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Fred­die Roach has trained some of the great­est fight­ers of the last 25 years, includ­ing Man­ny Pac­quiao, Mike Tyson, Bernard Hop­kins, Vir­gil Hill, James Toney and a slew of oth­ers.  He made a state­ment a few days ago that was large­ly over­looked, but one that was aston­ish­ing giv­en the cal­iber of fight­ers he’s han­dled.  “This is the best train­ing camp I’ve ever had with any fight­er.,” Roach said before Miguel Cot­to was to take on Delvin Rodriguez on Sat­ur­day at the Amway Cen­ter in Orlan­do, Fla.

Roach trained Cot­to for the first time on Sat­ur­day, and the results were astound­ing. After a bril­liant camp, Cot­to turned in an equal­ly bril­liant per­for­mance against Rodriguez, win­ning by third-round knock­out in a fight that was rem­i­nis­cent of his hey­day.  Cot­to blis­tered Rodriguez repeat­ed­ly through­out the fight with a series of left hooks, pun­ish­ing Rodriguez every time Rodriguez moved near him.  After assault­ing the body, Cot­to fin­ished the bout with a crunch­ing left hook to the head that dropped Rodriguez and caused ref­er­ee Frank San­tore to stop it at 2:42 of the third.

Rodriguez was­n’t in the same class of fight­er that Cot­to had faced for the bet­ter part of the last 10 years, but it was nonethe­less an impres­sive and dom­i­nant vic­to­ry that sets Cot­to up for big fights against the likes of Ser­gio Mar­tinez, Cane­lo Alvarez and, per­haps down the road, Floyd May­weath­er again.  Cot­to had entered the fight on his first two-bout los­ing streak. He’d put forth a strong effort in a loss to May­weath­er, but looked like he was at the end when he fought Austin Trout in Decem­ber.  After that bout, he dumped train­er Pedro Diaz and hired Roach, who worked won­ders with him.  “It was the result of a good and hard train­ing camp,” Cot­to said. “I was work­ing com­fort­ably and work­ing in peace.”

Cot­to is always sto­ic with a micro­phone in his face, and he had lit­tle of con­se­quence to say after the bout. He said Sat­ur­day’s fight was about going “back to my roots.”  His roots are as one of the game’s best left-hook­ers and most feared body punch­ers.  Rodriguez was unable to back Cot­to up or even force him to stand his ground. He waved a weak jab at Cot­to, who ignored it and attacked Rodriguez’s mid­sec­tion with a vengeance.  Cot­to had to lick his chops when he real­ized that Rodriguez could­n’t stem his attack with a jab and then when Rodriguez chose to fight off the ropes.  That’s usu­al­ly a bad move when fac­ing Cot­to.  “It was a great per­for­mance,” Roach said of Cot­to. “Any­one who wants to fight off the ropes with a guy like Miguel, it’s a mat­ter of time before he gets to them with those body shots.”

The ques­tion will now cen­ter on who Cot­to faces next. He’s a pro­mo­tion­al free agent, so he can go in any direc­tion he wants. Roach said before the fight he’d like to see him face Ser­gio Mar­tinez, the WBC mid­dleweight cham­pi­on, and Gold­en Boy’s Richard Schae­fer has spo­ken of a poten­tial Cane­lo-Cot­to bout.  Either would be sen­sa­tion­al. And if Cot­to looks like he did on Sat­ur­day against either Mar­tinez or Alvarez, it could be a long night for either star.

As Roach said sim­ply of Cot­to lat­er, “He’s back.”