THREE PUNCH COMBO — This week, it was formally announced that Miguel Cotto (41-5, 33 KO’s) would be facing Sadam Ali (25-1, 14 KO’s) on December 2nd at Madison Square Garden in what Cotto is claiming will be his final professional fight. The choice of Ali as Cotto’s opponent raised a lot of eyebrows as many believed Cotto would select a more high profile opponent for his farewell fight.
But will this in fact be Cotto’s final fight? The choice of Ali may be part of a bigger plan for Cotto that includes fighting beyond 2017.
Cotto loves the spotlight and the big event. He also knows how to set up said big event and has been a master at doing so in recent years. Coming off a loss to Austin Trout in December 2012, Cotto faced Delvin Rodriguez in October of 2013. Rodriguez was carefully selected as an opponent to make Cotto look good and Cotto looked like he had suddenly found the fountain of youth in destroying Rodriguez. That performance helped drive the demand to get Cotto a shot at Sergio Martinez the following year for the 160-pound title.
After beating Martinez in June of 2014, Cotto set his sights on another big showdown, this time against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. But before that, Cotto wanted another look-good performance to help propel him into the Alvarez fight. So Cotto carefully selected Daniel Geale and for good measure insisted that Geale fight a few pounds below his accustomed weight. That was done to ensure another spectacular performance from Cotto, which we got as he steamrolled through Geale in four rounds.
After losing to Alvarez in November of 2015, Cotto returned this past August to defeat another very carefully selected foe in Yoshihiro Kamegai. Cotto’s eyes were clearly set on another big fight. But is Sadam Ali that big fight? No it does not make sense.
Cotto looked decent against Kamegai, but he was not the destroyer that we saw in the aforementioned Rodriguez and Geale fights that helped set up big showdowns. However, Cotto could look like that destroyer again against Ali who has conspicuous defensive flaws. He has exhibited no head movement throughout his career and often holds his left very low. He is slow to bring the left jab back and easy to counter. Moreover, his chin is suspect as he was stopped by a light hitting Jessie Vargas. Though Ali has decent skills there is nothing that jumps out. His hand speed is average and he is not that fleet of foot. He is not a big puncher and is moving up in weight to 154. Oh does this fight set up well for Cotto to shine. A somewhat plodding, defensively challenged opponent with a shaky chin. Just take a guess how this will end.
Now go back to Cotto’s recent past. When he has faced fighters like Sadam Ali, the next time out is generally something big. There are still big fights out there to be made for Cotto and a great performance against Ali just helps drive up demand for those bouts while driving up Cotto’s price tag.
There is a reason why David Lemieux or other potential foes were not selected. Cotto is not eyeing retirement but instead one last big shot in the spotlight at a mega fight in 2018.
Under the Radar Fights
HBO has a busy schedule in store through the rest of the year. It starts this coming weekend with a tripleheader that is headlined by a pair of live fights in Verona, NY. Those fights are flying under the radar at the moment but are very compelling contests.
The card is headlined by a 130-pound title fight between defending champion Jezreel Corrales (22-1, 8 KO’s) of Panama and Alberto Machado of Puerto Rico (18-0, 15 KO’s). Corrales is a southpaw with quick feet and fast hands, but unlike many southpaws Corrales is not a technician. Though he can use his legs and work behind the jab, Corrales often finds himself in the pocket being elusive defensively while shooting off counter shots with his quick hands. His power has been improving lately with six of his eight knockout wins coming in his last eight bouts.
In Machado, Corrales is facing a fellow southpaw but one who is much taller. Though he may have a height advantage, Machado will probably be the aggressor in this bout and look to work on the inside where he has become a very good fighter. Machado is heavy handed and carries power in both hands. His best punch may be a counter right hook coming from the southpaw stance. With that punch, he has scored some highlight reel knockouts.
This interesting fight is the type of contest we used to see on HBO’s Boxing After Dark in the 90’s. Both fighters have their strengths and both have their share of questions as well as a lot to prove. It is a bout that is evenly matched and, stylistically, with both fighters liking to work on the inside, could turn into a shoot-out at times. Generally in these instances we end up with a fan friendly fight that sometimes turns into something special.
The co-feature showcases the return of 154-pound titlist Demetrius Andrade (24-0, 16 KO’s) facing off against Alantez Fox (23-0-1, 11 KO’s). This is a big fight for Andrade, an athletically gifted fighter who possesses some of the fastest hands in the sport. His career, however, has been plagued by inactivity and by performances that were substandard such as his last fight against Jack Culcay.
With the depth of outstanding fighters at 154 and 160, this is Andrade’s shot on a televised card to create demand to get one of those fighters in a big fight. Fox is a solid guy with decent skills and a natural boxer puncher. However, he can’t match the speed or athleticism of Andrade. So to have any chance of success, Fox will need to be more aggressive than he has shown in the past and take risks. He was picked for a reason and that is to make Andrade look good. If Andrade does what he is capable of doing, this could be a nice springboard for his career going forward.
A Glaring Omission on the Hall of Fame Ballot
A few weeks ago the International Boxing Hall of Fame sent out ballots for the 2018 Hall of Fame class. It was distressing to find Kevin Kelley’s name omitted.
A former 126-pound champion, Kelley (60-10-2, 39 KO’s) was one of the great action fighters of his era. Somehow his candidacy has gone severely overlooked. A fighter with similar credentials, Arturo Gatti, was elected the first time he was on the ballot — and deservedly so — and it is about time for Kelley to receive the same honor.
Some folks point to the lack of multiple championship belts when arguing against Kelley’s Hall of Fame credentials. But that was not all Kelley’s fault. In the early prime of his career, he was ducked and avoided like no other. After amassing a record of 36-0, Kelley finally got a shot at a 126-pound title against Gregorio Vargas in December of 1993. Kelley would win that fight by unanimous decision. He would defend that title a few times before surrendering it to Alejandro Gonzalez in January of 1995. Later, Kelley would win another less recognized version of the 126-pound title.
More so than the titles, Kelley was rarely in a bad fight. He entertained as much, if not more, than Gatti. Just look at some of the wars Kelley was involved during the course of his career.
In 1992, Kelley and Troy Dorsey were involved in an epic shootout that was one of the best action fights of the past 30 years. After losing the title to Gonzalez, there was an epic war and amazing comeback win for Kelley against Ricardo Rivera in 1995. A year later, Kelley engaged in an all-out war that featured several knockdowns in his victory against Derrick Gainer. Of course, there is also the Naseem Hamed fight that saw each fighter going down three times in what was one of the great 126-pound contests of all time. These are just a few of the memorable contests in which Kelley was involved.
Kevin Kelley was a tremendous fighter and right there with Arturo Gatti as the best action fighter of his era. Gatti was enshrined in Canastota in 2013. Hopefully Kelley will soon join him in the Hall of Fame.
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