even more beloved in Puerto Rico and the world.

So, what about fighters like Gabriel Rosado & Danny” Swift” Garcia.

They are of Puerto Rican decent and are exciting, young fighters but they’re not native to the island. They are both from Philadelphia, PA. Rosado and Garcia will never be fully embraced by Puerto Ricans from the island like Cotto and Trinidad. They are viewed as American fighters. So, where do the hopes and dreams of most Puerto Rican fight fans return to glory remain?

Well. Most hopes are in another fighter who fights on October 5, 2013 from Puerto Rico.

They ride on the shoulders of super prospect Felix Verdejo Jr. An Olympic boxer from Puerto Rico who qualified for the 2012 Olympics as a lightweight.

Verdejo Jr. was the winner at lightweight at the 2012 American Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament.

Verdejo Jr. is trained by his father and grew up in a very close boxing family. Verdejo Jr. signed with Top Rank in 2012 on a $600,000.00 contract. Verdejo Jr. is currently

(6 – 0, 5 KO’s) as a professional. Felix Verdejo Jr. is an extremely slick and polished boxer that has an impressive boxing IQ. This young man has the entire island of Puerto Rico a buzz along with hardcore boxing fans worldwide for good reason. You can find some of his devastating knockouts on You Tube and HBO will be featuring the young, rising star on the boxing telecast this weekend. He is a boxing phenomenon for sure.

So, a big weekend for Puerto Rican boxing. What does the determined veteran Cotto have left in the tank? In addition, is Félix Verdejo Jr. the future star Puerto Rico has been waiting on? We will find out this Saturday. We will make sure to keep you all posted on the results.

- Sean Hicks & Manny Marrero

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