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Boxing world focused on Tyson fight, but Cotto bout may pack more punch


WASHINGTON - I got a gift bag in the mail this week. It came from Bob Arum, the boxing promoter from Top Rank. He was commiserating with reporters, not necessarily myself, for "having" to cover the Mike Tyson heavyweight fight against unheralded Kevin McBride tomorrow night at MCI Center.

Arum's gift bag went to other boxing writers who will be there, as well. Arum, who promoted superstars such as Muhammad Ali and Oscar De La Hoya, is a nice enough guy, but it wasn't out of the goodness of his heart that he sent the care packages.

He was making his point about 140-pound, World Boxing Organization king Miguel Cotto, whom he thought we should be covering tomorrow at Madison Square Garden in New York against Muhammad Abdullaev.

"We know this is not your choice, and we empathize with your plight," reads a leaflet in the bag. "So to make your trip a little better, we are giving you a Cotto Care Package to help you survive the journey."

The gift bag included:

Authentic Puerto Rican Rum. To help numb the pain caused by missing the real June 11 fight.

Mouthwash. To remove the inevitable bad taste you will have.

Saltines. Works great to stop the nausea.

Barf bag. In case the saltines don't work.

Phone card with Madison Square Garden press room telephone number. We are only a phone call away in case you need a reality check, a sane voice or updates on the real June 11 fight.

"It's nothing personal, I have a great relationship with [Tyson's adviser] Shelly Finkel," said Arum. "I already promote two of his fighters. Just poking some fun."

But the Cotto-Abdullaev fight probably will be better than Tyson-McBride, and certainly, as far as the future of boxing is concerned, Cotto stands to be a more important figure.

In Abdullaev (15-1, 12 KOs) of Uzbekistan, the 24-year-old Cotto (23-0, 19 knockouts) meets the man who beat him on the way to Olympic gold medal glory in 2000. The aging Tyson (50-5, 44 KOs), meanwhile, meets an Irish journeyman in McBride (32-4-1, 27 KOs). It's a good thing McBride has incorporated hypnotism into his preparation, because he's likely to be dreaming within seconds of the opening bell.

Yet the focus on the Cotto-Abdullaev fight, free to HBO subscribers, scarcely registers a ripple, media-wise, in comparison to Tyson, who will be on Showtime pay-per-view.

With more than 230 journalists from all over the world, the focus will be on Tyson-McBride.

It is Tyson who remains the draw. He called McBride, 6 feet 6, 270 pounds, "a tomato can" during Wednesday's news conference, vowing to "gut" McBride "like a fish," and, "give him a first-class education in humility."

"People call this a circus. I'm not a circus, I'm an icon," Tyson said. "I'm an international superstar. If they don't know my name, they're from another planet."

Cotto is universally known to a degree - in his native Caguas, Puerto Rico. There, it is Cotto whose growing status is swiftly approaching that of his legendary predecessors - Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfred Benitez and Felix Trinidad.

Cotto is targeting other 140-pounders, including Ricky Hatton, who recently dethroned International Boxing Federation champion Kostya Tszyu when Tszyu quit after the 11th round.

Also, on June 25, World Boxing Council 140-pound king Arturo Gatti meets Floyd Mayweather Jr. And on the Gatti-Mayweather undercard, World Boxing Association 140-pound titlist Vivian Harris defends against Carlos Maussa.

A win could position Cotto for a shot at De La Hoya at 147 pounds.

By the way, The Sun's ethics policy requires that I return Arum's gift bag. But thanks for the thought.

Lem Satterfield covers boxing for The Sun.

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