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August 26, 2005
Just when his career appeared to be on the comeback train, Jose Cotto derailed it all by himself this past weekend when tried to one-up Hector "Machito" Camacho Jr. by weighing in 3 1/2 pounds over fighting weight (130) for his bout versus Manuel "Mantecas" Medina.
You may remember Camacho Jr.'s stunt three years ago in Arizona when he tipped the scales six pounds over for a fight versus a then-unheralded Argentinean named Omar Weis. After the Arizona Boxing Commission spotted him two pounds and two more hours, Camacho Jr. returned to the scale 11 pounds over fighting weight. Camacho Jr. got to fight Weis anyway, but still lost, even with the weight advantage. It was but one of a series of events that ended Camacho Jr.'s campaign at 140.
Cotto, (26-0, 18 KO) the older brother of World Boxing Organization 140-pound champ Miguel Cotto, didn't get any weight allowance from his rival. The Puerto Rico Boxing Commission gave him three hours to drop the extra pounds, and the Caguas native went on a half-hearted run, but in the end could only lose 1/2 of a pound. Medina, a former five-time featherweight champion wasn't interested in giving up any weight to Cotto and Best Boxing's Peter Rivera was left with empty TV time on his hands on the undercard of the Alex "Nene" Sanchez vs. WBO junior flyweight champ Hugo Cazares headliner, which Cazares won handily by TKO in the eighth.
Sanchez, by the way, threw in the towel following his loss to Cazares and there's now talk of putting the Mexican in the ring versus the WBO mini flyweight champ, Ivan Calderon, of Guaynabo.
Cotto's family, including his uncle Evangelista, who trains Miguel, apologized via press release for Cotto's blooper, but so far Cotto has been mum on the subject.
Women's volleyball team qualifies for World Championship 2006
Puerto Rico's women's volleyball program got a chance to strut its stuff last week after the North, Central American and Caribbean Volleyball Federation (NORCECA), helped it showcase itself in a qualifying tournament for next year's World Championships in Japan.
At the last World Championships two years ago, Puerto Rico finished 10th, which might not sound like much, but was a big step forward for women's volleyball here. Prior to 2003, the island's previous participation in Worlds came in 1974 (17th place) and 1982 (23rd place).
While Puerto Rico is by no means a major player in the Americas (think Cuba, think Argentina, think Brazil, think United States, think even Dominican Republic), the NORCECA tournament Caguas hosted last week, allowed the island to look good. NORCECA was awarded a total of six berths for the World Championships by virtue of top half finishes by United States, Cuba, Canada, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. However, instead of putting all the NORCECA teams together in one qualifying tournament for the six spots, the organization opted instead to hold two separate tournaments, three berths apiece. Five teams competed in Caguas last week, the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and Barbados.
Five other teams -- Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Jamaica -- are battling for the other three NORCECA slots this week in Santo Domingo.
In all, 24 teams will compete at the 2006 World Championships from Nov. 16-Dec. 3 -- seven from Europe, six from NORCECA, four from Asia, three from Africa, two from South America, the host team (Japan) and the 2002 champion (Italy).
The United States, Puerto Rico and surprise winner Mexico (who upset Canada in the third-place match), were the final winners (in that order) last week. The U.S. team dropped but one set the entire tournament, to Puerto Rico.
The Puerto Rican men are playing a similar qualifying tournament in Caguas this week with a parallel NORCECA tournament taking place in Cuba.
World basketball qualifier underway
Volleyball is not the only sport holding qualifiers this week. Ten teams are in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to fight for four berths at the FIBA World Basketball Championships, also slated for next year in Japan.
Puerto Rico is among them, as is the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Panama, Venezuela, Canada, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Uruguay. For Argentina, the event is a shootaround: They are already qualified for the Worlds by virtue of their gold medal at the 2004 Olympics. The United States' team includes a mix of NBDL, CBA and overseas-based players.
Puerto Rico also has an overhauled group, minus Detroit Pistons' Carlos Arroyo, whose wife had a baby daughter, Gabriella Lissette, two weeks ago. Arroyo opted to sit out the qualifier as did NBA center Danny Santiago (currently not signed with any team) while veteran center and team leader Jose "Piculin" Ortiz, is out with a hamstring injury. The qualifier will be trial by fire for young center Peter John Ramos, who was a rookie draftee last year with the Washington Wizards. Ramos struggled, as did Puerto Rico, two weeks ago at the FIBA Under-21 World Championships, finishing in a dismal seventh place.
Gabrielle Paese is a sports reporter in San Juan. She was the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at email@example.com.
Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.