The Cancellation of Cotto-Kirkland Invites Suspicion

THE COTTO-KIRKLAND FIGHT IS OFF — On Friday, Feb. 3, it was learned that the match between Miguel Cotto and James Kirkland, scheduled for Feb. 25 at the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas, had been cancelled. The bout was to air on HBO pay-per-view. The entire undercard was scuttled as well.

The press release from the PR arm of Miguel Cotto’s promoter, Roc Nation Sports, said that this action was necessary after Kirkland suffered an injury in training: “The reported injury is a fractured nose,” read the report.

Boxing writers are a cynical breed (with good reason). Perhaps I’m all wet, but I suspect that there is more to the story.

Miguel Cotto (40-5, 33 KOs), a world champion in four weight classes, has had a Hall of Fame career. However, he would be making his first start in 15 months and losses in three of his last six fights have tarnished his legacy.

James Kirkland’s 32-2 record looks impressive on paper, but the self-styled “Mandingo Warrior” lost a lot of credibility in his last outing when he was knocked out cold by Canelo Alvarez. Plagued by repeated brushes with the law, he would be making only his fourth start in the last 59 months.

A 12-round contest at the catchweight of 153 pounds, Cotto vs. Kirkland was widely denounced as a bout unfit for pay-per-view. Over the years, Cotto has drawn solid PPV numbers. His last match vs. the aforementioned Alvarez attracted 900,000 PPV buys. But this contest had no prayer of approaching that mark. “I’m not convinced it even breaks 100K buys,” wrote ESPN boxing scribe Dan Rafael on twitter. Many boxing fans, he said, view Miguel Cotto as yesterday’s news

Cotto-Kirkland was a sinking ship before it ever set sail in Rafael’s widely shared opinion. One suspects that the folks at HBO are happy to be rid of it. HBO was last involved in a boxing match on Jan. 28 when they aired a show from the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, CA. That was a great show from an entertainment standpoint, but the ratings were disappointing. Going head-to-head with the Frampton-Santa Cruz show on Showtime was ill-advised.

History was destined to repeat if Cotto-Kirkland went on as scheduled. The match would have rubbed up against Deontay Wilder’s heavyweight title defense against Gerald Washington. And while that match certainly doesn’t make the heart go flutter, it would have inevitably swamped Cotto-Kirkland in the eyeballs department which would have put the boxing arm of HBO in an uncomfortable light.

The jewels of the Roc Nation boxing stable are Cotto and Andre Ward. Both have such lavish contracts that Roc Nation, more exactly the boxing unit of the Roc Nation conglomerate, is assumed to be drowning in a sea of red ink. Cotto would reportedly receive $10 million for fighting James Kirkland, after which he would be a free agent. And when one crunches the numbers, wouldn’t it make sense for his promoter to cut bait with some sort of buyout, extricating them from this certain money-loser? Just asking.

The venue for Cotto-Kirkland was the 12,000-seat arena attached to the Dallas Cowboys practice facility. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (pictured between Cotto and Kirkland at the kickoff press luncheon) was thought to be dipping his feet into the shallow end of the pool, so to speak, before deciding whether to jump into the deep end by ponying up big bucks to host the Canelo Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. fight on May 6.

Barely six hours after the inaugural boxing show at the Ford Center went kaput, Golden Boy Promotions issued a press release stating that Canelo-Chavez, a surefire Cinco de Mayo blockbuster, was headed to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The timing of the announcement was more fodder for the notion that there is more to this story than a simple fractured nose.

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-KO Digest :

Well this scribe makes predictions too. On the results of the fights, not how many PPVs it might sell. Kirkland was going to be badly outclassed, TKO'd.

-oubobcat :

There definitely seems to be something going on. This would have been an embarrassment to HBO and a financial disaster to Roc Nation. Of course, Cotto had all the motivation in the world to go forward. Why not take the easy minimum 10 million payday in a fight he probably shines in and sets up something much bigger later this year. Kirkland has had many many issues in the past. He is notorious for agreeing to terms to a fight and then when things look done go back and ask for more money. Sometimes his tactic has worked and often times it has not. Could Kirkland have been unhappy with the payday and started grumbling about an injury trying to squeeze a few more bucks out of people? And Roc Nation, seeing the financial ruin this fight was turning into, could have jumped at the opportunity to announce said injury to cancel the fight.

-Kid Blast :

The magic of step-aside money at work perhaps?