Cotto set to take on Pinto |

Cotto set to take on Pinto

Mike Houser

When Miguel Cotto faces Kelson Pinto for the WBO junior welterweight title Saturday on an HBO After Dark presentation, which will be televised from Hato Bay, Puerto Rico, he will be facing more than a fellow unbeaten fighter.

The 23-year-old Cotto, of Cauguas, Puerto Rico, is 20-0, with 16 knockouts, but the 27-year-old Pinto, of Salvador, Brazil, is not only 20-0 (18), he also holds two amateur victories over Cotto.

Both of Pinto’s victories came in 2000. Pinto took the first fight with a 4-1 decision in Santo Domingo, before claiming a 6-4 victory in Mexico in a pre-Olympic contest.

“I’m very familiar with him,” Cotto said of Pinto through interpreter Ricardo Jimenez last week in a conference call. “He beat me, but that was a long time ago. I’ve matured. I’m a totally different fighter now than then.”

Pinto turned professional first, stopping Francisco Alberto Martinez in one round in December 2000, while Cotto stopped Jason Doucet in one round in February 2001. The 6-foot Pinto has 11 first round knockouts, including one on Sept. 8, 2001, over Reno’s Dwayne Pope at Lawlor Events Center on the Marco Antonio Barrera-Enrique Sanchez undercard.

But even though Pinto has two more knockouts than Cotto, it is Cotto who has faced the tougher opposition. Pinto’s biggest test was a 10-round decision over tough journeyman spoiler Emanuel Augustus in June, 2003. Cotto, meanwhile, stopped former WBC lightweight titlist Cesar Bazan in February, 2003 and has two solid victories this year. He stopped Victoriano Sosa in four rounds in February and in his last fight, went 12 hard rounds in defeating Lovemore N’Dou in May.

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Pinto is coming off a second-round TKO over Jose Octavio da Silva on Feb. 27.

“Top Rank (Cotto’s promoter) has done a good job with me,” said Cotto, who had 123 amateur bouts. “They’ve put tough guys in my way. I know what to do now. I know what I will do and how to do it. I have the formula now.

“Everything has developed according to plan. There has been no hurry. It’s the proper time to fight for a world title. I can’t express what I feel right now. I can’t wait to get in the ring and fight for a world title.”

Cotto expressed confidence, but still had a healthy respect for Pinto.

“I don’t have any excuses why I lost (to Pinto),” Cotto said, discounting the fact that Pinto was a 23-year-old man and Cotto was still only 19 when they met. “They were close, close fights. He was a boxer who used his distance very well. He threw his punches from the outside.

“The biggest factor was that he was so tall and had the ability to stay away from me. He knew how to work the boxing part.”

Cotto said the professional style would benefit him against Pinto.

“In the amateurs, you can make more mistakes than you can as a pro,” Cotto said. “As a pro, you correct your mistakes. You are able to do more than you used to. After the first round, he’ll know he’s in with a totally different fighter.”

Cotto doesn’t feel that Pinto’s professional career has helped develop him as a fighter.

“His (quality of opposition) isn’t as close to the quality that mine (has been),” Cotto said. “They’ve protected him. He’s in for a rude awakening when I fight him.”

Cotto also said he wasn’t worried about Pinto’s prodigious punching power.

“If he tries to go for a knockout, I’m going to capitalize on all of his mistakes,” Cotto said. “If he tries to go that way, he’ll learn the hard way.”

Should Cotto get by Pinto, he’ll be in the thick of a 140-pound weight class that features such fighters as undisputed champion Kostya Tszyu, Sharmba Mitchell, Arturo Gatti, Vivian Harris, DeMarcus Corley, Ricky Hatton, Junior Witter, former IBF lightweight titlist Paul Spadafora and former WBC super featherweight and WBC lightweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.

“I think 140 is such a hot division right now,” Cotto said. “There are so many fights to be made. There are so many opponents at 140. Floyd Mayweather moved up to 140 and had a good showing against (former WBO junior welterweight titlist) DeMarcus Corley. I think that fight (Mayweather) is in my future sometime.”

Also on the card will be a rematch between WBO junior middleweight titlist Daniel Santos and WBO welterweight kingpin Antonio Margarito for Santos’ title. The pair first met in July 2001, when Santos was the WBO welterweight beltholder, but a first-round clash of heads resulted in a deep cut for Margarito and the bout was declared a no-contest.

The 28-year-old Santos is a southpaw and has a record of 28-2-1 (20), and will be making his third title defense. The 26-year-old Margarito is 30-3 (21) and has defended his welterweight title twice. The card, promoted by Top Rank, is being billed as “Night of Revenge.”