This past weekend former junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight title holder Miguel Cotto 39-4 (32) won the WBC middleweight title from Sergio Martinez 51-3-2 (28). When Martinez failed to come out for the 10th round of the scheduled 12-rounder, Cotto became the first Puerto Rican fighter in boxing history to capture a world title in four different weight classes. With that Cotto will surely go down as one of the all-time great Puerto Rican fighters in boxing history. This is something that couldn’t have happened to a more decent man and fighter.
Let it be reiterated here once more. I have as much or more respect for Miguel Cotto as a fighter as I do for any other active fighter in any combat sport. If you’re human and have warm blood running through your veins, I can’t fathom how anyone could root against him. Cotto completely dominated the favored Martinez and did whatever he wanted to during the bout whenever he wanted to. He was in control from the opening bell and had Sergio down three times in the first round. Actually, Cotto’s easiest gym sparring session in preparing for the bout was probably tougher than the fight itself. In what was truly a rare occasion, Cotto was unmarked when the fight concluded. There’s not one fan or boxing observer alive who predicted that Martinez would be Miguel’s easiest title winning bout. But it was.
Here’s where the cold water being poured onto the outcome comes in. Yes, Cotto fought brilliantly. However, I haven’t seen a championship caliber fighter come into the ring with legs so weak and unsteady like Martinez’s since 40 year old Sugar Ray Leonard was punched from pillar to post by the feather fisted Hector Camacho 18 years ago. Cotto was credited with four official knockdowns of Martinez, but in reality, Sergio was close to going down at least 10 times after being grazed and not hit flush on the chin. Martinez’s balance, timing and distance were terrible. He actually missed Cotto a few times with body punches without Miguel even moving or trying to avoid them. Does Cotto get credit for that or was Martinez that bad? I say it’s the latter.
Now ask yourself, did Cotto all of the sudden become Thomas Hearns as a puncher or is it more plausible to believe that Martinez has no legs and his punch resistance is totally gone at age 39? Cotto didn’t even land his Sunday left-hook on Martinez, at least not with any regularity, yet he was falling all over the place and looked as if he was steadying himself on roller skates almost every time Miguel touched him. I’m sorry, there’s no way Martinez is that bad nor is Cotto that great. I really believe that many are over-reacting to the result of the fight on Cotto’s part. I think Miguel’s effort was no more than the really good work of a first class professional and nothing spectacular, being that he had a breathing corpse of a fighter in front of him. No, Martinez was never a great fighter, but he was borderline outstanding. It was Toney-Holyfield all over again. No way Toney could hang with or beat a vintage Holyfield and the same applies to Cotto-Martinez.
Does anyone fathom that Cotto would’ve had Floyd Mayweather or Canelo Alvarez falling all over the ring with the punches he hit Martinez with? I certainly can’t. I believe Cotto was at the right place at the right time against Martinez this past weekend. Yes, he looked great, but he didn’t rediscover himself nor was he re-invented by trainer Freddie Roach. Had Mayweather or Alvarez been in the ring with Martinez this past weekend, they would’ve taken him apart as easy or easier than Cotto did.
So here’s Cotto’s perfect exit strategy. He should offer up his title to Floyd Mayweather. We all know Mayweather wants that 160 pound title so he can claim six titles in six different weight classes. And we know Floyd will never go near Gennady Golovkin unless he agrees to fight him with one arm in a cast. Also, Cotto has the lineal title from the man who beat the man who beat the man. Cotto has secured his legacy and is now fighting for his family’s financial future. There are really only two logical opponents for Cotto to defend his title against next – Mayweather or Alvarez if he gets by Erislandy Lara in July. Fighting Mayweather would not only be for the most money by far, but it is a fight that he is capable of scoring the upset. Cotto has already given Floyd one of his three toughest career bouts and maybe Mayweather is on the decline based on his last outing against Marcos Maidana. And even if he lost, he wouldn’t get stopped by Mayweather and he certainly wouldn’t lose any credibility by losing to him.
On the other hand, fighting Alvarez is a much tougher fight for Cotto stylistically and physically. The odds of him being stopped and humiliated are much greater against a puncher like Alvarez. What Miguel did versus Martinez would never work or carry him past Mayweather or Alvarez. Unlike Martinez, they won’t be falling all over themselves when they are grazed by his punches. By fighting Mayweather first, a future fight with Alvarez would still be there for him whether or not he won or lost to Mayweather.
And since fighting Mayweather makes the most sense from both a style and financial vantage point, what if he upset him, which isn’t a pipe dream. What would that do for his legacy and bank account? The reality is Cotto isn’t long for the middleweight division. He could easily lose in his next fight to any of the top five middleweights he’d have to defend the title against, aside from Martinez. That’s why Miguel should offer up his newly acquired title to Floyd Mayweather. It makes all the dollars and sense in the world.
And lastly, the fact that Cotto is an HBO fighter and Mayweather is a Showtime fighter won’t prevent the fight from becoming a reality. If Floyd says I want to accept Cotto’s challenge and fight for the lineal middleweight championship, do you really think either network is going to deprive the fans out of the fight? What a PR disaster that would be. Not to mention all the money that will change hands for both companies via the compromise they’ll iron out because it’s good business. The biggest obstacle will be Cotto’s promoter Bob Arum who will no doubt try and Don King him and force him to fight Alvarez. This way Arum keeps the title regardless of who wins.
If Cotto is smart, and all indications based on how he’s managed his career say that he is, he should be campaigning and challenging Mayweather to meet him for the middleweight title. As long as Floyd doesn’t try to get over too much regarding the terms and conditions for the fight, and it’s not like Cotto doesn’t have any leverage because he does. All that it’ll take is for Miguel to issue the challenge and for Floyd to accept it. Promotional contracts can be put aside for business. It happens every day.
Mayweather-Cotto for the lineal middleweight championship would be huge. Mayweather can go for his sixth title in a different weight division against a fighter who he already defeated and no doubt is certain that he can do it again and further enhance his legacy. And Cotto can accumulate a fortune while having a great chance to add to his legacy against a fighter who he put up a great fight against and must feel things would turn out differently in his favor if they were to fight again.
I’m not saying the above will happen, but it is in Cotto’s best interest. If Cotto fights Alvarez, he can kiss his title goodbye without maximizing his fullest earnings potential, and it could be painful.