By Steve Carp
In the bowels of Yankee Stadium, Miguel Cotto was getting dressed, having just beaten Yuri Foreman to win the WBA super welterweight title.
As Cotto finished dressing, his trainer, Emanuel Steward, came by, put his hand on Cotto's shoulder and said to him, "You're back!" Cotto looked at Steward, winked and said, "We're back!"
After being trained by his father and uncle for his most of his career, Cotto brought in Steward, the Hall of Fame trainer whose Kronk Gym in Detroit turned out dozens of great fighters, most notably Thomas Hearns, to get him back to the top.
Cotto had taken savage beatings the past few years, and after almost every fight, his routine included a trip to the emergency room. With Steward in his corner, Cotto looked like a new fighter.
He had renewed speed, and he dominated Foreman on June 5. Cotto didn't have to go to the hospital after beating Foreman, and it wouldn't be a stretch to say Steward might have saved and extended Cotto's career in the ring.
Steward will be in Cotto's corner again tonight when he defends his WBA title against Ricardo Mayorga in the 12-round main event of the Top Rank-Don King Promotions fight card at the MGM Grand Garden.
"He is a great trainer, and we work very well together," the 30-year-old Cotto said. "Having Manny Steward on our team, he doesn't just work with Miguel Cotto. He works with the whole team. We are grateful to Manny for the way he teaches us to be better."
The 38-year-old Mayorga (29-7-1, 23 knockouts) said he will start a new streak tonight and send Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs) to University Medical Center.
Steward said that will not happen.
"No more hospitals," he said. "We'll be partying after we knock Mayorga out."
Steward said he didn't want to change Cotto. Instead, his plan was to get him back to using the skills that made him a feared fighter at 140 and 147 pounds.
"The first time I met with him was in Dallas before the (Manny) Pacquiao-(Joshua) Clottey fight" last March, Steward said. "I couldn't believe how slow he was on his feet. I got him to drop his hands and just move around. He moved good, and I said, 'Maybe we got something here.'
"What he did against Foreman was just scratching the surface. Someone showed me a clip on YouTube when he was 17 years old, and he was moving like a young Sugar Ray Leonard. He was unbelievable. He said to me, 'I want to box that way,' and he's back on his toes, using that footwork. He obsessed with moving."
When he agreed to train Cotto for the June fight with Foreman, Steward demanded complete control of the training camp. No one interfered, and the result was one of Cotto's best performances in his 10-year pro career. Things have gotten better as Cotto prepares for Mayorga.
"I trust him," Cotto said. "When he tells me something, I listen because I know he knows what he's talking about."
Steward said the key to Cotto's success is using his left jab and coming in with the hook. "Everything works off the jab," Steward said. "We've got him throwing that jab, and he's got speed, power and precision."
Cotto, who is a 10-1 betting favorite at the MGM properties' sports books, said he's not sure how much longer he'll continue to fight. But with Steward in his corner, he might stick around awhile.
"I feel like I've had a great career," he said. "It's been very productive. I know it's near the end, but I feel like it's the beginning. I feel great, and I feel like I have a lot left before I go."
■ NOTES -- According to Nevada Athletic Commission figures, Cotto's purse tonight is $1 million while Mayorga's is $50,000. Mayorga is making $500,000 for the fight, but he owed his promoter, Don King, money from a lawsuit King had won against him a couple of years ago. ... Both fighters weighed in at 154 pounds Friday. There were no incidents at the weigh-in. ... Also on tonight's card, Miguel Vazquez (27-3, 12 KOs) defends his IBF lightweight title against Lenny Zappavigna (25-0, 17 KOs). Vazquez-Zappavigna is scheduled for 12 rounds.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.
Source: las vegas review-journal