WHAT’S NEXT FOR MIGUEL COTTO? — As most know, former four division champ Miguel Cotto 40-5 (33) was supposed to fight former junior middleweight title challenger James Kirkland 32-2 (28) on February 25th. The bout was scheduled to be shown on HBO PPV. This has become the protocol for Cotto whenever he fights due to his loyal Hispanic following. Well, due to Kirkland, who hasn’t fought since May of 2015, suffering a broken nose, the fight along with the entire card was cancelled. And that may not be such a bad thing because I question how much of a market there was hungry to see Cotto vs. Kirkland, who both lost overwhelmingly to Canelo Alvarez in their last bout.
Speaking of Cotto’s last time out versus Alvarez, it must be noted that Miguel has changed as a fighter. Starting with his pro-debut in 2001 up through his fight with Manny Pacquiao in 2009, Cotto fought mostly as the attacker. He was a fighter who looked to kill the body and then work his opponent over seeking the stoppage win. But that changed after absorbing a pretty good going over by Pacquiao. In his subsequent bouts, including his decision loss to Floyd Mayweather, Cotto changed his style and looked to box and counter-punch more. He grasped that his career would soon be over if he didn’t change course and not get hit as much and his style change from warrior to fighting businessman has served him well.
Miguel not only altered his style – but due to his name recognition and drawing power, he fought in three lineal middleweight title bouts and not one of his opponents weighed more than 158 3/4 pounds, (more than a pound under the middleweight limit of 160) as per the terms set by Cotto in order to make the fight. Yes, the transformation in Cotto has been something to watch.
No two fighters understood the Floyd Mayweather A-side / B-side negotiation tactic better than Cotto and Canelo Alvarez, with the difference being that Cotto is at the tail end of his career and is looking to fight for the biggest purses he can; winning is no longer paramount. By contrast, Canelo, who is in his prime, knows that his biggest bouts and paydays are still in front of him if he smartly navigates the fights he takes.
Had Cotto gone through with fighting Kirkland, he would have boxed James and won a late round stoppage or clear-cut decision. Thus he would have injected himself into the mix for another big fight. However, with the Kirkland fight falling through, I sense a change in strategy with Miguel’s trainer Freddie Roach playing a major role as the voice and bad guy– with the thinking being perhaps Roach can sway fans into forgetting what they actually saw the last time Miguel was in the ring.
Ever since Alvarez defeated Cotto by a unanimous decision back in November of 2015, Roach has excoriated the judges who saw the fight 119-109, 118-110 and 117-111 in favor of Canelo. Shortly after it became official that the Kirkland fight was gone, Roach said “the victory was so clear in Cotto’s favor that there was no way possible that Canelo could have won and especially by those wide margins.”
“Miguel was the perfect fighter, he was simply the best fighter, his defense was impeccable, he was able to block 90% of the punches and he overcame Alvarez with the amount of clean punches that he connected. I feel we were robbed of the win and they owe us one,” Roach told reporter Carlos Gonzalez.
“I would love [to have the rematch]. I feel it’s a great fight for us and it was a robbery. In my eyes we won that fight and we want the opportunity.”
Of course if you saw the Alvarez-Cotto bout you know Freddie is wrong on every level with the exception being that perhaps Cotto won a round or two more than the best score of 117-111 affords him. Actually, it was Cotto’s new style of circling the ring, picking a spot to cut loose and then get out, that hurt him in the scoring. For a majority of the bout Miguel only landed left jabs and right hands that he never fully committed to because he was looking to get out before giving Alvarez a chance to bait him into exchanging.
The thing that Roach leaves out, along with Cotto fighting good defensively, is that Miguel was so occupied with not getting nailed by anything big that his offense was static, virtually non-existent. Roach fails to convey that Miguel was only capable of making Canelo miss, not making him pay for it. Luckily for Cotto, Alvarez didn’t set the world on fire and didn’t force the fight a little more assertively. Canelo clearly defeated Cotto, but it wasn’t like he took him apart or embarrassed him.
Roach is smart to try and bait Canelo and at the same time look to persuade boxing fans that Miguel would have a better shot in a rematch. I believe Canelo would love for fans to begin questioning the scoring of their bout. Fighting a rematch with Cotto would be on PPV and buy Canelo a little more time before he meets middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin. That way, Father Time can erode Golovkin’s skills a little more (some observers perceived signs of skill erosion in Golovkin’s last fight with Kell Brook). Cotto-Canelo II would be a match-up where boxing’s two best active businessmen take nearly every pure boxing decision off the table in favor of coming up with a narrative that brings in the most dollars, while virtually ensuring that neither of them takes any unnecessary punishment.
A better fight for the fans would be Cotto taking on Kell Brook in the UK. Miguel would make a fortune fighting there. The only problem is it would most likely be his last fight as a headliner, since he’d be really embarrassed in the fight. So I look for Cotto through Freddie Roach to try and get a rematch with Canelo, instead of taking on Brook.
Cotto vs. Brook is the better fight, but it’s not about good fights; it’s about business.
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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com