NEW YORK — Every time that Miguel Cotto was asked whether he was finished, so many savage fights having taken their toll, he would answer simply that his training was going well and he was ready to step back into the ring.
He may have been avoiding an uncomfortable question, but after an emphatic victory over Yuri Foreman on Saturday night, Cotto may have just been telling the truth.
"We worked on a lot of things we did tonight, and I think everything showed," Cotto said in the bowels of Yankee Stadium, with his Hall of Fame trainer Emmanuel Steward looking on. "It's like Emmanuel said right after the end of the fight, 'You're back. Miguel Cotto is back.'"
Which begs the question: Did he ever really go anywhere?
Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs) was quickly dismissed after a pair of losses to Antonio Margarito and Manny Pacquiao, but critics forget he fared well most of the way against the Margarito. Many people now question the legitimacy of the fight, too, after Margarito was found with loaded hand wraps before a later fight against Shane Mosley.
As for Pacquiao, well, just about everybody is getting destroyed by him these days.
"Miguel, he has shown himself to be very resilient," promoter Bob Arum said. "He didn't give up after the Pacquiao fight. He came back. He got Emmanuel Steward, I think there was a big improvement, and he is entitled to do fights where he makes the most possible money."
That could mean any number of things, from defending his new 154-pound title — he looked perfectly comfortable at the higher weight — to moving back to welterweight.
Either way, a rematch with Margarito seems natural. The former welterweight champion also moved up to 154 pounds for his last fight, the first since a yearlong suspension levied by the California State Athletic Commission for the illegal hand wraps.
Another possibility is Pacquiao, who watched Cotto's fight from ringside.
The lure would be the opportunity for the newly elected Congressman from the Philippines to win the junior middleweight title, which would give him belts in eight divisions. That rematch is on the table if Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. can't resolve their impasse over drug testing protocol and purse splits for potentially the richest fight in boxing history.
"Let's wait to see how everything settles down. Manny Pacquiao, I'm just telling you all now, I've had long conversations with him," Arum said. "Manny Pacquiao's first goal is to get Mayweather in the ring, and this whole drug testing nonsense, and I think it was nonsense, but Manny's now agreed. He agreed, so now that's not an issue.
"So now the ball's in Mayweather's court," Arum said. "And if Mayweather doesn't fight him, that's Mayweather's decision and he has every right to make that decision. If I was Mayweather, I wouldn't want to fight Pacquiao either."
There are plenty of other names that might want a shot at Cotto, though, among them Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., welterweight champion Andre Berto, middleweight titleholder Sergio Martinez and unbeaten Vanes Martirosyan, who won the co-feature Saturday night in boxing's return to Yankee Stadium after more than three decades.
"I'm ready for all the great champions," Martirosyan said.
While the night proved that Cotto is still one of boxing's biggest stars, as evidenced by the thousands of flag-waving fans who filled the building to its iconic facade, it also showed that Yankee Stadium still has a place in the sport.
It was the first sporting event besides baseball at the $1.5 billion replacement for the original ballpark, which hosted the likes of Joe Louis, Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali during its storied run. There hadn't been a fight at the Yankees' home since September 1976, when Ali defeated Ken Norton amid a police strike that turned the Bronx into a scene of chaos.
By contrast, Saturday night went off without a hitch.
Plastic mats covered almost the entire outfield, with the ring positioned in right-center field, and the playing surface appeared to survive the night unscathed.
The canopy that stretched over the ring wound up being unnecessary — rain threatened on a hot, humid evening, but managed to avoid the Bronx. And the temporary scaffolding and dramatic lighting was already coming down only hours after the fight ended, even though the team does not have a home game until the Houston Astros arrive on Friday night.
Team executive Lonn Trost said the Yankees are interested in hosting more fights in the ballpark, and Arum said he's open to the idea as well.
"It was a great, great experience, I think, for everybody," Arum said, "so of course we'd come back to Yankee Stadium."
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