If Murray Wilson is upset with Emanuel Steward - and he undoubtedly is - it's because Yuri Foreman's manager believes Steward used him to leverage a deal to become Miguel Cotto's trainer. In Wilson's view, Steward will be exactly where he wanted to be all along on Saturday night at Yankee Stadium in Cotto's corner coaching the challenger for Foreman's WBA super welterweight title.
While Foreman and Cotto have been exceedingly respectful of each other in the days leading to the fight, the bad blood is confined to the corners for each fighter. Wilson said he never had any intention of replacing trainer Joe Grier with Steward, but he was willing to listen when the Hall of Fame trainer approached him to offer his help.
"He said, 'It's a perfect match for Yuri. I could show Yuri how to knock Cotto out,' " Wilson said of Steward's offer. "I said, 'You can? That's great. Come on in for a couple of weeks and show him how to knock him out. I'll pay you.' So, we made an agreement. Of course, he used it as leverage to go with Cotto.
"He wanted Cotto three years ago. He made a remark, 'I could show Cotto how to knock Pacquiao out.' He hustles a job. I'm only disrespecting Manny now because he didn't call me on the phone and say, 'Murray, I'm going with Cotto.' I would have given him my blessings. He had a full-time job. Who am I step in his way? He wasn't coming as my head trainer, and if he got himself hooked up with a good deal, God bless him."
If Wilson is correct that Steward's goal always was to work with Cotto, some might view that as cause for concern. Steward has a record of resurrecting fighters who were believed to be slipping. But Wilson wisecracked, "He'll improve Cotto like he did Jermain Taylor."
Former champion Taylor has lost four of his past five fights and never regained his earlier form with Steward, but he is more the exception than the rule. In this case, Wilson is confident that Foreman (28-0, 8 KOs) is just coming into his own after defeating Daniel Santos for the WBA 154-pound title and has a style that will be too difficult for Cotto (34-2, 27 KOs) to handle.
"After the fight with Santos, the reporters said, 'Wow, he's really not that bad,' " Wilson said. "He sat down on punches and knocked him down a couple of times. No matter what you say about Santos being lethargic, he hits like a hammer. Yuri took his best shots . . . In the division, I really don't see anyone beating his style. He's very much underestimated for strength, and this kid can go 20 rounds. You see him in the 12th, and he's as fresh as in the first."
Although Wilson is a fan of Foreman's boxing style, the manager told him before the Santos fight that he had to start sitting down on his punches more if he wanted to win a decision. Sure enough, Foreman knocked Santos down twice and staggered him in the fourth round on his way to winning a clear decision.
If he can follow that performance with a win over Cotto, who is moving up in weight class, Wilson has some ideas about what comes next for Foreman. "If he wins this fight, I see two more fights, [Antonio] Margarito and [Manny] Pacquiao," Wilson said of two other fighters who are also promoted by Bob Arum. "Hopefully, Pacquiao will fight Mayweather first. I'd love to see that one. I think Margarito is an easier one than this one. This is a tough one."