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Can Roach reclaim Cotto's career?

Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach has worked with numerous world champions and fighters of all kinds.

He has trained fighters just coming out of the amateurs and entering the pro game. He has taken young fighters with experience under his wing and molded them into top champions -- no example greater than star pupil Manny Pacquiao. And Roach has also taken on established stars, such as Oscar De La Hoya and Mike Tyson, who were looking for a change of pace late in their careers.

Now Roach finds himself with another star on his hands who is in the twilight of his career and in need of a shakeup to his corner: former three-division titleholder Miguel Cotto.

The Puerto Rican star is one of the biggest names in boxing, but he has also lost back-to-back fights, clear decisions -- albeit in competitive junior middleweight title fights -- to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Austin Trout.

Looking for an extra spark, or perhaps just a change of scenery, Cotto announced that he was leaving Pedro Diaz and had hired Roach to train him for his next fight and, as he said, hopefully for the rest of his career, which he has indicated is likely to last for only three or so more fights.

Cotto is scheduled to fight Oct. 5 (HBO) at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., and his probable opponent is former two-time world title challenger Delvin Rodriguez (28-6-3, 16 KOs), 33, of Danbury, Conn., who lost one of his title fights to Trout by lopsided decision 13 months ago.

The Cotto-Rodriguez deal isn't done yet, but Gaby Penagaricano, Cotto's attorney and adviser, told ESPN.com that they have an agreement in principle and that the details are being put to paper.

Roach, the five-time Boxing Writers Association of America trainer of the year, said he is up for the challenge of trying to get the best out of Cotto (37-4, 30 KOs), who is 32 but an old 32, with many hard fights in his rearview mirror.

"Miguel called me up and told me he had about three fights left and that he wanted me to help him for those three fights," Roach told ESPN.com from his Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif. "We negotiated things out, and everything is good. He's going to come to Wild Card, and I look forward to the challenge of working with a great fighter. Talented people pick things up quickly."

Roach admitted, however, that being asked by Cotto to train him came as a bit of a surprise. In 2009, Roach was in Pacquiao's corner when he knocked out Cotto in the 12th round to win a welterweight title.

Roach recounted the story of how he and Cotto almost got into a fight at the weigh-in.

"There was a lot of tension, but all that stuff is just fight stuff, nothing personal," Roach said. "But I was still a little surprised that they called me. But I think I can help him. I'm gonna do my best."

Cotto said he, too, is willing to give Roach his best and to adapt to his training methods. Cotto plans to train with Roach in California rather than in the places where he has been most comfortable -- Puerto Rico and Florida.

"We saw that Freddie gets results from the boxers he trains," Cotto told ESPN.com. "We just want to finish our career in the best way possible, and with Freddie, we will do it. I am sure he is going to help me improve and that he will make us look good and better on the day of the fight."

Roach isn't the kind of trainer to blow smoke at his fighters. He tells it like it is and serves the truth to them, whether the fighter wants to hear it or not. He has no qualms about telling a guy he should retire when he thinks he has taken too many punches. He did it with Israel Vazquez and James Toney.

So when it comes to Cotto, Roach was blunt in his assessment.

"My only worry is, does he have the desire to do this stuff anymore? I'll know quick," said Roach, who expects Cotto to join him in early August. "I saw his last two fights, and I don't know if he really cared. He just wasn't the same guy to me that I have seen. The Mayweather fight wasn't too bad. Trout is kind of a hard guy to fight because of his style. Maybe I'm being too critical, but Miguel needs to compete at that level. He needs a little more drive. That's what I would like to see.

"I said he needs to get that drive and hunger back. I told him, 'I can help you with that, but it's really up to you.' His response was positive. He said, 'I don't have a lot of fights left, but if I am with you, the best guy, I expect great things.'"

Roach already has a few things in mind that he would like for Cotto to work on.

"I told Miguel that I'm gonna give him 100 percent and I want 100 percent back," Roach said. "I told him I don't like the passive defense when he goes into the shell and there's no counterpunching back. Miguel was a helluva counterpuncher, and at one time he was also a helluva body puncher. We need to bring that back.

"He asked me what do I want him to work on before I see him in the gym, and I told him conditioning. When he gets to me, he has to be in condition."

Cotto said that whatever Roach asks of him, he is willing to do it.

"I will follow instructions and do my best," Cotto said. "Freddie is the trainer. He comes every day with his best and will try to get the best out of me, and that's the attitude. I am up to do it."

Roach said that once Cotto gets to California, he would have the fighter work with Gavin McMillan, the new strength coach Roach has at his gym.

Cotto said he is excited to get back into the gym because of Roach.

"We didn't get the victory in the last couple of fights, but we made great fights and I know we're going to improve a lot with Freddie Roach," Cotto said. "No matter where I am going to train, I will train hard for him and bring my best every day. I am OK with doing the hard work.

"Freddie is a smart trainer. He's going to do things the best way possible, and I will follow it."