Slightly over a month ago newly crowned WBC middleweight title holder Miguel Cotto 39-4 (32) scored the signature win of his career at age 33 when he stopped former title holder Sergio Martinez 51-2-2 (28) in the 10th round. Cotto, behind Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, both of whom he's fought and lost to, is probably the third most popular fighter currently in professional boxing. And of the three, I think Cotto is the easiest to like and root for. In a lot of ways Cotto is a throwback to an earlier era when the best faced each other and did whatever it took to make the matches with the top fighters at or near their weight.
In the midst of fighting for and winning titles between junior welterweight and middleweight, Cotto has faced the likes of Lovemore N'Dou, Randall Bailey, DeMarcus Corley, Paulie Malinaggi, Carlos Quintana, Zab Judah, Shane Mosley, Antonio Margarito twice, Joshua Clottey, Manny Pacquiao, Yuri Foreman, Ricardo Mayorga, Floyd Mayweather, Austin Trout and Sergio Martinez. In four losses Cotto has only been stopped twice. Once when Antonio Margarito fought him with loaded gloves and the other time occurred when he fought Manny Pacquiao. And looking back over the five years since the Pacquiao fight, it just may be that Miguel had the misfortune of catching Pacquiao on his best night while being compromised fighting at the agreed upon 145 catch-weight limit for Cotto's welterweight title.
His two decision losses came against Floyd Mayweather, who he put up a great fight against – and Austin Trout, on not one of his better nights. Yes, Mayweather is undefeated, but his record isn't as deep as Cotto's. Not to mention Cotto fought Mosley three years before Mayweather did and he faced Margarito who along with Paul Williams forced Mayweather into a short retirement and sabbatical. And here we are five years removed since Miguel fought Pacquiao and Mayweather still hasn't even flirted with facing an obviously physically declining Pacquiao.
Yes, Cotto has done it all and in the process has become the first Puerto Rican boxer in history to capture a world title in four different weight division, something Felix Trinidad, Wilfredo Gomez, Carlos Ortiz and Wilfred Benitez never accomplished. Cotto has also been one of the rare, great fighters who have been able to adapt and change his fighting style to better match up with a particular opponent. We've seen Cotto thrive fighting as the attacker and aggressor and in other fights against bigger and stronger opponents, he's shown the ability to step back and counter or move and fight in retreat. It's remarkable what Miguel has accomplished in 43 fights since turning pro back in 2001.
At the moment Cotto is in a great position. He has something that Mayweather and Alvarez covet, the lineal middleweight title and he is in a power position over both. For starters, Cotto has no interest in proving he's the best middleweight in the world. To do that he'd have to beat the alpha fighter in the division, Gennady Golovkin 29-0 (26). Actually, along with Golovkin there are two or three other middleweight contenders around who would be favored over Cotto. So we can forget about Miguel looking down the road in the hope of building a legacy as a middleweight. No, he's won the legitimate middleweight title and that was the goal. At this stage of his career he's about maximizing his net worth, and to do that he needs to fight a rematch with Mayweather or fight Alvarez if he gets by Erislandy Lara tonight.
If you remember, Cotto was going back and forth between fighting Martinez and Alvarez before eventually facing Martinez. Now look at him. He's defeated Martinez and will most likely face Alvarez next… And if Alvarez were to lose, there's still a terrific chance that he could fight Mayweather again, perhaps later this year. And please, don't get twisted about who fights for Showtime or HBO or who is promoted by whom. A rematch between Mayweather with Cotto being the defending lineal middleweight champ would be huge. And the powers who have the means and control to get it done will somehow work it out – there's too much money and fan interest for them not to.
It's been awful quiet regarding Cotto since he upset Martinez last month. Everyone talks about how shrewd Bernard Hopkins and Mayweather are when it comes to managing their careers, but Cotto has taken great notes and he knows his value and he's also cognizant that he has some nice bargaining chips on his side of the table. You better believe that Cotto will be the most interested observer this weekend who will be watching the Alvarez-Lara junior middleweight clash. Which in a way is bad for Lara because nobody has any interest in seeing him fight Cotto if he beats Alvarez. And knowing that makes you believe it'll be that much tougher for Lara to win the decision over Alvarez if he really earns it.
Everyone who follows boxing knows, or should I say “should know” that each big fight is the next step in hopefully setting up the next bigger fight. A fight between the most popular and well known Mexican fighter in boxing, Alvarez, against the most popular and decorated Puerto Rican champ in boxing, Cotto, is a natural. And you better believe that both Cotto and Alvarez are aware of this and so are those who control the sport via the money, promotions and networks. It's not a coincidence that it's been leaked out the past couple weeks that Alvarez has a lot of trouble making the 154 pound junior middleweight limit. Although that's been well known, it used to be denied. Just another layer of proof that Alvarez is probably done fighting at 154 win or lose against Lara. And we know who the perfect fighter would be for him to face in his middleweight debut for the lineal middleweight title, don't we?
Tonight Cotto will root for Alvarez to beat Lara so he can meet him in his next fight. And if the desired result doesn't come to fruition, he can taunt Mayweather and challenge him. Remember, Mayweather only fought Juan Manuel Marquez because Marquez challenged him, according to Floyd. The bottom line is, if Cotto fights Alvarez next, Cotto wins the jackpot. If Alvarez loses and he can get Mayweather again, Cotto wins an even bigger jackpot.
This time next week Cotto will be charging a lot to lose the title. Don't take that the wrong way. Cotto will be going in there to beat Canelo, no question. And if he scored the upset, the Mayweather rematch is still plausible. But right now Cotto is fighting for money and to support his family. And he's not delusional and knows he's nearing the end of his career, that he's really not a 160 pounder, and he's going to be taking on a big, strong kid who takes a good shot. He'll fight with everything he's got because he never phones it in. Yes, Canelo will be too young and strong for him if they fight; however, Miguel will be highly paid for relinquishing the title.
Either way, Cotto wins.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com