Everybody in boxing or who follows it is excited about the upcoming WBC middleweight title bout between champion Miguel Cotto (40-4, 33 KOs) and the dangerous Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (45-1-1, 32 KOs) on Nov. 21. Because of their styles, this should make for a compelling bout between two superstars. However, Alvarez will be the third consecutive opponent to challenge Cotto for the title (following Sergio Martinez and Daniel Geale) who is not allowed to weigh in as a full-fledged middleweight, because Cotto demanded and got the Mexican-based WBC to agree to a 155-pound catch weight. The middleweight limit is 160.
The longer Cotto continues to fight, the more he conducts his career like former foe Floyd Mayweather Jr. conducts his. By that I mean Cotto is using his star power to hijack and hold the lineal middleweight title for ransom, as opposed to fighting the most dangerous middleweight in professional boxing, WBA champ Gennady Golovkin (33-0, 30 KOs). These actions have soured some on Cotto, who for a majority of his career has been a true warrior who fought anybody who was a somebody, and without gimmicks. To his credit, Cotto did consent to weakening himself when he fought Manny Pacquiao in a catch weight title bout with the welterweight belt on the line six years ago.
“Cotto shouldn’t be fighting at middleweight,” said IBF middleweight titlist David Lemieux (34-2, 31 KOs), who’ll take on Golovkin in a unification showdown on Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden. “If you’re a middleweight, make 160. Don’t fight at catch weights.”
And, of course, everyone knows that Lemieux is right. They also know that’s how business is sometimes done in boxing when there is a lot of money on the table. It’s no secret that aside from Mayweather-Pacquiao, Cotto-Alvarez is the most anticipated fight of the year. The winner will most likely fight Golovkin next year in another highly anticipated bout that will be even bigger than Cotto-Alvarez. Make no mistake about it, the 155-pound catch weight gives Miguel his best chance to be that fighter. It’s something his star status enables him to do, and he is smartly using it to his fullest advantage. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it or pay for it via PPV.
What’s amazing is how some fighters, those who are popular and likeable, can get away with gimmicks when they fight and never get ripped for doing things that other fighters get massacred for in the press. It’s something I’ve been guilty of from time to time. For instance, if Mayweather were fighting Golovkin and the fight carried a catch weigh stipulation of 154 pounds at his insistence, I’d be killing Floyd, and rightfully so, for gaming the system. I’d rationalize that the fight isn’t legitimate and beating a drained Golovkin proves absolutely nothing. Yet, Andre Ward is only eight pounds over Golovkin and the GGG team has shown they want no part of Ward right now. Nobody, however, is ripping Golovkin for it. Sure, business-wise it doesn’t make sense for Golovkin to fight Ward now, but if he’s running out of worthy opponents as has often been said, Ward is a viable and attractive option.
Perhaps Cotto gets a pass because he has a long history of doing things the right way. He’s never belittled an opponent after he won and doesn’t cry or make excuses after a tough loss. Miguel, although I don’t like seeing it done this way, is really fighting to ensure his health and wealth. Fighters who fought with the tenacity that he has throughout his career usually retire damaged physically and are often compromised in their quality of life as they age. What Cotto has done by forcing Martinez, Geale and now Alvarez to weigh much less than the 160-pound middleweight limit has maximized his longevity. Martinez was shot and weak by the time Cotto fought him. Geale was a skeleton at the weigh-in, and you better believe that Alvarez would be much happier if he could fight for the middleweight title as a true middleweight instead of as a big junior middleweight.
Today, that’s how big money manipulates fights and sometimes the outcome. There is no more surefire way in boxing for a fighter to gain an advantage over another than to manipulate contract weights. Cotto has stated repeatedly that he’s not a middleweight, but he hasn’t been called out on it that much because he is so well-liked. If Mayweather were pulling the same thing he would be shredded every day in the media, because his likeability factor isn’t as high. But what’s fair is fair. Cotto gets a pass and the same applies to Golovkin when it comes to him fighting Ward.
I suppose it pays – millions of dollars in some instances – to be so popular that you get to call the shots.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@gmail.com